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KPBS names former exec as new general manager

Deanna Mackey.jpg
Victoria Brose
Deeanna Mackey in an undated photo.

Deanna Mackey, a long-time veteran of public media and former KPBS executive, was named Friday as general manager of San Diego’s NPR/PBS affiliate.

Mackey, who is Latina, will be the first woman of color to lead KPBS when she takes the helm on June 30. She said she is looking forward to the challenge of guiding the station in a shifting media landscape.

“The future is considering audiences that are more diverse, that are younger,” Mackey said in an interview Friday. “So how do we make sure that we’ve creating content and developing content on new platforms that appeal to the swath of audiences that the station has.”

KPBS, which serves San Diego and Imperial counties, has a staff of more than 180 people and a budget topping $37 million. The station produces content for television, radio and digital audiences.

Mackey will be KPBS’ sixth general manager since its founding in 1960. She replaces Tom Karlo, who retired in December of 2020. Associate General Manager Nancy Worlie has served as interim general manager since January of 2021 and will stay in the post until Mackey assumed the role on June 30.

Mackey, who’s worked in public media for more than 30 years, first came to KPBS as a student in the 1980s. She rose to the position of chief operating officer and station manager before leaving in 2015.

Since her departure from KPBS, Mackey led the Public Television Major Market Group, a strategy and leadership organization. It is a consortium of 40 of the largest public TV stations, by market size, in the United States. She is also co-founder of Public Media Women in Leadership.

The KPBS broadcast license is held by San Diego State University. And though the station’s newsroom is independent of the university, the general manager is officially an SDSU employee.

“KPBS demands collaborative, future-driven and thoughtful leadership, especially given the increasing polarization in journalism,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre, who announced Mackey’s appointment. “We found all of those skills in Deanna Mackey, and more.”

Mackey said she wants to build on the station’s strong history of innovation.

“The station has always been a place, compared to other organizations in public media, that’s very forward thinking and is very risk positive,” Mackey said. “And I experienced that in my time there, being able to experiment, being able to try new things. KPBS was one of the first stations to have a website. It was one of the first stations to build a digital team.”

De la Torre said Mackey will preside over the station’s relationships with local and national government officials and will look for ways to build on partnerships with other content providers in the region and university.

“Mackey’s reputation as an executive strategist is well respected, and she is known for her ability to transform organizations to fulfill the needs of both their teams and the public,” de la Torre said. “She is best positioned to continue advancing KPBS as a pillar of civic engagement and as a community connector.”

De la Torre also extended her appreciation to Worlie for her service and leadership.

“Nancy has been a fabulous partner and leader,” de la Torre said.

KPBS is a service of San Diego State University.