The public media system has evolved in many ways – in technologies that have advanced from radio vacuum tubes, to resistors, capacitors and integrated circuits to chips to the digital technologies we use today. Each element had a major impact on how public media services were delivered and conceived. Over time, the components have changed – in size, configuration and capacity – just as our stations have. But millions of dollars in the latest and greatest equipment are wasted without the dedication, leadership, and innovative thinking that Public medias’ best and brightest executives represent.
Working within a complex institutional setting, innovative leaders find the ways and the means to deliver indispensable public media services to the American public.
Paul Westhelle manages one of the largest multi-state regional, rural broadcast services in the country, with 23 stations and 36 translators providing three distinct full-time program services to just over 1 million residents. In 2012 when our award winner became the executive director, the organizations future was very much in question. Over the last 7 years, Paul has not only solidified its position and its finances, but moved from its 50-year home in the basement of an older campus building to a state-of-the-art broadcast facility.
In recent years, as colleges and universities have chosen to abandon public radio as no longer relevant to the public service and educational mission, Paul Westhelle, with only modest rural resources to tap, was able to transform impending disaster into success, building new alliances with listeners, the dozens of communities served, and the University and its Foundation.
Paul’s success belies the common belief that public radio can only survive, much less thrive, in large population centers with strong economic underpinnings. He has also made the case that public radio makes great sense in a university setting.
On October 18th, at the Public Radio Super Regional Conference in New Orleans, LA,the 2019 U:SA Madison Hodges Innovator Award for Public Media Advancement plaque and a check for $1,500were presented to Paul Westhelle, Executive Director, Jefferson Public Radio, Ashland, Oregon.