On September 12, 1960, a small group of students at San Diego State College (now SDSU) formed KEBS, San Diego’s first public broadcasting entity. The newly minted broadcasters transmitted a radio signal for just a few hours per day, five days per week. A lot has changed since then. KEBS became the station you now know and love as KPBS, and that was just the beginning of KPBS’ transformation from humble college radio station to leading public media organization.
Sixty years later, KPBS programming is on radio, TV, web, mobile app, smart speakers, podcasts, social media and more, 24 hours a day. It is continuously one of the top-rated and most-respected NPR and PBS member stations in the nation. Under Tom Karlo’s leadership, the organization has grown to 180 full and part time staff; the news team started at 15 people and is now close to 50. The audience has grown to more than 1.3 million each week; and operating revenue has nearly doubled.
“At the start of 2020, we had big plans to celebrate our anniversary with the community but 2020 had different plans for us all,” Karlo, general manager emeritus shared with GB Magazine. “Our focus in this crisis has been on serving our community with news coverage. From the pandemic to racial injustice protests to the election, KPBS is your witness to these historic times.”
The new year is beginning with more change. On December 30, 2020, Karlo retired after a 47-year career with the station. Nancy Worlie has been named the interim general manager. Worlie has been with KPBS for 17 years and instrumental in helping steer the station toward its digital future, overseeing programming, news, communications and government relations.
This coming year will also see the KPBS building, a landmark on the SDSU campus, as an active construction zone. The project will add 6,500 square feet to the existing building, and renovations will add a community space, a new research and development center for digital technologies, and an expansion of the newsroom.
Beyond these big changes at KPBS, there are constants that will not change such as its trusted news and programming. This year you will find more stories to celebrate community. Whether it be the beloved story “All Creatures Great and Small” retold by MASTERPIECE, Henry Louis Gates’ moving series “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” new seasons of “Crossing South” and “A Growing Passion,” or its ever-expanding local podcasts, there will be something to connect you to the world around you.
“The last year has proven how valuable KPBS and public media are when it comes to getting essential information to make the best decisions for you and your family. We were there for families who needed information – from the pandemic to the election. On the other hand, we were also there to provide an escape when needed,” says Nancy Worlie, interim general manager.
“I am so proud of how we are rising to the occasion to serve our communities during this tumultuous time. It is because of member support that we have been able to thrive the past 60 years and the reason we will be here for at least another 60 more.”