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Southwest Ohio's Public Media Connect Appoints A New CEO

Kitty Lensman and Cookie Monster. Lensman will become the new president and CEO of Public Media Connect on July 1.
Kitty Lensman

For the first time in almost 30 years, local public television is about to have a new leader.

On July 1, Dorothy “Kitty” Lensman will become Public Media Connect’s new president and CEO. Public Media Connect is the umbrella organization that runs Dayton’s ThinkTV, and CET in Cincinnati. She’s taking over from David Fogarty, who has been the head of Public Media Connect for 11 years, and the president of ThinkTV since 1993.

Lensman is no stranger to public broadcasting, either. She started her career at public TV stations on the west coast, before coming to the Dayton area over two decades ago.

She sat down with WYSO’s Jason Saul to talk about her new role, what PBS is up to here in Dayton and Cincinnati, and how local public television is responding in the age of COVID-19.

Jason Saul: Between Dayton and Cincinnati, I've read that you all serve around 1.8 million people every week with your programing. Can you talk a little bit about your impact?

Kitty Lensman: So you're absolutely correct. We actually have a population in our region of 3.5 million people. And in a given month, more than half of this population watches us. So I'd like to think that our impact is real. There's nothing that exists like public broadcasting. We're the largest membership organization in the nation. And this year, PBS will celebrate their 50th anniversary. We're also America's largest classroom. We're the most trusted source of programing for parents and families. And think about this: we offer free programing and free educational services to our communities. And then after the fact, we ask for some voluntary contribution. No other media company has that kind of model. But it's because our mission is a commitment to serve the needs and interests of viewers and learners of all ages.

Jason Saul: You're stepping into the CEO role here at Public Media Connect, and that's a big step for an organization. And that's true even during the best of times. I'm wondering, in the age of COVID-19, how are the past few months been for you? Are you feeling confident going into the next few months? Is this an exciting time for you?

Kitty Lensman: Well, I don't know if I would call this as an exciting time. I think that life has changed for all of us. Right? CET and ThinkTV, we were made for a situation like this. You know, during the very first week of the stay at home order for Ohio, we changed our daytime programing to provide educational resources for K-through-12 children, and then added online curriculum that met Ohio academic standards. We created a new digital series called Art in Isolation, which, you know, talks to how are these artists feeling? How are they able to practice? Everybody's at this stay-at-home juncture.

Jason Saul: That's very cool. Where do you see Public Media Connect and ThinkTV heading? What is what is the next — I know we're all kind of crazy right now, but what does the next year bring, or the next five years bring?

Kitty Lensman: Well, that's a good question. We are currently in the middle of a three year strategic plan which will wrap up in 2021. And that kind of gives us a beacon where we are heading. The media landscape is changing and how people watch us is changing. But we were built for times like today, and we're going to continue to deliver the best content wherever you watch us. Our goal is to bring it to you. This year, we'll release two local documentaries that have been in the works for probably the last eight to 10 months. The first will be a documentary on the Dayton Arcade, which is a famous icon building, historic, lots of stories, lots of history in the downtown area. We're also going to release a documentary on the Memphis Belle, which is the historic World War Two fighter plane, and it now resides at the Air Force Museum. We will continue with our two weekly art series, The Art Show, hosted by Rodney Veal. Many people know Rodney. He's a great guy and Showcase with Barbara Keller. So we're really we're really proud of that work. At any given time our organization has about 25 to 30 projects in various stages of production, and half of that work is dedicated to our young learners.

Jason Saul: What is it about public television that is distinctive? It's not just different, right?

Kitty Lensman: Public Media Connect is more than just television. You know, I think the value for public television to the community just continues to grow. It doesn't matter what ZIP code that you have, or you know what your economic situation is. Public television is meant to reach and to be for everybody. There's nothing else like public television.