In her own words: NVPR’s Florence Rogers
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and the duties of your position.
Florence Rogers: As CEO, my job is to ensure the continued delivery of the mission of Nevada Public Radio (NVPR) by leading and inspiring our team of nearly 50 professionals in journalism, content creation, broadcast, online and publishing operations, as well as revenue generation and administrative support. Critical for that to work is the support and guidance of a volunteer board from the executive ranks of Nevada’s leading companies.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Rogers: I started in college radio at San Diego State University’s KCR – recently named the best college radio station in the U.S. – as good now as it was when I was a DJ in 1989!
To see for yourself, visit http://kcr.sdsu.edu/kcr-college-radio-named-best-college-station-in-the-nation/.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Rogers: What we do is critically important to the life of communities. NVPR is one of the most efficient and successful public radio stations in the nation. That gives me enormous pride and I’m honored to be working at both the local and national level in a leadership role that will have impact on the entire public radio system of the U.S. One of the proudest achievements of my professional life was serving as co-chair of the national search committee to identify and hire the next CEO of National Public Radio (NPR) in 2013-14. The outcome was appointing Jarl Mohn, a world-class media strategist with deep roots in radio.
When I joined KPBS Public Radio in 1991 in San Diego, public radio was a complement to the commercial broadcasters in relation to news and journalism. As commercial sources of local journalism have receded due to consolidation, recession and digital disruption, public media has grown in relevance and necessity for our trustworthy journalism and public service.
Independent media has become more and more critical to an informed democracy, despite a proliferation of online media choices. Curating excellent content that reflects the life of our community and then delivering that on air, online and in print is what NVPR does best.
Every year, NVPR has invested more resources in local content production and journalism, even during the recession. KNPR produces more locally relevant content than stations in markets far bigger than Las Vegas. It’s just so important to us, and that includes developing the city regional magazine Desert Companion. Our region deserves excellence in hard news, cultural content and conversation with the people that shape our community. Nevada Public Radio has always sought out opportunities to expand access to our services and leverage economies of scale. From the late 1990’s on we’ve expanded our network with a network of rural translators and repeaters that brings sole NPR service to White Pine and Nye Counties and most recently in 2009 we acquired a station to serve Elko.
Likewise, our network of 260 NPR member stations represents a robust collaboration that reflects the diversity of our country. I am honored to be serving in my second term as a member of the NPR Board of Directors. At the network level, NPR has an annual budget in excess of $180 million to create and deliver national and international news services. It’s an incredible interdependent system. Having a seat at the table and working with my peers on national strategy in digital delivery, creating new on-ramps for younger and more diverse listeners and new ways for our network to thrive is something I never imagined when I was a rock DJ! It is a profound privilege.
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Rogers: Thriving in a time of media disruption. Being in a national leadership position means balancing legacy issues with embracing change and innovation. With 260 stations, NPR represents a vast range of stations, including university licensees, those serving immense rural areas, and those with multiple competing NPR outlets in metropolitan areas. Each has unique challenges and opportunities. The NPR Board mandate is to act in the best interests of the partnership in serving the public.
NNBW: What advice would give someone who wants to get into your profession?
Rogers: Almost everything about my role is different than it was for my predecessor, the founder of NVPR. The only exception is a profound and sustained commitment to the public interest. For anyone who intends to be in a position of public trust for something as vital as news and information, be prepared to live “the brand” with integrity, dignity and humility every day in every way.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Rogers: “Shut up and play the music.” Excellent advice hollered at me as a beginning broadcaster, which still translates into any media: It’s not about you. It’s about the audience.
NNBW: What kind of specific skills or educational advancement have you found are necessary to be successful in your field?
Rogers: When I consider the other leaders in public media in Nevada – Tom Axtell at Vegas PBS and Kurt Mische at KNPB TV – I see individuals who have tremendous skill in building relationships with diverse and sometimes opposing constituencies. These include audiences, philanthropic supporters, business leaders, legislative bodies and even those who disagree with our modest public subsidy.
Between the three of us, we are known and respected at the highest levels of our particular industry on the national stage, but it’s the consistent and deliberative relationship development here in Nevada that will achieve the most lasting impact.
Likewise, when I look around my fellow board members at the NPR network level, I see they are consensus builders who never lose sight of the critical place of independent media and its vital role in the lives of millions of Americans each week.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Rogers: I was hired by founder Lamar Marchese in 2001 to take KNPR’s radio programming to the “next level.” I accepted the position because KNPR had potential, and as an independent media company there was huge opportunity to us to determine our own level of success. The prospect of building a news department and programming for what was soon to become not one but two full-time FM channels was exciting. Once I became part of the community, I realized that even those opportunities underestimated the potential for NVPR to be a vital catalyst for people to connect to their community through our services, including on air, online and in print. When that came into focus after just a couple of years, I was committed to stay for the long term and help build NVPR into the kind of institution it’s become: one of the most cherished organizations we have for building a sense of place and community, not just for those who listen, but everyone who lives here.
As of writing we have journalists from Desert Companion traveling through Northern Nevada to capture the voices of and issues on the minds of rural residents in this election year. We are always working to better reflect the entire state although the concentration of our audience is in the South. However, we have a unique network of stations to bring us together to hear one another in Nevada. After 15 years I’m still learning about the history and wonderful characters of our state and finding even more to appreciate from the geographic and recreational abundance it offers. There’s no chance we’ll run out of ideas for great content in a state like Nevada!
We’ve attracted skilled and committed staff and board members to carry out that endeavor, creating high-quality, knowledge-based employment and becoming a leader on the national scene for exceptional local journalism and innovation, as well as the recipient of major national grant funding for programming projects. We’ve created an agile, important and beloved institution that has put NVPR on the map as a leader for public broadcasters nationwide, and more importantly as a resource of critical information and culture for our community.
Additional background information:
Florence Rogers is President and CEO of Nevada Public Radio, the public media company providing news, cultural and digital content to Nevada since 1980. In April 2007, she became second-ever general manager, succeeding founder Lamar Marchese, and transitioned Nevada Public Radio into a diversified media company and grew the community resource to an annual budget exceeding $6 million. She is currently serving her second term as a member director of National Public Radio (NPR), where she is chair of the Membership and Governance Committee and co-chaired the NPR CEO search committee 2013-14.
Rogers joined Nevada Public Radio in 2001 to oversee KNPR’s programming and establish Nevada’s first classical music station. She co-created the flagship public affairs program “KNPR’s State of Nevada” and has many national network credits. Prior to coming to Las Vegas, Rogers was assistant manager of KRPS in Pittsburg, Kansas and operations director at KPBS in San Diego. She was an on-air talent at 91X alternative rock in San Diego from 1991 to 1994 and at Isle of Wight Radio in 1990.
A 1989 graduate of San Diego State University, Rogers holds a master’s degree in radio, TV and film and an undergraduate degree in communications from Coventry University. Rogers was born and raised on the Isle of Wight in England and was proud to become a U.S. citizen in January 2007.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.