When Sylvia Pogue, EMBA ’12, first applied for a job as an administrative assistant at PBS in the early 1990s, she was excited to join an organization that supported and broadcast a lot of important content. “It was a dream,” she said, looking back.
Today, she is chief programming officer of PBS and general manager of general audience programming, playing an integral role in the broadcaster’s mission.
In September, Bugg unveiled a compelling lineup of fall programming, one that it says will continue to build on the legacy of trusting PBS and providing educational, informational, and inspirational content.
The group has been shaped, in part, by the events of the past two years – the COVID-19 pandemic, ethno-national appreciation, cultural shifts, and growing conversations about the climate crisis and the future of democracy in America. “It was really important for us to think about how our platform can fit in these very important areas. We will continue to focus on these important issues, as we look to expand the platforms,”
“We are always amplifying our efforts in the diversity space with the most diverse storytellers, diverse perspectives, and engaging themes,” says Pogue. “In the last 18 months or more, I’ve felt there’s a unique opportunity for us to look at some specific things to help amplify the content that already exists across our platforms.”
Bogg is dedicated to focusing on issues that Americans truly care about, such as climate change, health and wellness, the arts, and social justice. She wants to dig deeper into the conversations that have emerged on topics such as racial reckoning, cultural changes, and democracy.
“We felt it was really important to think about how our content could make room for some of these really important areas,” Pogue said. “We will continue to focus on some of these core areas going forward as we look for ways to expand our platforms where our content is available.”
She works to ensure that PBS offers professional development and mentorship opportunities to filmmakers across diverse backgrounds, with several new initiatives, including a program with Firelight Media focusing on regional diversity and diverse makers. In the PBS digital studio space, a grant from the Public Broadcasting Corporation helps invest in PBS’ regional diversity innovation centers.
Pogue describes herself as a lifelong learner – never shy about challenging topics. She says these topics are where growth can be found.
She says Smith prepared her for her current role by teaching her leadership and research skills as well as how to think about media smarter in business.
In her role, she oversees programming and a team that communicates with more than 130 PBS member stations, finding ways to align events, programming, and inclusive engagement.
“You have to know the commercial part of the work we do — whether that’s how you think about negotiating rights or a distribution package or taking a great idea through the marketing process and creating strategies for audience engagement,” she says. “My MBA experience has really helped me in these areas.”
He also helped her become a stronger leader and coach. “These things have been instrumental in my development, and I’m grateful that these experiences also exist,” she says.
Pogue says she encourages the professionals she mentors to adopt a lifelong learner mindset. “There is always room for all of us to learn, grow and develop,” she says. “This larger ecosystem is evolving very quickly. It is important to be able to constantly think about the tools you need to give you more knowledge.”
As a woman in the business world, she says building a network that is reliable and moving forward is important. She often asks herself what she can do to help the next generation succeed—and strives to be a patron, as well as a guide, someone who stands up for others when they’re not in the room.
Encourages and exercises intent and self-care. “One of the lessons I learned this year was about trying to avoid getting tired and exhausted. We always talk about hitting that wall where you can’t do anything else, but by the time you realize you’ve hit that wall, you have a lot to do,” Pog said. “Self-care is a great leadership skill that you must possess. It is very important to our overall well-being and mental health.”
This is what makes her an inspiration and motivation. Today, Pogue says she is proud of the general scope of PBS content, and in particular that of her new channel, The Voices, which helps highlight diverse viewpoints. Programming can be watched on broadcast as well as digitally on the PBS Studios YouTube channel.
Written by Erica Speth. Spaath is a 2023 MBA candidate and a Forte and Smith Fellow. Originally from Potomac, Maryland, Spieth worked in digital marketing, publishing, and operations management recently, which led her to come to Maryland Smith.