PBS’ Pat Mitchell talks to UMTV

Pat Mitchell visits the University for UMTV interview
Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of the Public Broadcasting Service [PBS], shared her vision for the future of television programming and personal tips for success in a UMTV interview that featured a student audience on Tuesday.
Mitchell is the first woman to lead PBS and has recently been named one of Washington’s “Most Powerful Women” by Washingtonian magazine.
“I always look at the accomplishments I’m trying to make now and in the future,” Mitchell said. “I’m looking forward, not to the past – we find the ways to make public broadcasting viable in today’s world – we are the only media outlet in this country that works to make your life better.”
Among Mitchell’s major beliefs is that the public should be more involved with, and have more control over, the programs that are aired on television.
“I define the purpose of reality television to be shame and degradation – our programs are better than that,” Mitchell said. “How good is over 100 channels when they are controlled by the same ventriloquist? Public TV is still your voice.”
Previously, Mitchell has worked as president of CNN Productions and Time, Inc. Television for Turner/Time Warner. Programming produced under the direction of Mitchell won over 100 major awards and received two Academy Award nominations. She has also initiated an international strategy for licensing documentary programming to global broadcasters.
Mitchell is also a former print and television journalist, a network correspondent and a community leader.
“I spent a long time on the commercial side of media,” Mitchell said. “I did not want to go where commercial media is now going. I can use the skills I learned in commercial media and bring it to PBS, which serves a public good.”
Currently, PBS provides programming, educational services and distribution to over 350 local public television stations. The organization’s website, PBS.org, is the most visited dot-org site in the world, and PBSKIDS is a leader in educational programming for children. This year, PBS programming won more awards for journalistic excellence than any other media company.
“Awards recognize that the work has had an impact on people,” Mitchell said. “That’s why they are so rewarding. The very best producers, writers, journalists, etc. want their work to air on PBS.”
“I firmly believe that PBS has the best programming in the country,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell encourages all broadcast journalism and media business and management college grads to begin to look for jobs and internships in smaller markets first.
“In a smaller market, you get to do a lot of more work that better prepares you,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also believes that learning to fail is one of the first steps to attaining success.
“The single most important strategy [of success] was my willingness to fail,” Mitchell said. “You have to be willing to take jobs in which you know you may not succeed.”

Brian Poliakoff can be contacted at b.poliakoff@umiami.com