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It became obvious to Darren LaShelle ’89 after working for NBC and Fox that he preferred tackling stories that delved into community issues and provided educational opportunities for his viewers — which is why he left commercial media and actively sought out a career in public television.

He made the switch 25 years ago when he joined the PBS and NPR member station WGTE. In 2014, he joined Northern California Public Media, serving as Content Manager and Senior Producer of all projects produced by the organization. In 2019, he was selected by the NorCal Public Media Board of Directors to serve as the President and CEO-Elect, succeeding the organization’s co-founder, Nancy Dobbs, who retired December 31, 2019. NorCal Public Media consists of KRCB TV in the North Bay, KPJK TV in the South Bay, KRCB FM Radio 91 in Sonoma County, the website, and the NorCal Public Media free digital app.

“The most rewarding part of my job is the realization that people’s lives are improved by the programs we produce on public television and public radio,” he says.

The organization was founded by Dobbs and her late husband, John Kramer, in 1981 and went on air in 1984 as a Public Broadcasting Service member station.

“Our goal remains that of Nancy’s original vision: to use media for the public good [by] presenting children’s original educational programs, environmental initiatives, community health programs and bilingual efforts, as well as political and election coverage,” he says.

LaShelle believes it is important to support public media because having a strong, noncommercial public media system is essential in order to have a free and democratic nation.

“The public needs a place they can go to find information that is not influenced by commercial or political interest,” he says. “This has become more important than ever before in this age of partisan media outlets, social media information that serves commercial purposes before public consideration, and at a time when our nation’s great newspapers are struggling to survive as their economic model shifts dramatically.”

LaShelle knew he wanted to go into broadcasting after appearing in a series of television and radio projects in high school and chose Marietta College because of the newly designed McKinney Media Center, which opened on campus in 1983, as well as the top-notch faculty.

“I was enamored with the broadcast news industry at the time and thought that being a reporter would be an interesting career,” he says. “I quickly learned from my experience at Marietta that it was more interesting to be the person creating the projects as opposed to being in front of the camera. The writer/producer has the most creative role to play. Marietta gave me the life skills and tools to fulfill that role in the workplace for 30 years.”

Gi Smith