The SPI Files: Karen Mell, KCPT

by Mike Smith and Amy Baroch, Station Products & Innovation

Last week on the SPI Files, we took a trip to Pittsburgh and learned more about WQED's Executive Director of Educational Partnerships, Jennifer Stancil. This week we are turning our sites on KCPT in Kansas City to ask Karen Mell some interrogative questions.

Q: Who are you and what do you do at KCPT?
A: I'm Karen Mell and I am a graphic & web site designer at KCPT. I work on KCPT web sites and I produce print promotions and TV graphics and animations. (One other thing I sometimes do is voiceovers for the KCPT Kids mascot, PT the owl!)

Q: How long have you been at KCPT?
A: I have been at KCPT for fourteen years. I started as a web developer and have worked in educational services, online video, production graphics, print media and station branding.

Q: Before KCPT, what did you do?
A: Before KCPT, I was working on my B.F.A. and teaching children's art classes. I served for a year as an Americorps VISTA at KCPT in the education department before I was hired on as a web developer.

Q: What is one accomplishment at KCPT that you feel most proud of?
A: I'm pretty proud of our recent web site redesign, which was completed in March. Even though it's very much a work in progress, it's fulfilling its purposes of distributing content authoring to non-web staff and of signaling our local value to our audience...and it's exciting to see the possibilities for what we can do with it next.

Q: How has KCPT managed to remain so successful throughout the years?
A: Right now we are really hitting our stride with localism through strong partnerships with organizations in Kansas City which enables us to tell stories and address issues of our community (like childhood obesity, regional growth, the arts and business). We have a one-year-old show (called "The Local Show") that's a regular venue for exploring all things local, and we are working to embrace the explorer brand/archetype in everything we do; we've designed some events to help Kansas Citizans explore their interests and their community.

Q: How is KCPT engaging with social media like Twitter and Facebook?
A: We post to Facebook daily to a steadily increasing fan group of currently 4770 active users. We automatically Tweet from Facebook, we know we want to make better use of Twitter. More staff are posting to our KCPT Facebook page when they are out and about or in productions and we've done some special social media events during live Pledge drives, for example: guess the value of an item being appraised or send in questions for musical talent in studio guests.

We're looking forward to an upcoming "social media boot camp" for the station staff next week with author David Neff that we're hoping will help us do more. We also have AdWords through Google for nonprofits we're using to promote/connect through web searches.

Q: What is the next big thing for KCPT?
A: What's happening online: We're re-launching our Kids' site at the end of this month. Better mobile presence, we are trying to create a good experience for mobile users. We want to better curate topical sections of our site along the lines of Merlin/ and we're looking forward to working with PBS on Bento.

Q: What do you see as the future for public media and how does KCPT fit into that vision?
A: Becoming more valuable among growing mass-media because of its consistently high quality and adapting funding models in order to remain viable, with KCPT connecting KC metro communities.

And – just for fun – a few quickfire questions:

  1. iPhone or Android? I don't actually own a smart phone yet! But I spend all day on my mac.
  2. I am currently listening to … NPR music's 24 hour music channel; the soundtrack to "Submarine"
  3. I am currently reading … a history about Venice
  4. I’m currently watching … Masterpiece (waiting for Sherlock!)
  5. If the internet didn’t exist, what job would you have? Working for public television!

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