WQED CEO Deborah Acklin steps down

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Deborah Acklin, CEO for WQED in Pittsburgh, is stepping down from the station Friday.


Mildred Myers, co-chair of the station’s board of directors, said in a news release that Acklin is leaving the station to “focus on essential medical treatments following a diagnosis of non-smoker’s lung cancer.” The board has appointed Chief Revenue Officer Lilli Mosco and CFO Mike Waruszewski as interim co-COOs as the station searches for Acklin’s successor.

“Deborah Acklin has led WQED through some tough years, including historic financial constraints and a pandemic,” Myers said in a news release. “Through it all, she has steadily guided WQED’s clear commitment to local community service and excellence. Deb’s shoes will be hard to fill, but her legacy of nationally recognized achievements will help us attract top-notch candidates.”

Acklin was appointed CEO in 2010. One of her first moves was greenlighting an all-pledge multicast channel in 2011, which proved successful during its early years in operation and was later buoyed by pledge programs featuring doo-wop music. Acklin also tried to boost WQED’s classical music station, in part by promoting local artists.

The first half of her tenure was marked by significant financial issues due to outstanding debt, but by 2017 the station was healthier financially, in part because it earned $9.9 million from the FCC spectrum auction. Acklin went on to oversee other initiatives, including a multimedia project addressing the opioid crisis.

“Whether managing operations and strategy implementation or raising funds, Deb never lost sight of WQED’s fundamental role as a community resource and educator,” said Jonathan Rosenson, board co-chair, in the news release.

Acklin first joined WQED in 1997 as EP of national and local programming. She left in 2000 to become a senior broadcast producer for National Geographic but returned to WQED in 2002 as EVP and GM.

Acklin has served on the boards of PBS, America’s Public Television Stations and the Public Television Major Market Group. APTS awarded her its National Advocacy Award in 2018 in recognition of her work helping secure political support for public broadcasting.

“Leading WQED — my hometown PBS and classical music station — has been a singular professional honor. Growing up, these were almost the only channels we watched and listened to,” Acklin said in the news release. “Day one on the job, I met Fred Rogers, and it all instantly crystallized for me. I hope I’ve been a worthy student of his life’s example. Thank you, Pittsburgh!”

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