After a five-month run as interim CEO of PBS North Carolina, David Crabtree was appointed to the job permanently Thursday by the University of North Carolina System, licensee of the statewide network.
Crabtree, a former news anchor for WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., succeeds Lindsay Bierman, who departed earlier this year to become CEO of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Crabtree began serving as interim CEO in April, during a transition that originally was to include a national search for a new chief executive.
But UNC System President Peter Hans decided to hire Crabtree on a permanent basis, and the Board of Governors unanimously approved his recommendation during its meeting Thursday.
“We are fortunate to have a seasoned professional who understands television audiences, someone who knows and loves North Carolina, and someone who is deeply committed to the success of PBS North Carolina,” Hans said in a news release. “Throughout the interim period of his leadership, he has listened carefully and put his considerable skills to work to guide an outstanding team of professionals on its mission to educate, inform and entertain North Carolinians.”
Before the board’s vote, Hans said UNC originally considered a national search for a new CEO — which has been the norm for leadership transitions at PBS NC for decades — but the board eventually decided against it, according to The Pulse, a news blog produced by NC Policy Watch.
“As he settled into the role I began to ask myself, ‘Why in the world would we conduct a search for a new CEO and general manager when we have a seasoned manager and pro right here?’” Hans said during the meeting, according to The Pulse.
The blog reported that state Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Democrat who served on UNC’s board of governors from 2001–10, criticized the decision not to conduct a competitive search to fill the job. “You can’t get the best candidate if you don’t compare them to other applicants,” she said.
Board member Jim Holmes told The Pulse that he trusted Hans’ recommendation. “If Peter thinks he’s got the right guy, we’ve got the right guy,” he said, adding, “It’s your decision and I’ll hold you accountable.”
Crabtree most recently worked as an anchor for WRAL, Raleigh’s NBC affiliate. He has won numerous journalism honors, including regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters’ Distinguished Service Award.
“It became clear during David’s tenure that his leadership approach, extensive broadcast experience, connection to the state and commitment to public service made him uniquely qualified to lead the organization forward,” said Jack Clayton, chair of the PBS North Carolina board of trustees, in a news release. The trustee board is an advisory group to UNC. According to PBS NC’s website, its role is to help ensure that PBS North Carolina serves “the people of the state in a way that will complement the activities of the other institutions” and that it performs “at a high level of excellence in every area.”
“The future of PBS North Carolina is exceedingly bright,” Crabtree said in the release. “I’m honored to serve in this role and remain committed to the success and service mission of this treasured public media network.”