Tom Karlo: We need public media now more than ever

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Julie Drizin/Current

Current is making the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act by illuminating the experiences that inspired people to choose to work in public media. Every week, we are sharing their stories using the hashtag #IAmPublicMedia. Current is also collecting longer contributions, like this one. If you’d like us to feature your story, submit it here.

Tom Karlo

GM, KPBS in San Diego

I grew up in San Francisco. I was very captivated by watching KQED as a kid in the ’50s and ’60s. One of their early general managers was named James Day, and I thought he had the coolest title of a program because he did an interview show at night called Day at Night, and I said, “That is very cool.” For some reason it stuck with me.

When I went to college at San Diego State University, I majored in broadcasting. KPBS was on the campus. I started working for them while I was going to school to get my degree. When I graduated, I got a full-time job, and I said, “This is the place I want to be because I am doing good. I am producing something that is going to make a difference.” And I’ve stayed there all my career.

I’m a hardcore believer in public media because nobody else is doing what we do. On the television side, A&E, Bravo, Discovery, History Channel and TLC were all established to put PBS-like programming on the air in a for-profit or a privatized model. It didn’t work. Look at their program lineup. It’s really embarrassing what they put on. That’s because the quality of programming does not work in a privatized model. And I think public media needs to be here. The community needs it now; the country needs it now more than ever.