The SPI Files: Jess Snyder, WETA

By Amy Baroch, Station Products & Innovation

Last week in The SPI Files, we walked down the halls of PBS to interview Senior Associate, Jessie
Sampson. This week we travel to our own local PBS station to chat with WETA's Web Systems Manager, Jess Snyder.

1. Who are you and what do you do at WETA?
I'm Jess Snyder. I'm the Web Systems Manager at WETA, which is a fancy way of saying that I'm responsible for the back-end processes that keep the website and our other assorted online activities running –content management system wrangling, online tv schedule and radio playlist data flow, programming, form building, database administration and so on and so forth.

2. How long have you been at WETA?
9 years. (Wow.)

3. Before WETA, what did you do?
I came to WETA from a private non-profit foundation – the Morino Institute. At the time I was there, it was very focused on helping entrepreneurs find success in the Internet-based economy, though it has shifted focus somewhat in more recent years.

It was at the Morino Institute where I met Pam McKeta, formerly with WETA. It was my first job out of college and though I learned a lot from the wonderful group of people who were mentors in every sense of the word, Pam introduced me to public television and the rest is history.

4. If you didn't work in public media, what would you be doing?
If I wasn't working in public media, I suspect I'd be doing something internet-related – it definitely seems to be where I've found my niche. If I wasn't working at all (say, I won the lottery or otherwise became independently wealthy), I'd be embarking on a grand round-the-world adventure.

5. Explain WETA's Interactive efforts Twitter-style, 140 characters or less.
Serving WETA's mission by enhancing the on-air experience, online.

6. You reached out to us recently about some of the mapping projects you've been working on, and just the other day you mentioned integrating timelines. Any upcoming things you want to share with us?
We just launched a raft of features related to the Prohibition experience in the DC-area. We've got a photo slideshow, a video interview with Garrett Peck (the author of Prohibition in Washington DC: How Dry We Weren't), a trivia quiz, and – my personal favorite – a make-your-own Prohibition-era WANTED poster interactive.

October marks the kick-off of WETA's 50th anniversary celebrations, so we've updated our History page with a new interactive timeline. I found a great jquery plugin called jQuery Timelinr that really makes that feature pop.

To see a sneak preview of a work-in-progress, check out WETA's new timeline here:

7. What is the next big thing for WETA?
We're looking to launch a new blog, built on Drupal 7. I can't give too many details, but it'll be brilliant.

8. What do you see as the future for public media and how does WETA fit into that vision?
I've seen a lot of discussion on this topic that looks to online to be the savior of public media. While online endeavors have their place, I think it's important that we not forget our roots. We are, at heart, radio and television stations, and when we stray too far from our on-air mission, online begins to be seen not as a partner, but as a competitor for increasingly scarce resources. I believe that any strategy for the future must incorporate both our online and on-air endeavors into a cohesive whole.

And – just for fun – a few quick-fire questions:

iPhone or Android? iPhone
Dogs or cats? Cats
Blog platform of choice? Drupal
Elmo or Grover? Grover, definitely
I am currently listening to… After watching Pearl Jam Twenty, Pearl Jam
I am currently reading… Ghost Story, the latest Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher
I’m currently watching… I'm catching up on Project Runway
Most overused phrase: "It's on the list."

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