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KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo Announces Retirement After 12 Years At The Helm

KPBS general manager Tom Karlo in this undated photo.

Credit: KPBS

Above: KPBS general manager Tom Karlo in this undated photo.

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San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre announced Monday that KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo will retire after a 47-year career at the public media station.

Aired: October 6, 2020 | Transcript

KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo will retire after a 47-year career at the public media station in San Diego. He will retire at the end of this year.

San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre made the announcement Monday. Karlo addressed the KPBS staff in a morning meeting.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to spend my entire career at KPBS and SDSU,” Karlo said. “I feel I have made a difference at KPBS and KPBS has made a difference in the community. I am so proud of that.”

During Karlo’s tenure as general manager, KPBS ushered in a new era of multiplatform content and solidified the organization’s reputation for trusted, award-winning news across all platforms.

Karlo also recognized the shifting landscape in how the public was consuming news.

“There was a growing population that was beginning to use digital technology to consume content," Karlo said. "And I wanted our news to be where people were consuming their media.”

Since 2009, KPBS has added a weekday television newscast, and digital news on KPBS.org and social media, in addition to an existing and well established radio news team. KPBS now has content on more than 30 platforms, including four television channels, 89.5 FM, KPBS.org, and social media.

Karlo has worked at KPBS since 1973 when he began as a student while attending SDSU. He worked his way up through the organization, first as a cameraman and eventually learning all facets of the business, including TV production, operations, program distribution and finance.

With each new role Karlo gained management experience and more responsibility. He was named general manager in 2009, making him only the fifth general manager in KPBS’ 60-year history.

“Tom’s passion for KPBS and for SDSU are apparent to anyone who meets him and he has invested decades to elevate KPBS as an important community-focused ambassador for public media in the San Diego region,” de la Torre said. “As a former writer and journalist myself, I applaud Tom for his years of service to meaningful storytelling and to ethical journalism.”

In his nearly 12 years as general manager of KPBS, the organization has grown to 180 full- and part-time staff; the news team started at 15 people and is now close to 50. The audience has grown to more than 1.3 million each week; and operating revenue has nearly doubled. The KPBS Producers Club has also grown from 600 families and $700,000 a year to 1,900 families and nearly $2.8 million annually.

Karlo has been a fundraising powerhouse, raising nearly $70 million for KPBS’ Building on Trust Capital Campaign in three short years. The campaign funds a much-needed expansion and remodel of KPBS' building. Construction will begin before Karlo leaves the station.

Karlo also solidified KPBS’ role as an industry leader within public media nationwide. KPBS remains one of the top stations in the country. He has served on national boards including the PBS Board of Directors, Public Television Major Market Group, and the California Public Television Board of Directors.

In addition to his dedication to KPBS, he has given back to the San Diego community through various organizations and nonprofits including the SDSU Alumni Association Board of Directors and Sharp Grossmont Hospital Board of Directors.

Karlo and his wife, Julie, have three children and four grandchildren and look forward to spending time with family in San Diego and Lake Tahoe.

KPBS Associate General Manager of Content and Communications Nancy Worlie has been named as interim general manager, effective Jan. 1, 2021. She is the first woman to be the station’s general manager.

“I’m thrilled and I’m honored to be the first woman and to represent the women at our organization and out in the community and help take KPBS into the next couple of years,” Worlie said.

Worlie has been at KPBS for 17 years, recently overseeing news, programming, communications and human resources.

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