Message from our President and CEO
This year, WQED’s annual community report is unconventional, but so was/is the time in which we live. Rather than report on a calendar year, we have opted to reflect on the pandemic year - from March 2020 when the pandemic was officially declared, to March 2021, when the situation began to improve.
The star of our story is you. Without your belief and support in WQED, we would not have had the resolve, the stamina, to go the distance. You told us you wanted the facts, as only public media can deliver, and you desperately needed educational content, but you also craved a respite from the stress and noise of the day.
I know many of you probably would like to forget 2020, with all its turmoil and uncertainty. But WQED was built for this moment. We were created by and for the community – to serve as only public media can - through some of the best and some not-so-good times.
Our founder Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” WQED is a helper today, during this terrible time, and will be tomorrow when the world resets and we all renew.
WQED has been here for 67 years and knows a thing or two about pivoting and doing it at a breakneck pace during incredibly trying times. We did it during the turbulent 1960s, the AIDS epidemic, the 911 terrorist attacks, and the Great Recession. This time, it is much different. Few of us had experienced anything of this magnitude, where an economic and health crisis combined. There was no playbook.
How many times did you have to hit the pause button on so many aspects of your life? Whether it was celebrating a birthday or that vacation you saved for, over and over you had to say – maybe next year. Well, luckily for us and for you, WQED was uniquely positioned to quickly act and turn to our historic tradition of invention and creativity to acclimate to our new world so we could serve you. We were able to respond swiftly because community engagement is what we do.
Innovation, ingenuity, and adaptability in honoring old things and creating new things is a balancing act. We realize that WQED is more relevant now than ever before. Whether we are launching new digital shorts, curating new educational content, or giving a voice to the performing arts who are on an extended intermission – we are continually reminded of the strong presence and influence that WQED holds in our community. This is an obligation and charge that our WQED staff and Board do not take lightly.
“Stay Home with WQED” was a quick rebrand that we introduced early in the pandemic when we were all on lockdown, schools were closed, and movement was severely limited. People were staying home more and inviting us into their homes, so we immediately responded to their needs with additional education content, a series of relaxing online vignettes, and soothing classical music.
The school closures presented new challenges for children, caregivers, and educators alike. Still, WQED was there to offer an at-home learning response for all children and youth in and around Pittsburgh. We quickly amplified our services, both on the air and online, turning every home into a classroom. Through compelling age-appropriate educational programming, multimedia toolkits, and community collaborations, WQED programs ensure that “anytime is learning time.”
To further super-serve educational needs, our seven Pennsylvania PBS stations partnered with the Commonwealth of PA Department of Education, aligning with curriculum standards and providing nearly one-thousand hours of programming to millions of students.
While much attention, and rightfully so, is focused on young learners, WQED is also a portal for life-long learning. WQED will never stop teaching, so you will never stop learning!
I am continually amazed by WQED’s rapid and seamless response to the needs of the community. We were able to mobilize because of the leadership and direction of the board, the talent, and dedication of staff, the support of the Foundation and Corporate community, our valued members, and pure adrenaline.
I invite you to explore the WQED community impact report, in the hope that as our mission dictates, we will educate, entertain and inspire you. We will introduce you to our producers, who make the magic of media happen through their compelling storytelling; you’ll meet the WQED educators, who delight your children by making learning fun; and join Jim and Anna in the temporary FM studios, aka their homes! A bonus for all you Rick Sebak devotees, Rick has created a half-hour documentary, A Very Quick History of an Unusual Television Station, just for you in this report. Enjoy!
In closing, WQED is proud and privileged to continue serving the minds and souls of our “family” of viewers, listeners, education partners, and life-long learners today and always.
It is quite simply, our honor.
Deborah L. Acklin
President and CEO
To support WQED, please go to www.wqed.org/donate. Thank you.