PBS makes changes, Sarasohn leaves NPR after 24 years and more comings and goings in public media

Print More

PBS has reorganized its digital and marketing team, while also hiring and promoting executives in other departments.



Ira Rubenstein, who joined PBS in 2014 as s.v.p. and g.m., PBS Digital, rises to chief digital and marketing officer. During his tenure he has supervised expansion of PBS’s content to mobile devices, over-the-top services and other digital platforms. He also oversaw work on the recent PBS.org refresh.

Kenji Thielstrom joined Rubenstein’s team earlier this month as v.p., creative services. Thielstrom oversees creative and brand direction and campaigns for prime-time programs. He most recently worked as creative director at Los Angeles–based DG Entertainment. Thielstrom also worked on the promotional campaign for Wolf Hall on Masterpiece.

Elsewhere in the digital unit, Don Wilcox, v.p., multiplatform marketing and content, takes on new responsibilities. Previously Wilcox focused on marketing for general-audience digital efforts; now he also oversees on-air general-audience content. He still handles social and digital content for PBS Digital Studios. And Karen Baile, v.p. digital and marketing, adds oversight of the Business Intelligence Group to her portfolio. That group is developing new strategies using data analysis.



In programming, PBS has hired James E. Dunford, a 27-year veteran of WGBH in Boston, as v.p., programming and operations. Dunford will oversee program screening and packaging as well as standards and archiving. He will also handle project tracking, program delivery and metadata management. Most recently Dunford worked as managing director at American Experience, overseeing operations including content distribution and presentation, audience development, promotion, communications, postproduction and digital production. Dunford begins work Oct. 3.

Two members of the technology and operations team take on new roles. Chris Homer, who joined PBS in 2013 as v.p., operations and engineering, becomes v.p., engineering. He will hone his focus on management of engineering and technical maintenance for PBS’s network, satellite and media operations centers. Before arriving at PBS, Homer served as v.p. of broadcast operations at DIRECTV, managing broadcast centers throughout the U.S. And Renard Jenkins, senior director, operations, rises to v.p., operations. Jenkins, who joined PBS in 2010, will lead media operations and distribution at technical facilities in Washington, D.C., and Arlington and Springfield, Va. Earlier in his career Jenkins helped design, build and lead the production facility for the TV One cable network.



In the legal realm, Katherine Lauderdale, former s.v.p., general counsel and corporate secretary, becomes chief legal officer and corporate secretary. She leads the legal department as well as the corporate secretary’s office, government affairs and standards and practices departments. Before joining PBS in June 2002, Lauderdale was s.v.p., strategic partnerships and general counsel at WTTW in Chicago.

Sara Sarasohn, managing director of NPR One, has decided “it’s time to get out of my comfort zone and explore something new,” she told Current in an email.

Sarasohn said she will join a Silicon Valley startup.

She has led work on NPR’s audio app for three years. Sarasohn joined NPR in 1991 as a producer, moving to senior editor in 2002.

NPR One Editorial Lead Tamar Charney will take over many of her duties, Sarasohn said. “There will be more growth at NPR One over the next year, so please stay tuned,” she added.


Jasmine Garsd is leaving NPR this month to become a multimedia reporter for the Across Women’s Lives project from PRI’s The World and Global Post. Currently Garsd co-hosts Alt.Latino, NPR Music’s weekly show about Latin rock, indie, hip-hop and alternative. She previously reported for NPR from Mexico and Texas.


Wendy Turner


Wendy Turner, v.p. of digital and technical operations at Chicago Public Media, is the new executive director and general manager of WKSU-FM at Kent State University in Ohio. Turner joined CPM in 2000 as assistant membership manager, rose to direct on-air and online fundraising and membership, and also served as g.m. of its Vocalo.org. She started her public media career at Minnesota Public Radio in 1994 as a telemarketing associate. Turner succeeds Dan Skinner, who left WKSU in October 2015 to direct Kansas Public Radio and its Audio–Reader Network.

