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ACLU Foundation Chairman Jarl Mohn gives a speech at the ACLU of Southern California's Annual Bill of Rights Awards Dinner at The Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on December 15, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California.
Everyday on Take Two and Airtalk, KPCC hosts begin by saying, "from the Mohn Broadcast Center ..."
The Mohn in question is Jarl Mohn, chair of the board of trustees here at Southern California Public Radio. Over the years he has been an incredibly generous supporter of KPCC, and on Friday he was named the new president and CEO of National Public Radio.
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Jarl Mohn spoke with Take Two's Alex Cohen about his new post and vision for the future of NPR.
Q&A with Jarl Mohn:
You have a very long history in radio. What appealed to you most about this position at NPR?
I hold KPCC and Southern California Public Radio completely responsible for this. Getting involved with the station — I think it was something like 11 or 12 years ago — has been, of all the things I've done in my life and in my career, ... the most rewarding. I think, probably, 90-95 percent of what I know about public [radio] I've learned from you and your colleagues there, and [KPCC President] Bill Davis. This opportunity came up, and it was very exciting to me, so I'm beside myself. But I do hold you responsible.
When you experience NPR now, what stands out to you the most?
It's a combination of things for me, because I use a lot of digital media. It's seamless. I listen to most of my public radio over the air at KPCC, but I do use the KPCC iPad app, I use the NPR iPhone and iPad app, so I'm constantly switching back and forth between them all. The thing I love is the amazing access that I get when I want to know what's going on, whether it's the immediacy of local news or national and international news or one of the shows that's on. It's great to be able to access it.
What's your vision for the future of NPR?
I think the biggest opportunity for me and the thing I'm most excited about, ... Like most people that listen to public radio and NPR, ... [I] really love the programming, and I'm really passionate about it and very loyal. I think almost all the people who listen are to some degree. What I think I can do and be helpful on, hopefully, is to make sure that the organization has the resources that it needs. Budgets are tight. There have been deficits reported for NPR, and what I hope I can do is help raise money and help the organization not just survive, but really grow and thrive in a very new and competitive media landscape.
How do you plan to get the network back on track fiscally?
I don't have the answers to that yet. We have spent a lot of time in the interviewing process for the job, discussing possibilities, but because I haven't started yet, I start on July 1, one of the first things I'll be focusing on is looking at all the possible solutions to that. One of them — and I think it's the most appealing and best for the organization long term — is to raise more money. There are a lot of people who are huge fans and big supporters, and I don't think we've fully taken advantage of that yet.
One of the criticisms of NPR right now is that it can sound very East Coast-centric. How do you plan to address this concern?
There are a couple of things, and one of the things that's been very helpful to me, not only in getting my interest in this job, but also in terms of educating me and preparing me for it, is the work that I've been able to do with you folks. I think KPCC has done a remarkable job of addressing that issue of sounding like the city that it's in. KPCC does sound like Southern California. So I have a number of ideas to try to address that.
I do think over the years NPR has done a great job. They've opened NPR West. There have been a number of initiatives to address that. And I think there's been great progress made, and I'm hoping we continue on that path and use some of the really great things I've learned from you, there at KPCC, to apply it nationally.
How do you hope to overcome challenges between NPR and local stations?
Predating my involvement with KPCC, I spent 19 years in the radio business, starting out running tapes on the weekend, then being a disc jockey. I've done every job at a radio station, and I know that business reasonably well. I think, to be able to communicate with the member stations, that's what my background is, and with the 11 or 12 years I've spent working with KPCC, I think that will make the conversation much easier. I'm coming from that side of the table. I think that'll go a long way to easing some of those tensions.
Am I correct to assume that you'll be moving to Washington, and what does that mean for your future connections to KPCC?
Yes, the job is based in Washington, D.C. That's where I'll be based. I intend to keep my home in L.A., because L.A. is really a happy place for me, and I've got family there and my oldest daughter is there. But I still will have my ties and my roots to L.A., and I intend to be back visiting frequently.