RTDNA 2021 Board of Directors Elections: Meet the Candidates

August 11, 2021 12:00


Election Ballots

 

Chair Elect

Tim Scheld
News Director, WCBS-AM, New York

I am running for Chair Elect because I believe the power, influence and advocacy of the Radio Television Digital News Association is needed more today than ever and I want to help lead that charge.

Never before has our journalism meant so much to the communities we serve. Never before has our profession been so challenged by disinformation, acts of violence, and challenges to our First Amendment protections. RTDNA must continue to be a strong and tireless advocate for digital and broadcast journalists while working to grow our membership to include new and diverse voices.

I have been on the RTDNA Board since 2015 representing Region 11 (NY, NJ, and PA) and now serve as Chair of the RTDNA Ethics Committee. That work has been fulfilling and inspiring but my focus is on the future. With new platforms and technology to share our stories, and with a renewed commitment to diversity and equity, our work will make our communities better served.


Sheryl Worsley
Director of Podcasting, KSL Podcasts

Journalism over the past couple of years has been among some of the best I have seen under some the worst conditions I’ve ever observed. Reporters and photojournalists face the ever more important challenge of broadcasting and publishing truth in a growing sea of misinformation. We’re doing it while politicians and a segment of our viewers, listeners and readers attack our credibility. In their minds, undermining the fourth estate makes it okay to dismiss the truths told by journalists whose job it is to protect the public. We’re doing it during the ravages of a world-wide pandemic. COVID-19 has whipped up more misinformation and fear and sent shockwaves through the economies in our markets. We are doing it during a racial reckoning which has inspired both peaceful and violent protests and counter-protests. Journalists have been targeted for physical, verbal and online abuse during the upheaval, while doing nothing more than our constitutionally protected duty to inform the public and documenting what is going on in our communities. We have more to do than I can ever recall in my more than 20 years in local news.

RTDNA is a strong advocate for journalism all over the country. We have much to accomplish in protecting journalists and our craft. Making sure our press freedoms are strengthened is vital to our ability to keep doing a good job. Keeping our state and federal governments open and accountable is more important that it has ever been. As a co-chair of the original Voice of the First Amendment task force for RTDNA, I am committed to this responsibility. Reminding people of the information they have because of the hard-working journalists in their communities is critical to us. We need people to have an awareness of the value they get when choosing our sites, platforms and channels. The information we provide helps people make decisions and hopefully improves their lives.

That said, we can collectively do a better job making sure all communities are represented and heard. We can elevate the national and local conversations. We must stay vigilant on the quality of our reporting to ensure it stays above reproach. We must make sure we open our processes so people can see the method and rigor behind what we do. We can do a better job of making sure journalism is not conflated with opinion. Most importantly, we can highlight the ways which friends and neighbors who disagree share some similarities. We can move away from polarized talking heads in our coverage into more nuanced and reasoned discourse.

Some of what I’ve just mentioned seems like nirvana and is easier said than done, but these are things I believe CAN be done. I’d be honored to have your vote as chair of RTDNA.


Director-at-Large

 

Ellen Crooke
SVP, News, TEGNA

I have proudly served two terms on the RTDNA board. Over the past four years, journalists faced the threat of violence, the fear of a pandemic, and perhaps most troubling, a growing mistrust of our profession. RTDNA has been there for our journalists in unprecedented ways, and I am proud to have helped play a role through participation on the board. I championed disinformation training and served on the executive committee, the ethics committee, and the new convention committee where I helped reimagine what a new RTDNA conference could look like. I am ready...ready to move past these difficult years for journalists and help create a new era for our profession — an era of innovation, quality and trust. There is no other organization more suited to change the national narrative about journalism than RTDNA, and I am ready to be a leader and integral part of that movement.


Julie Szulczewski
News Director, WAFF, Huntsville, Alabama

Journalists need leadership. RTNDA is a voice for our industry that fights daily against the phrases like “fake news”. We seek the truth and want to hold people accountable. I have been a News Director for over a decade and want to support others in media especially our younger journalists.


Thor Wasbotten
Managing Director; Professor, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University; School of Media and Journalism, Kent State University

I appreciate the opportunity to run for a Director At-Large seat on the RTDNA Board. For more than 20 years, as a news director, station manager, assistant dean, school director, and professor, I have had a commitment to represent all members of our community. RTDNA is the organization that represents leaders in our industry, and it is the decisions we make as leaders that help benefit or harm the people we employ, cover, and impact.

