Emily Barr to Local Broadcasters: ‘We Must All Do Better’

Emily Barr has guided the Graham Media Group stations through the challenges of 2020.
(Image credit: Graham Media Group)

The TVB’s Alt Forward 2020 Conference went down Oct. 1, and saw Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group, saluted as Broadcaster of the Year, honored by both local broadcast trade association TVB and B+C

Steve Lanzano, TVB president and CEO, kicked off the virtual conference. 

Bill Gannon, VP & global editor-in-chief, Broadcasting & Cable, called Barr “simply world-class” and saluted her for not only her sterling leadership at Graham Media, which has KPRC Houston and WDIV Detroit in the group, but for Barr’s industry-wide contributions as well. “It’s obvious to all of us that Emily has truly set the bar for the rest of the television industry,” said Gannon. 

Barr challenged the local broadcast community in five words: “We must all do better.” 

She noted that 2020 has been challenging for everyone, and pushed broadcasters to be better communicators and better human beings. 

She spoke of holding public officials accountable, saying a “free and vibrant press is essential to our democracy.” She mentioned broadcasters’ “obligation to cut through the morass of misinformation,” and to push for better measurement of viewership and digital consumption. “It’s time for us to control the data and the relationship with our viewers and users,” said Barr. 

She pushed stations to be “the watchdogs every community needs to function fairly and equitably,” and to diversify their ranks, from entry-level on up to executives. “We do not adequately represent this country,” said Barr. 

Besides KPRC and WDIV, Graham Media Group includes WSLS Roanoke, KSAT San Antonio, WKMG Orlando and WJXT-WCWJ Jacksonville, as well as Graham Digital and Social News Desk. 

Barr spoke in favor of “boutique companies” in this era of scale. “Saying scale is the only path to success fails to consider the nimbleness we possess,” she said. 

Despite the challenges of the nation and the industry, Barr ended on an optimistic note. “It is a privilege to be a local broadcaster today and every day,” she said. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.