The SPI Files: Grant J. Heston, WUCF

by Amy Baroch, Station Products & Innovation

Last week, we talked to Geoff Bishop about all things mobile. This week, we are traveling due south to visit Grant J. Heston at our newest PBS member station, WUCF at the University of Central Florida.

1. Who are you and what do you do at WUCF?
I am Grant J. Heston, University of Central Florida Associate Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs. On behalf of UCF, I work with Brevard Community College to operate our new public broadcasting partnership, WUCF.

2. Before WUCF, what did you do?
Before WUCF, my duties at UCF included (and still do) leading the communication strategy for university priorities and initiatives; managing emerging public issues and crisis communications; and serving as the official university spokesperson.

3. If you didn't work in public media, what would you be doing?
Learning to play guitar...and likely not very well.

4. Explain WUCF Twitter-style in 140 characters or less.
The new, and ONLY, PBS station for central Florida that saved PBS for our community.

5. WUCF is PBS's newest station – taking on the diverse area of central Florida. What is it like to be part of something so exciting?
I believe that those of us working on WUCF will regard this as some of the hardest, but most satisfying, work of our careers. Central Florida cares about PBS and has embraced our “little-engine-that-could” station. I am so proud of what UCF, Brevard Community College and our dedicated teams have accomplished.

6. We love WUCF's new initiative to find 10,000 new voices in the central Florida community to be a part of shaping WUCF's future. Will WUCF News be involved with this initiative and if so, how?
Though UCF has been a part of central Florida for almost 50 years, WUCF is new. We want to get to know our viewers and have them get to know us. They have already told us so much that will help shape how we program and operate WUCF.

7. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending PubCamp West near Los Angeles. Some of the topics we discussed were integrating media, specifically newspapers and online media, and reaching the community – all through public media. What are your thoughts on this? How will WUCF news serve the local community?
One of our priorities is to put the “public” back in public broadcasting in central Florida. This month we launched two local shows: Metro Center Outlook, which discusses regional and state economic issues. Guests include Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Senators Bob Graham and Mel Martinez and more. Global Perspectives is hosted by a UCF Pulitzer Prize winner and features thinkers from around the world. And more shows are coming.

8. What is the next big thing for WUCF?
We announced WUCF on June 2 and had to be on air July 1. We launched a new station in less than four weeks. What is next is for WUCF to [do] some of the things we could not do because of the time crunch. We will build community partnerships. We will add programs our viewers want to see. We will talk to, and listen to, our viewers. We will live up to our statement that we are the community’s channel.

9. What do you see as the future for public media and how does WUCF fit into that vision?
Now more than ever, public media needs to be innovative. Viewers have choices for information and entertainment, and we need to be one of their first choices. Build on what makes us special – quality programming that is intelligent, enriching and provocative – but don’t be afraid to stretch and try new things to reach new audiences.

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

iPhone or Android? iPhone

Dogs or cats? Dogs
Blog platform of choice? Wordpress
Elmo or Grover? Grover
I am currently listening to… The Rifles
I am currently reading… Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
I’m currently watching… PBS, of course!
Most overused phrase: "Fantastic!"

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