As one of your Directors At-Large, I will focus on helping our organization further its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. For the past two years, I have served as managing director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Through our Journalism and Media Ethics focus area, I have maintained my relationships with newsroom leaders, and through our Technology Ethics focus area, I have been entrenched in how technology and social media platforms are affecting our industry.

I hope to bring this perspective to the mosaic of the Board. Thank you for your support.


Mark Willis
News Anchor/On Air Host, Sirius XM Satellite Radio

The Radio-Television-Digital News Association has been around for generations. It has long been the advocate for the industry providing resources to promote responsible journalism across multiple platforms that include radio, television and digital. The electronic journalism arena faces multiple challenges ranging from public perception, threats of Congressional oversight and judicial restraints that hinder the public's right to know.

Community awareness of issues impacting people down the block, on Main street and in the halls of Congress takes on new meaning in this day and age. If I am elected to the at large board member role, I will bring more than 40 years of experience in the media having worked in local news radio, network news radio, television news and satellite radio. I understand the challenges of producing a story and the importance of getting it correct.

Community confidence and trust is vital, if we are to continue to inform the public. I will work to make sure those restrictions in covering stories are challenged and removed so we may maintain the utmost integrity with those we serve when doing our work.


 

Kimberly Wyatt
News Director, WEAR-TV

I have been in the industry for 29 years. I am very passionate about what we do as journalists. In 2015, I decided to run for RTNDA’s Director At-Large seat and won. RTNDA is one of the leading voices in the industry fighting for our profession, our rights and safety as journalist, and our wellness. For the last 6 years, I lean offering valuable and diverse input to board, and to the committees I’ve served on and/or chaired. I humbly ask for your vote, because I am committed to continuing the work within RTDNA to advocate, strengthen and inspire journalists. I also bring proven leadership, knowledge of the board, its finances etc. I’ve also helped create guidelines for newsrooms to use as a reference, worked on ethical issues etc. I also bring a unique, diverse perspective. If re-elected, I’d like to place on the executive committee.


Region 1 Director

Melissa Luck
Executive News Director, KXLY-TV

I'm a second-generation journalist who has spent the last two decades working as a reporter, anchor, executive producer and now news director. I've spent all of my professional career in Washington and I'm grateful to have made a home at a station and with a company that believes in journalism with impact. The best part of my job is working with young journalists and helping them train for what's next. I'm so ready to lend my voice to RTDNA to be a voice for medium-sized markets, especially if it helps educate the next generation of broadcast journalists.

We're at a crisis point in journalism and broadcast journalism needs to adapt. COVID has taught us that we can adapt, but we have to make sure we're committed to doing the hard work. We have so much to learn from other industries and from our own employees; we just have to put our egos aside as managers and be willing to listen. I believe RTDNA not only needs to advocate and educate, but that it also needs to lean into what we can learn from current trends in audience and digital platforms. I'm lucky to work for a small, family-owned company that allows me to be flexible with projects and leadership. I'd love to bring that innovation to the Board of Directors.

As your Region 1 director, I will advocate on behalf of not only journalists, but also be a voice for the small and medium-size markets that are often underrepresented. I'm passionate about journalism and in love with the Pacific NW. I'd be honored to represent this region.


Yvonne Simons
News Director, KATU/KUNP

The Pacific Northwest region has been challenged like all newsrooms, by the COVID pandemic. We are also uniquely affected by wildfires, severe winter weather, and the vocal politics of our region—punctuated by protests and other campaigns, all at the same time. Sometimes the community ire about all of those issues is aimed directly at us.

Our region was actually ground zero for COVID. The outbreaks started here. As COVID escalated, many Pacific NW areas exploded following the death of George Floyd, with active, violent protests. Many of our falls included wildfire outbreaks... in 2020.. and again now. The never-ending barrage of giant news has changed the attitudes and emotional stabilities of our communities and our newsrooms. This challenges our newsrooms and our employees daily.

RTDNA exists to offer information, guidelines, and insights beyond our doorsteps to help us manage the challenges we face. We’re not alone. RTDNA can work with your newsrooms and your news group ownerships, to help us all move forward thoughtfully, to commit “good journalism.” I live and work here and understand our regional issues and the challenges of newsrooms large and small. As your Region 1 director, I will be the conduit to listen, receive feedback, offer help, and send resources your way to help manage our new realities, together.


