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KPBS welcomes news director eager to reach new audiences in San Diego region

KPBS News Director Terence Shepherd is pictured on August 8, 2022.
Megan Burke
/
KPBS
KPBS News Director Terence Shepherd is pictured on August 8, 2022.

The KPBS newsroom embarked on a new era Monday with Terence Shepherd, a veteran journalist and public media leader, beginning his tenure as news director.

Shepherd comes to San Diego from South Florida, where he spent decades in journalism as an editor for newspapers and, since 2013, as news director of WLRN, an NPR affiliate in Miami.

Shepherd said he made the cross-country move because he is eager to cover the border and immigrant experience, and is excited to lead the 45-member newsroom that integrates multiple media platforms in its reporting.

“(KPBS seems) to do a good job of combining a newsroom that does TV, radio, and has a really good digital presence, including social media,” he said. “Leading an operation with all the tools is quite exciting to me.”

KPBS is the only major market public media station with a nightly TV news show, a concept launched by former general manager Tom Karlo more than a decade ago. Shepherd said he does not plan to make any significant changes in the short term.

“People say I'm a great listener. I by no means have a concept of, I'm going to go to KPBS and turn the thing upside down and change everything because that's inappropriate,” he said. “It would be inappropriate to step in and make wholesale changes to a news organization before I learn the culture, learn the people, learn what makes people tick.”

WLRN won a number of state and national journalism awards under Shepherd’s leadership, including the 2021 National Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. He has served as chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association and president of the South Florida Black Journalists Association.

Shepherd said he hopes to find new audiences for KPBS in the San Diego region, including immigrants and the “18 native nations.” He will prioritize stories unique to KPBS, that the station can “own in the marketplace.”

“What is the story that audiences can get only from KPBS?” he said. “What are those sense of place stories that say, ‘wow, this station really gets us. This station is for us and by us, and they understand San Diego like no one else.’”

Shepherd replaces Suzanne Marmion, who served in the role from 2010 to August 2021. Investigative editor David Washburn has been interim news director since Marmion’s departure.

KPBS General Manager Deanna Mackey said Shepherd brings experience in leading large newsrooms in diverse communities.

“His focus on mentoring journalists and prioritizing ethics and culture will help our news team better meet the needs of the region we serve,” she said. “His facility with different platforms from print to radio to digital is also a boon for an organization like ours which has a long history of digital innovation and creating content for all platforms."

Andrew Bowen, KPBS metro reporter and one of three SAG-AFTRA union stewards at the station, said the union looks forward to working with Shepherd.

“Our union members love the work they do at KPBS, but many of us struggle with comparatively low wages and a lack of opportunities for growth and advancement,” Bowen said. “We’re eager to get to know Terence and tackle those problems together.”

Kris Vera-Phillips, a faculty associate at the Cronkite School and former senior producer of KPBS Evening Edition and Roundtable, served with Shepherd at the Center for Public Broadcasting’s Next Generation Leadership Program in 2017. Vera-Phillips said he came to WLRN without a background in public media and his approach to the job revealed his strengths.

"For him, it's a collaboration, and that's something KPBS needs more than ever," she said. "He came into public media from business editing, and he approached it from the perspective of wanting to learn. That wanting to learn made him easy to work with, but he also had the leadership experience that made him a voice of reason."

Shepherd was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and has a strong family background in the Episcopal Church — both his father and sister are priests. Deborah Williams Shepherd, Terence’s wife of 29 years, is a college administrator.

“I'm the son of a preacher man,” Shepherd said. “And so what does that mean? I try to treat people with dignity and respect. I try to observe the golden rule. I try not to damage anyone. If I do, I apologize.”

He majored in economics at the University of Virginia and earned an MBA from Florida Atlantic University. After college, he worked at a brokerage firm before switching to journalism, and later spent 14 years as an editor at The Miami Herald.

In addition to being involved in his church, Shepherd said he enjoys Pilates, hard bop and modal jazz, talking politics and life with his wife, and college football. He looks forward to hiking in San Diego.

“Maybe I’ll take up surfing,” he said.

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