Don Baer Study Groups

Don BaerDon Baer, a Spring 2020 Walter Shorenstein Fellow, has had a career that spans roles as a media and communications executive for a range of business, government, political and non-profit enterprises. Since 2014 he has been the Chair of PBS’s Board of Directors. He is also the lead independent director and member of the Board of Directors of the Meredith Corporation, a publicly held media company that owns magazines, television stations and online services.

From 2012-18, Baer was Worldwide CEO and Chair of the strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller, and was Global Chair of its successor firm BCW from 2018-19. Previously he was White House Communications Director and Chief Speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, and helped lead his 1996 re-election campaign. Baer is also a former journalist covering national affairs and politics, a media executive at Discovery Communications, and a lawyer.

While at the Kennedy School, Baer will lead a series of study groups on the potential intersection between public media and the private sector in the national conversation, as well as participate in other activities at the Shorenstein Center, the Center for Public Leadership, and HKS. His fellowship is co-sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership. 

Study Group Session 1:

Whither the Vast Wasteland? How Public Media Stays Strong in an Age of Information Overload

March 12, 2020, 9:30-10:45am

Open to Harvard ID holders. RSVP Required.

Click here to sign up.

In 1961, the then-new Federal Communications Commission Chair Newton Minow gave a speech that became famous in media history, because he denounced America’s commercial television programming as a “vast wasteland.” That speech helped lead to the passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, enabling PBS to go on the air in 1970.

PBS marks its 50th anniversary this year amid another time of radical change and growing concern about the broader information environment. This situation provides a platform for taking a deep look at the role of public media, and especially PBS, in driving a meaningful national conversation, as well as the opportunities and challenges faced in dramatically changing media, political and cultural landscapes.

With senior public media leaders as guests, we will explore how PBS covers and expands attention to critical issues, ways the non-profit and for-profit media sectors can work together, the important connection between national and local conversations and key innovations aimed at deepening audience engagement and impact.

Guest Speakers:

Credit: Aaron Clamage, PBS Corporate Portraits

Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS

Raney Aronson-Rath, FRONTLINE Executive Producer

Recommended reading: FCC Chair Newton Minnow’s 1961 “Vast Wasteland” speech that led to the sustainable growth of U.S. public media; coverage about the speech in TIME magazine; President Lyndon Johnson’s remarks on signing the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967