Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a National Public Media Leader, Visits Hawaiʻi
Patricia de Stacy Harrison loved growing up in her working-class, family-centered neighborhood in Brooklyn – it was loud and caring, engaged and opinionated. “You would talk,” she told me in her visit to Honolulu last month. “And then you would wait for your next turn to talk.”
That’s one piece of her beloved Brooklyn culture she needed to un-learn in adult life. She became a very good listener – as demonstrated in a successful Washington, D.C. public relations business that she and her husband owned and operated; as a diplomat serving under then-Secretary of State Colin Powell; and for almost 15 years as President and CEO of the private nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
She was in the Islands to tour and talk with PBS Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Public Radio and Pacific Islanders in Communications. She also spoke at the East-West Center, and in Kona, Hawaiʻi Island, at the Hawaiʻi Executive Conference.
“‘Steward’ is a very old-fashioned word but an important one because it speaks to accountability.”
President and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Her job is not easy to explain. A top leader in public media, Ms. Harrison doesn’t create or distribute media. What she does is steward the federal investment in public media for PBS and NPR stations and similar nonprofit organizations across the country. The goal is to open doors of learning and opportunity. The funds generally amount to about 15 percent of a public media station’s revenues.
“‘Steward’ is a very old-fashioned word but an important one because it speaks to accountability. And CPB is accountable to Congress and the American people,” she said.
The core pillars of public media are education and journalism – or as Ms. Harrison is quick to specify in these roiling times in reporting, “fact-based journalism.” The so-called “Three Ds” shape the Corporation’s funding choices: Digital innovation and acceleration; Diversity of stories, talent and perspectives; and Dialogue within communities and country.
Under Ms. Harrison’s leadership in 2010, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided vital seed money for a public media start-up far from Washington, D.C. It was PBS Hawaiʻi’s own HIKI NŌ vision of convening student voices! Since then, private donors have championed HIKI NŌ, and students across the state meet PBS journalism standards and excel at national digital media competitions. The program has become a pathway to Early College.
Ms. Harrison looks for ways to adapt and bring about positive change.
She recalls something that Sir Howard Stringer, then head of Sony, said to her:
“We all have to remember not to hang on to the status quo long after the quo has lost its status.”
Says Ms. Harrison: “I have been afraid of the dreaded status quo ever since.”