Region 2 Director

Jennifer Seelig
Director of News & Programming, KCBS, San Francisco, California

Hello from San Francisco! My name is Jennifer Seelig. I am enthusiastically throwing my hat into the ring to (continue to) serve as RTDNA Region 2 Director. I was honored to have been appointed to take the Region 2 baton from our esteemed and longtime Director, Brandon Mercer, in mid-July 2021. I have enjoyed my early days as RTDNA Region 2 Director — and, it would be a pleasure and an honor to continue serving you in this capacity.

I am currently Director of News and Programming at KCBS All News Radio (106.9FM, 740AM and KCBSRadio.com/Audacy-San Francisco). I manage an award-winning team of broadcast and multimedia journalists who cover local, national and international news on Northern California’s only 24/7/365 live and local news station. I have been a part of the KCBS new team since early 2001. During my tenure at KCBS, I have been a production assistant, producer, editor, news writer, digital content creator and manager. I was named Assistant News Director in 2015, and was elevated to Director of News and Programming in 2017. In addition to overseeing the talented KCBS news team, I serve as “Format Co-Captain” of the 7 other all-news radio stations under the Audacy corporate umbrella (WCBS New York, WINS New York, KNX Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, KYW Philadelphia, WWJ Detroit and KRLD Dallas). As “Format Co-Captain,” I am a liaison between these heritage all-news radio stations and Audacy corporate programming and sales teams. I also routinely coach and advise on programming execution across the Audacy all-news platform.

I am a relentlessly enthusiastic booster for the broadcast industry. I believe strongly in the power of journalism. I enjoy the thrills and challenges of breaking news. I am passionate about what we do. We are performing truly essential work. My priorities as Region 2 Director are: safety in the field; journalism ethics; newsroom diversity; mentoring aspiring journalists; mental health and well-being of journalists; meeting the needs of RTDNA membership. Throughout the RTDNA Board election season, I look forward to better getting to know you — and, I invite you to reach out with questions, thoughts, comments or concerns. (415) 765-4049 or jennifer.seelig@kcbsradio.com. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration — and, thank you for all that you do for our incredible industry.


Nia Towne
News Director, ABC10/KXTV

As journalists we're taught to "trust, but verify;" that accuracy in reporting means facts+context+perspective; that sometimes the facts change and that the loudest voice is not the only voice. In an age where misinformation runs rampant, it’s critical that we as journalists not only know what it takes to be an ethical reporter, but that we understand it is necessary for the survival of our industry to revisit and re-evaluate our previously held truths.

RTDNA is the organization that not only teaches this, but is the organization journalists turn to for reflection and guidance. If elected as a board member for RTDNA Region 2, I will uphold the tenets of ethical journalism and hope to be a guiding influence during this unprecedented change in our community.


Region 7 Director

Jenna Huff
News Director, WANE 15

My name is Jenna Huff and I’m the current News Director at WANE 15 in Fort Wayne, IN. WANE 15 is a dynamic legacy newsroom of both veteran and new journalists. Before coming back to the Midwest, I was the News Director of WGXA and WFXL both in Georgia. My career started as an MMJ and I can remember being trained on Twitter when it first rolled out, so I’ve been able to witness the integration of social media into the news industry. I’d like to be the Board 7 Director to help share and collaborate with other ND’s in the Midwest about media strategies and workflow efficiencies. I’m open to outside ideas and am always willing to try new ways of executing a project. I love organized chaos and on top of being New Director I’m a mother of four young girls under the age of 7. I hope my legacy will show them that women can lead and execute in the workplace on top of being a devoted mother.


 

Jam Sardar
News Director, WLNS-TV

I’m running for re-election to the RTDNA Board of Directors because I believe in the mission of the organization:

– Advocating and educating for good journalism
– Celebrating great journalism
– Protecting the First Amendment and all journalism

In the many years I’ve spent on the board, I’ve also lived that mission — whether it was taking part in RTDNA webinars, chairing the Awards Committee and helping with the Murrows, and tipping off the RTDNA leadership to First Amendment issues and concerns. As a former national Vice President of the Asian American Journalists Association, I’ve also long advocated for diversity in our industry — and I help add to our board’s diversity with my service.

I also want to give back to an organization that has given so much to me. As a former fellowship winner, I’ve been involved with RTDNA in one way or another for some 20 years.

