The next wave
The emerging generation of women in TV
The emerging generation of women in TV
The women who make up B&C's Next
Wave for 2004 have that special spark. Although the TV business places a
premium on reaching female viewers, the medium has not always placed the same
importance on putting women in the executive suites. That has changed in the
past several years and continues to evolve with the kind of talented executives
featured here. These are extraordinary, enthusiastic women whose work is making
a difference now and whose future is also the future of television. Read on.
CBS's new drama queen
By Kevin Downey
Like so many of the women featured in B&C's 2004 edition of The Next Wave, CBS's Laverne
McKinnon grew up with an obsession for television. Saturday in suburban Chicago
meant racing downstairs at 5 in the morning and planting herself in front of
It wasn't just television. It was storytelling that turned her on. And
today, one month into a new job overseeing drama-series development at CBS, it
still is. She reads voraciously and TiVos all over.
"I love everything from hardcore procedurals to soap operas to
cartoons," says McKinnon. "And I don't think I'm a bad person because of all
the TV I watch. In fact, it has been very beneficial to me."
So much so that it has propelled her to senior vice president of drama
series development at CBS, the No. 1-ranked and fastest-growing network. At
CBS, with Nina Tassler, the network's entertainment president since September
and former head of drama development, McKinnon helped develop TV's
highest-rated show, CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation, and spinoffs CSI:
Miami and CSI: NY; last season's
No. 1 new drama, Cold Case; and other shows,
including Without a Trace, the program
possibly on its way to knocking NBC's ER out
of the top spot on Thursdays for the first time in a decade.
"Laverne has been involved in every single one of our projects since
day one," says Jonathan Littman, president of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, the
production company behind those dramas. "The hallmark of CBS is that they are
never satisfied. You want to be challenged, constantly. Laverne is good at
She also has experience on Littman's side of the desk, developing
empathy, she points out, for writers, producers and directors.
After graduating in 1987 from Northwestern University, McKinnon stayed
in Chicago, producing educational films. But by 1991, her love of TV led her to
Los Angeles. She got a job in television packaging at Triad Artists.
McKinnon then moved to Klasky Csupo, the Rugrats animation studio. There she developed programs
like Santo Bugito. Though short-lived, the
cartoon landed on CBS, establishing McKinnon's relationship with executives at
She began in kids television at CBS but eventually got her shot at
prime time. McKinnon started working in current programming, where she met
David Stapf, who ran the department and is now president of Paramount Network
Television. He is one of the executives McKinnon calls a "mentor." In May 2000,
with Stapf's encouragement, she was hired in drama development by another
"The skills you use in current programming—you're giving notes to
writers almost on a daily basis—are applicable in drama development as well,"
says Tassler. "When someone is sharing a story, [McKinnon] will make a personal
connection with them. And she can identify that part of a person's experience
that can be shared universally."
McKinnon ascended the ranks last month when Viacom Co-President Les
Moonves reshuffled a female-dominated programming team. Tassler moved up to
entertainment president, replacing Nancy Tellem, who now runs CBS Paramount
Network Television Entertainment Group. McKinnon took over drama development
from Tassler. And Wendi Trilling was promoted to executive vice president of
comedy development. David Brownfield was bumped up to head of current
So what about that glass ceiling? "I've never personally experienced
it," says McKinnon. "I think the entertainment industry is on the forefront of
allowing women to succeed."
Today, McKinnon is charged with keeping CBS's hit dramas coming. "I
try to stay focused on the creative process," she says, "to ensure that the
story a writer is trying to tell comes across on paper and is the one that
lands on the screen." So far, so good.
The woman behind AOL's Running Man
By Jean Bergantini Grillo
See that AOL "Running Man" icon dancing before you at the bottom of
your TV screen? Thank Faith Campbell, vice president and associate director,
national broadcast, for Initiative Media.
Her cutting-edge thinking took AOL's animated logo to the TV networks,
where she successfully pitched them on incorporating the activated icon
on-screen in real time during numerous high-profile entertainment and sporting
events. Running Man caught on with viewers during NASCAR races and recent NCAA
and NFL football games. And "his" appearance on last year's Major League
Baseball's World Series is cited within the industry as one of the most
seamless and powerful brand placements to date.
Consider the audacity of her pitch: persuading broadcast and cable
networks to allow an activated logo whose message to viewers is "Hey, go log on
Clearly, this is a young woman not easily daunted. "Facing the world
is a challenge I enjoy," she says. "Life is not a dress rehearsal, and you do
your best from day one."
"Day one" is no metaphor. According to Campbell, her passion for great
advertising runs in her blood.
Campbell cites her dad, Rudy Taylor, a longtime spot-sales executive,
as her first and truest mentor, followed by Kristin Fitzgerald, her godmother
with network agency experience.
"I grew up seeing the advertising trades on our coffee table,"
Campbell laughs. "Every adult I knew was in advertising." She interned with
Horizon Media while still in high school. Then there were those weekly dinners
with Fitzgerald. "She gave me lots and lots of advice," Campbell says.
