Published in the Denver Buiness Journal 10/19/17
Thought Leader: New CEO Amanda Mountain wants Rocky Mountain PBS to stay relevant
"Democracy is very much under threat if we don’t take very seriously the state of our media."
The war on media is what keeps Amanda Mountain up at night.
“I feel a very keen sense of concern as a citizen, let alone the executive of a media company, that our democracy is very much under threat if we don’t take very seriously the state of our media,” says the Denver public-broadcasting executive. “If we do not invest in high-quality media, our citizens will be without trusted lines of information, which leads to more disengagement around issues that matter.”
Eight months ago, Mountain took the helm as president and CEO at Rocky Mountain Public Media Inc. — the parent organization of public-TV broadcaster Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO-FM radio. RMPBS’ stations include Denver’s KRMATV (Channel 6) as well as stations in Pueblo, Grand Junction, Durango and Steamboat Springs.
Since taking over, Mountain has led the 100-member staff through a self-examination of the operations of its five TV stations, its news unit and the radio station.
Membership at Rocky Mountain Public Media has been steadily climbing, up to 80,000 now. But Mountain wanted to ensure that public media learn lessons from the challenges of declining circulation and advertising that the newspaper industry has experienced.
“We want to really understand distribution and we really want to understand our audience, so that we don’t end up in a place we had not expected in terms of relevancy,” she said.
Her team concluded that its mission is to strengthen the civic fabric of Colorado through public media.
“Most Coloradans are living in what I like to call an information island,” she said. “They don’t see themselves reflected back in major media. Newspapers are shrinking, there are limited resources and no in-depth stories.”
“So, what role can we play using our trusted platform in bringing to life the stories of what it truly means to be Coloradan?”
RMPBS’ news team is having ongoing conversations with Coloradans, she said, to find out what issues are surfacing in their communities, how they celebrate and what is their culture.
“So, we are really flipping the script a bit,” she said. “The audience will tell us what is relevant to them in terms of community issues and cultural issues and then we will make content decisions based on that feedback.”
On the notion of getting the audience involved, Rocky Mountain Public Media is in the midst of a $30 million capital campaign to build a new media center in downtown Denver at 21st and Arapahoe streets. It will feature a children’s media center, a community conference room and a volunteer center — all with the idea of inviting the public in, she said.
It’s only the second capital campaign in the organization’s history. But the organization has outgrown its space at 1089 Bannock St. More importantly, Mountain wants the new building to look like the company’s newly refined mission — open, accessible, and transparent.
The new building will be called the Buell Public Media Center in honor of the Buell Foundation, which has given $6 million to the capital campaign. Mountain sees it as a cross between a public library and co-working space. It will have six studios and lots of windows. There will be exhibits for children learning about civic engagement and space for people to take classes and learn about ways to get involved in the community.
“We know symbols matter,” Mountain said. “Just as the state Capitol is a symbol of government, we want this building to be a symbol of the role of public media plays in the civic fabric of Colorado.”
To date, Rocky Mountain Public Media has raised $19.5 million, or 65 percent of its goal. About $8 million has been raised in the last eight months, since Mountain took over as CEO. The goal is for the building to be open by January 2020.
“It’s an extraordinary privilege to have and to lose and we recognize that in order to maintain and grow that public trust, we need to bring people in,” she said.
Title: President and CEO
Company: Rocky Mountain Public Media
Education: Bachelor’s degree in media management, University of Colorado Colorado Springs; master’s degree in organizational leadership, strategic innovation and change, University of Denver.
Family: Partner Craig, 18 month-old daughter Freyja and two dogs, Maggie and Birdie.
Favorite PBS show: Colorado Experience and Sherlock
Best advice she has received: Always stop to thank anyone who vouches for you, even in the smallest of ways.
Best advice she has given: Don't be an innocent bystander in your own life.
Denver Business Journal