And in this important and polarizing time, the work we do to inform and educate our communities has never been more important. I want to continue to do whatever I can to make sure we all serve the public to the best of our ability. That’s why I’d appreciate your vote.


Region 8 Director

 

Bradley Pfranger
Associate Professor, Western Kentucky University

As a member of RTDNA, both as a journalist and an academic, I have seen what this organization can bring to professionals and broadcasting students. The amount of training, professional interaction, and in-depth industry research provided by RTDNA is both vast and important. With the current climate in this country, journalists are more important than ever. As an avid supporter of First Amendment rights and protecting the freedoms of journalists in this country, it would be my honor to serve RTDNA and its members as the Region 8 Director.


Robert Thomas
VP/News Director, WKYT, Lexington, Kentucky

After growing up in Tennessee, I earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina and a master’s from the University of Tennessee. My path to becoming a news director took me to stations in Knoxville; Charleston, S.C.; Winston-Salem/Greensboro; and Memphis. In my 15 years at WKYT in Lexington, the station won 24 regional and one national Edward R. Murrow Award, including this year’s regional Murrows for overall excellence, newscast, and innovation.

From 2014 to 2017, I served as president of the Kentucky Associated Press Broadcasters. In my role, I helped to increase participation and established the relationship with the Kentucky Broadcasters Association that developed into training for professional and college journalists.

As a news director who understands the importance of RTDNA and one who has benefited from its training over the years, I would appreciate the opportunity to give back by helping lead our group forward in its essential mission in passionately defending the First Amendment and furthering journalism.


Region 11 Director

Alex Silverman
Brand Manager/Program Director, KYW Newsradio, Philadelphia

There has never been a more critical moment for our business, our people, and our purpose. With leadership experience in both Philadelphia, the birthplace of our Constitution, and New York, the beating heart of the American media, I am uniquely suited to represent Region 11 on the RTDNA Board of Directors.

As the leader of KYW Newsradio, an agenda-setting multi-platform newsroom in Philadelphia, I have confronted many of the challenges we face as an industry. Journalists face growing pressure to do more, and at the same time face the burden of justifying their value in and centrality to our democracy. When one of our journalists was unfairly denied access to a press conference, I led a campaign to join with other news organizations to speak with one voice, which many recognized as the first effort of its kind in the market. I've led two heritage newsrooms through visual and sonic re-branding campaigns to position them for the modern competitive landscape. As a reporter and anchor based in New York City, I led coverage of such life-changing news events as Hurricane Sandy, the marriage equality decision, and the Pulse nightclub tragedy, and won a national Murrow award for coverage of New York's crumbling mass transit infrastructure.

The journalists of the present and the near future need protection, support, and leadership that can leverage the equity of our iconic institutions to promote news literacy. The RTDNA's work promoting, protecting, and recognizing journalistic achievement is of paramount importance to that effort, and I would be honored to contribute to its vision on the Board of Directors.


Region 12 Director

JJ Green
National Security Correspondent, WTOP, Washington, D.C.

Who am I? I’m the national security correspondent at WTOP radio in Washington, DC, where I’ve lived for almost 30 years. During those years, I’ve also worked at six TV networks -ABC, CNN, BET, VOA, AJAM and C-SPAN. As the fortunate and grateful recipient of the prestigious National Edward R. Murrow Award for my national security coverage, I believe there is no greater calling for a journalist, than to protect at all costs, the integrity of the Fourth Estate and the public’s right to know the truth.

Why am I running? I’ve been an RTDNA contributor for years –writing articles, full of suggestions about access and inclusion; but as racial tension, COVID-19, political chaos and foreign interference test the cohesiveness of our nation, its’s time for me to reach deeper. Our industry faces unprecedented challenges that; day by day, degree by degree, undermine our ability to perform the vital work of truth-seeking and responsible and inclusive reporting. Those challenges are existential threats to our industry. If elected to the board from region 12, I would work to grow our membership; look for opportunities to promote the values of RTDNA, protect our industry, organization and members from the new threats that are emerging, and help RTDNA position itself to meet the challenges of the future.

How can I help? As an African-American, male, journalist, who’s traveled to foreign war zones many times in the last 15 years, I’ve seen the despair and devastation that national division and disinformation can lead to. I believe my unique experiences and understanding of the nation’s current struggles, can help RTDNA better position itself to shepherd the organization and our members through this confusing time. I can also help RTDNA shape the critical, national conversations, and changes needed to keep our nation strong and unified.




 



 



 
 
 
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