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New local PBS station leader champions “impact media for Colorado” while connecting with diverse audiences

February 16, 2022

Kristen Blessman in October became president and general manager of PBS12, Denver’s independent PBS station. Previously the CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Blessman said at the time: “There is no more important time than now for public television to play a critical role in bringing our communities together.”

SE2 is proud to support PBS12, which has long served as fertile ground for vital and distinctive grassroots programing. We asked Blessman why she felt this role provided a chance to make a uniquely meaningful impact at this time.

What interested you in taking this role at PBS12 at this time?

Kristen Blessman

Kristen Blessman

I’ve watched in disbelief, like I know so many of you have, how we’ve become so opposed to one another in the past several years more divided on many levels.

I grew up in a household where my mother was a Democrat and my father was a Republican.  It was okay to share your feelings on both sides of an issue. But somehow as a country we’ve become so divided, not just on political beliefs but in ways I can’t even explain. I feel like so much of this is because of the types of information we have access to or choose to find.  And this gap feels like it’s getting wider.

We won’t be successful as a nation, as a culture, if we’re not brought back together again. I learned in my time fighting to create diverse workforce cultures that the ones with the most diversity in thought, culture, race and gender are the ones that are most successful. Companies make more money and have more customer satisfaction when they are diverse. It makes sense if you think about it because you get to know different cultures and hear unique perspectives that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

I believe that PBS12 has the opportunity to level the playing field for access to educational and impactful content, as well as to bring different and diverse voices to everyone in Colorado. Put simply, we’re impact media for Colorado. And I believe this will make us a stronger community, a stronger Colorado.

 

With renewed focus on the importance of local media and new outlets emerging, what is the unique role you see for PBS12?

From a macro perspective, during a time when trust in public institutions, news media and other sources of information are at an all-time low, PBS12 enjoys and zealously guards the trust that our local community puts in us. We’re a source for fact-based information and storytelling from:

  • Around the world with PBS12.3 (DW International News) and PBS12.4 (NHK World).
  • Around the nation on PBS12.1 and PBS12.2 (FNX -First Nation’s Experience).
  • Around the corner with our local programming on music, public affairs, industry, well-being, arts and culture, and diverse voices.

For PBS12, we can take this information and make it hyper-local and impactful. PBS12 has a responsibility to our community as a nonprofit that receives member and community support. We provide and give access to diverse content and storytelling to all. But what’s vital is for us to be able to show how the storytelling and content make an impact in our community.

For example, one of our programming pillars at PBS12 is health and wellness. I believe PBS12 should show our members and supporters that our community is healthier as a result of that programming. We have some work to do to get there, but I believe we have the power to do so.

Finally, we know we can’t produce all the content that’s worth creating so we look to content partners, independent producers and new sources of content to curate impactful, meaningful, relevant and entertaining programs for our community.

 

How will you engage younger, more diverse audiences who may not be familiar with PBS and may not watch much broadcast TV?

We spend a lot of time creating original content for younger audiences and delivering that content on platforms where young people are. We recently created a 13-part series called Generation Grit that tackled hard-hitting issues impacting Gen Z, bringing together young people and subject matter experts to talk about how Gen Z looks at issues and how they approach solving them.

We’re well known for our children’s award-winning content and for many programs that are accessible to families for viewing together like Nova, American Experience, and Antiques Roadshow. We recently premiered a new children’s series, Farmer Dave & Friends, that brings the local talents of award-winning children’s musician “Farmer” Dave Ladon to Colorado for learning adventures.

We’re committed to partnerships and programs like our original program, Street level, From Moment to Movement with Tamara Banks, and future endeavors that ensure diverse content that appeals to audiences of all ages, genders, races and socioeconomic levels.

Over time we’ve built robust communities on various social media platforms and YouTube to extend our reach into nontraditional audiences. We absolutely understand the future is digital and we evaluate how we can best create content meant for distribution on those channels and how we can serve those platforms with the time and attention each deserves while representing the PBS12 brand promise.

Most important is listening to the needs of younger audiences when it comes to content. Tapping into the voices of younger generations is critical to our ongoing work. We invite everyone to have a seat at the table when it comes to sharing ideas.

While I believe PBS12 offers some of the most diverse programming representative of multiple cultures, many of this content comes from national acquisition. We are also developing a platform that enables us to partner with local talent, filmmakers and organizations that ensure our locally produced content is diverse and includes multi-cultural representation.  Including local, diverse voices is a primary pillar for programming at PBS12 now and into the future.