Marea Chaveco, executive director of Futuro Media Group for the past five years, has resigned. “In the last few months, I have thought deeply about what I want to be doing in the world,” Chaveco wrote to colleagues in an email. “More and more I believe it will be working to empower women and girls around the world.” During Chaveco’s tenure, the production company founded by public broadcaster Maria Hinojosa moved to new offices in Harlem, won a Peabody Award, increased its budget from $800,000 to $2.8 million and grew staff from five to 19. FMG produces content including Latino USA for NPR and America By The Numbers with Maria Hinojosa for public TV.



The Online News Association has promoted Irving Washington to executive director. Washington, ONA deputy director since 2011, will succeed Jane McDonnell Jan. 1. Currently he is responsible for directing business operations for the organization, managing its annual conference, and overseeing the organization’s AP–Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship, MJ Bear Fellowship and Online Journalism Awards. Earlier in his career Washington managed programs for the National Association of Black Journalists and coordinated diversity education for the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, which promotes the hiring, training, promotion and retention of professionals of color in television, radio and digital news.


WQPT-TV in Moline, Ill., has hired two development professionals. Andrew Orrego-Lindstad is directing development. He recently served in the same position at Second Wind Fund, a statewide youth and child suicide prevention mental health provider in Denver. And Brian Wilson fills the new position of underwriter and outreach coordinator. Wilson previously worked as an account executive at the North Scott Press newspaper in nearby Eldridge, Iowa.


Five new members have joined the Digital Media Advisory Council, a group of PBS member station staffers who help stations collaborate with PBS Digital. New to the group are: Patricia Breen, web designer, Vegas PBS; Patty Lindley, digital director, Cascade Public Media, Seattle; Taylor Shore, digital content manager, Iowa Public Television, Johnston; Jess Snyder, senior manager, web systems, WETA, Washington, D.C.; and Cheraine Stanford, senior producer/director, WPSU, State College, Pa. DMAC members serve two or three years.

Colorado Public Radio has hired Jim Hill as assistant digital editor. Previously he spent five years as editor and digital media manager at KUNC-FM in Greeley, Colo.


President Obama has nominated Brent Nelsen for a second term on the CPB Board. Nelsen chairs the South Carolina Educational Television Commission and is a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. Nelsen also chairs the CPB Board’s spectrum committee. His nomination, announced Sept. 28, goes to the Senate for confirmation.




Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington has hired Jorge E. González as senior director of technology. González, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field, most recently served as v.p. of engineering at Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Corp. That service, with two radio and two television stations, includes WIPR-TV, the first educational television station in Latin America.



Laura Isensee, education reporter at Houston Public Media’s News 88.7, was selected for a fellowship in Pakistan this month through the International Center for Journalists. The center’s U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism program is a multiyear initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to bring 230 Pakistani media professionals to the U.S. and send 70 U.S. journalists to Pakistan. Isensee is learning about Pakistani journalism and life through site visits and interviews. She is also extending her stay to work on an education reporting project for News 88.7 and is documenting her journey.

The Association of Independents in Radio has selected the latest class for its New Voices mentorship program. They are: Geraldine Ah-Sue, is creator of In Plain Sight, a podcast about activism by Asian and Asian American women; Ann Marie Awad, education reporter for KUNC in Northern Colorado; Reginald Black, Washington, D.C.-based writer and founding member of the Homeless Filmmakers Co-op; Lakeidra Chavis, reporter for KTOO Public Media in Juneau, Alaska; native Inupiaq documentarian Joel de Jesus; Mimansa Dogra, part of KUOW’s youth media program RadioActive in Seattle; Keisha “TK” Dutes, co-founder of Bondfire Radio, an interactive digital network; Rebekah Entralgo, radio news intern at WLRN-FM in Miami; Alisha Hall, mother of three and recent graduate from University Park, Ill.; Asha Lane, based in New Orleans, working on Unprisoned, a WWNO series on how prison affects families; Krystina Martinez, Morning Edition producer and reporter for KERA in Dallas; Sarika Mehta, founder, host and producer of Intersections Radio, a podcast about identity politics, race, ethnicity and intersectionality; journalist Jenni Monet, who focuses on global indigenous societies; Vikram Patel, who produces the Anchorage-based storytelling program “Arctic Entries”; Samantha Sabin, who produces Good Grief, a narrative-driven podcast about her reconnection with her Native ancestry after her father’s death; and Afi Yellow-Duke, a producer at the narrative music journalism podcast Pitch.

Send People items to sefton@current.org