September 12, 2013

Last month, SIPA’s Picker Center for Executive Education trained its first organization from sub-Saharan Africa when the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation sent a dozen staff members to study U.S. best practices in the broadcasting sector.

Over the years SIPA had welcomed organizations from all around the world, and from African nations including Algeria and Egypt. “It’s exciting to bring in folks from this new region,” said Professor William Eimicke, the Picker Center’s executive director. "It’s a long way to come and a great opportunity for all concerned.”

The three-day program featured a mix of classroom-based discussion and field research, including visits to public, private, and new-media broadcasters: PBS, NBC , and Google.

Among the speakers were Michael P. Meehan, the president of VennSquared Communications and a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. international broadcasters like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia; and Lisa Cohen, a television producer, director, and writer who is also an adjunct faculty member at Columbia Journalism School; and Kristian Denny Todd, a veteran communications consultant who frequently contributes to SIPA’s executive programs.

Meehan talked about the changing media landscape and digital media, while Cohen discussed innovations in news gathering and Denny Todd crisis communications.

During the site visits participants met with executives including Stephen Segaller, VP of programming for WNET (Channel 13, the local PBS affiliate) and David Verdi, a senior VP at NBC News.

As with all executive programs, SIPA staff worked in concert with the client to figure out who to invite and where to visit. “It’s exciting to us to be able to assist an expanding media outlet in a developing democracy,” said Eimicke, noting that SABC has an organization similar to PBS and NPR in the United States. “They’re aspiring to be the best in the world, and we have some of the best in the world, and we’re glad to show them.”