KPBS Welcomes Chief Information Officer Eager to Reach New Audiences in the San Diego Area

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KPBS entered a new era on Monday with veteran journalist and public media chief Terence Shepherd beginning his tenure as chief information officer overseeing the 45-member newsroom.

San Diego from South Florida, where he spent decades in journalism as a newspaper editor and, since 2013, as news director of WLRN, an NPR affiliate in Miami.

Shepherd said he made the move across the country because he was eager to cover the frontier and the immigrant experience, and was excited to run a station that integrates multiple media platforms into its reports.

“You seem to be doing a good job of combining a newsroom that does TV, radio and has a really good digital presence, including social media,” he said. “Leading an operation with all the tools is quite exciting for me.

KPBS is the only major public media channel in the market to offer a nightly newscast, a concept pioneered by former chief executive Tom Karlo more than a decade ago. Shepherd said he doesn’t plan to make any significant changes in the short term.

“People say I’m a great listener. I have no idea, I’m going to go to KBBS and turn it around and change everything because it’s inappropriate,” he said. “It would be inappropriate to step in and make deep changes to a news organization before learning the culture, learning the people, learning what makes people tick.”

WLRN has won a number of state and national journalism awards under Shepherd’s leadership, including the 2021 Edward R. Murrow National Award for Overall Excellence. He was president of the Radio Television Digital News Association and president of the South Florida Black Journalists Association.

Shepherd said he hopes to find new audiences for KPBS in the San Diego area, including immigrants and “18 native nations.” It will prioritize KPBS-specific stories, which the station can “own in the market”.

“What is the story that the public can only get from KPBS?” he said. “What are these belonging stories that say, ‘wow, this station is really picking us up. This resort is for us and by us, and they understand San Diego like no one else.

Shepherd replaces Suzanne Marmion, who held the position from 2010 until August 2021. Investigative editor David Washburn has served as acting news director since Marmion’s departure.

KPBS chief executive Deanna Mackey said Shepherd brings experience running large newsrooms in various communities.

“His focus on mentoring journalists and prioritizing ethics and culture will help our press team better meet the needs of the region we serve,” she said. “Its installation with different platforms, from print to radio to digital, is also a boon for an organization like ours that has a long history of digital innovation and creating content for all platforms.”

Andrew Bowen, KPBS Underground reporter and one of three SAG-AFTRA shop stewards at the station, said the union was eager to work with Shepherd.

“Our union members love the work they do at KPBS, but many of us struggle with relatively low wages and a lack of opportunities for growth and advancement,” Bowen said. “We look forward to getting to know Terence and working through these issues together.”

Kris Vera-Phillips, associate professor at the Cronkite School and former senior producer of KPBS Evening Edition and Roundtable, served with Shepherd at the Center for Public Broadcasting’s Next Generation Leadership Program in 2017. Vera-Phillips said he came to WLRN without background. in the public media and his approach to work revealed his strengths.

“For him, it’s a collaboration, and it’s something that KPBS needs more than ever,” she said. “He came into public media after working in commercial publishing, and he approached it from the perspective of a desire to learn. That desire to learn made him easy to work with, but he also had the leadership experience that made him a voice of reason.”

Shepherd grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and has a strong family background in the Episcopal Church—both her father and sister are priests. Deborah Williams Shepherd, Terence’s wife of 29 years, is a college administrator.

“I’m a preacher’s son,” Shepherd said. “So what does that mean? I try to treat people with dignity and respect. I try to observe the golden rule. I try not to hurt anyone. If I do, I apologize.

He majored in economics at the University of Virginia and earned an MBA from Florida Atlantic University. After college, he worked at a brokerage firm before switching to journalism, then spent 14 years as an editor at the Miami Herald.

Along with being involved in his church, Shepherd said he enjoys Pilates, hard bop and modal jazz, talking politics and life with his wife, and college football and soccer. He is looking forward to hiking in San Diego.

“Maybe I’ll take up surfing,” he said.

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