When I started at Twin Cities PBS (TPT) in 2010, there weren’t nearly as many “Yo Pros” in our building as there are today. With the work I do at TPT REWIRE, it’s affirming to come to work and have close to one third of my colleagues be part of the millennial generation. For me, this means—contrary to whatever the latest “You Won’t Believe These Things About Millennials” headline is floating around—today’s young people value substance. So much so, there are a bunch of them who want to spend 40 hours a week producing/promoting/selling substantive content to make our world a smarter, better place. We all know public television is for the curious, the life-long learners, the people who want to “Be More”—and that includes the 20- and 30-somethings walking around the hallways of PBS stations across our country.
In May, I was lucky enough to hang out in a room full of these people for a day of inspiration at #YoProWo 2016, prior to the PBS Annual Meeting in Chicago.
The mission for the day: #EmergeInspired.
At #YoProWo, we heard from leaders around the system about mentorship and leadership. We heard from some interesting outsiders like TwitchTV founder Emmett Shear who had the idea of non-stop streaming of Bob Ross on Twitch.tv—which kind of broke the Internet—and had me asking myself WHY DIDN’T WE DO THAT?! We got some “pro tips” on teamwork and collaboration and we played a game of human bingo, which—contrary to what I was hoping—was nothing like wizard chess (Harry Potter reference).
Each of these sessions brought me inspiration in a different way. My favorite part of the day was a session with the general managers from stations across the country on scenario planning: The 2020 Project: Futurecasting Public Media Through Scenario Planning. When I first saw the term “scenario planning,” I scrunched my forehead and thought, “Huh, that’ll be…interesting.” The topic piqued my curiosity. I wanted to learn more about it. And I’m grateful I was able to do just that. I learned that there is a team of people dedicated to thinking about The Future. What could our media consumption habits and funding landscape look like years from now? No one really knows, but we are preparing for the various paths our future may take.
While it was incredibly valuable to learn about the 2020 Project, that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was how I learned about and with whom I learned about it in this session. The tables consisted of half general managers, half young professionals. To be seated at a table with well-tenured, knowledgeable individuals and to feel like a trusted peer was really quite rewarding. To listen to them and to learn from them—but to also be listened to—was a great exercise for everyone at the table. At my table, everyone spoke and everyone listened and everyone had something to offer because we were all there for the same reasons. We want to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. We want PBS to continue to be a leader in smart, substantive content. We want it to remain relevant in this time of media disruption and, I hope, become more relevant to new audiences. I believe the only way we can do that is if we are bringing a multitude of voices to the table and letting those voices be heard.
I recognize that there are many individuals out there who didn’t have the opportunity to attend to the workshop or annual meeting and there always will be. That being said, let’s take it upon ourselves—whether you’re a GM or a “Yo Pro”—to bring variety into these kinds of conversations. Break down the generational and barriers. Value experience as much a novicehood. Step up, be inclusive, let your voice be heard. But more importantly, be a voice for your colleagues. You never know what you might learn and chances are, you’ll #EmergeInspired.