After only 11 years in the business, she now oversees broadcast buying
for clients in the Eastern region while supervising TV buying for America
Online. Indeed, Campbell is cited by Initiative as the "driving force behind
the development of a number of creative media solutions—specifically, Running
Man. She also helped create an AOL online music link with Fox's hot series
The O.C, and she recently spearheaded AOL's
"MillionaireIM" integration on the
syndicated version of Who Wants To Be a
Millionaire. The integration allows millions of AOL members, AOL
Instant Messenger users and online Millionaire fans to assist show contestants by
answering their questions in real time.
Tim Spengler, Initiative executive vice president and director of
national broadcast, calls Campbell "the heart and soul of the national
broadcast department. Her dedication to her clients and employees is
What's the goal? "I really would like to do more of these integrated
ads," she says. "They're different and challenging because they're not actually
commercials. The AOL icon runs over network programs, but it's not product
Previously, Campbell oversaw national-broadcast buying for a host of
companies: Serta, Dell, Leapfrog and Morningstar Financial for Bates and
Ammirati Puris Lintas. But she got to lead her Initiative team of five media
pros because she infuses everything with an iron-clad belief in right
"My philosophy is really about team work," she says. "Quite honestly,
to have a great team, you must have access to talented people, which I have,
and then find the right spot for them. Everything we do is a
Lifetime program exec is a child of TV
By Andy Grossman
Few executives would count as their influences Peggy Lipton, Kate
Jackson, and Farrah Fawcett. But like a lot of kids, New York-born Lifetime
Television executive Allison Wallach grew up with those TV stars.
"I lived in the city," the vice president of programming for Lifetime
Entertainment Services recalled recently, to explain her heavy TV-viewing diet;
in fact, she was hooked on soap operas at age 6. "My parents would rather I was
in the apartment watching TV. They were happy when they didn't hear 'boo' from
So Wallach grew up as a huge fan of ABC's epochal one-hour dramas,
including Charlie's Angels,
The Mod Squad and The Rookies—shows that influenced her by putting
women in more-empowering roles than the usual domestic goddesses of earlier
Eventually, she went to Northwestern University as a math major but
transferred to its radio-TV-film school. After graduation, she landed a job at
William Morris as a trainee, where "I was put through the wringer."
She continues, "When I first started at William Morris, it was still
primarily an all-boys club, which was intimidating and a challenge for me and
the other women there. But the business has changed dramatically over the years
with new opportunities for women everywhere."
At Lifetime, there isn't much evidence of her earlier TV fave raves.
Instead, shows like Any Day Now,
Strong Medicine and The Division paint a more realistic version of
When she joined Lifetime in 1997 as manager of series, "There were not
any real women at the center of the show," Wallach says. "It was important to
show real women in real friendships and not backing away from that. Women
wanted to find real women on TV."
Besides Any Day Now, a series about
an African-American girl and a white girl growing up as friends in 1960s
Alabama, Wallach is most proud of her role in developing the Emmy Award-winning
documentary Until the Violence Stops.
But Lifetime is emerging from a year-long mini-slump in which the
former top-rated cable network had slipped a few spots in the ratings. A piece
of the network's core viewership found edgier and more entertaining fare on the
broadcast networks in the form of smash reality series like
American Idol, Survivor and The
Bachelor. Ratings recovered somewhat over the summer, but Wallach's
rebuilding task remains a formidable one.
So she is now paying extra attention to the reality genre, where she
has championed Lifetime's I Do Diaries, the
quarterly wedding specials, and Popping the
Question, with Star Jones, a bridal special that will air in
Wallach realizes that her immediate future and the network's are
intertwined, but she is a good change agent. Her diplomatic style underscores a
collaborative approach to management, say colleagues.
"She is that unique individual everyone loves working with, and she
makes sure you feel that your ideas are the center of conversation," says Rick
Haskins, executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime Entertainment
And Wallach knows that Lifetime and its audience are evolving. Her job
is to develop sitcoms, dramas and reality programs that will challenge viewers
without chasing them away.
HBO's Sex & the City, Fox's
Arrested Development and FX's
Nip/Tuck impress her. Those shows, she says,
"raised the bar in terms of tone, of what you can get away with. It's OK to
challenge a woman a little bit more.
"Women have so many options out there right now," she adds. "What we
don't want to do is the traditional sitcom."
But she also would love a good new comedy. "A goal of mine is to have
more fun," Wallach says. "Women like to laugh."
A unique focus on consumers and technology
By Glen Dickson
Lynne Elander's illustrious cable career has been fueled by new
technology. She spearheaded Cox Communications' launch of digital cable in the
late '90s and now helps Microsoft pitch its digital-TV software to cable
operators and telcos.
She has no engineering or science background. But she's good at
asking, What does the consumer want?
Recalls Joe Rooney, senior vice president of marketing for Cox, "In
meetings, she was always asking the engineers to keep it simple for the
Colleagues also note her attention to detail. Dallas Clement, senior
vice president of strategy and development for Cox, remembers Elander's
expertise with electronic program guides.
"She had a great appreciation for the technical complexities and how
they related to the price/value equation," Clement says. "And when people came
in to sell something new, she had great insights on how their product could be
tweaked in order to better address a cable customer's needs."
Elander grew up in Pleasantville, N.Y., before heading to Georgetown
University to study business, and later earned an MBA from the University of
Virginia. She worked briefly in advertising but wanted a media career; a family
friend turned her on to cable. She landed a job at Cox's Virginia Beach, Va.,
operation and began marketing new products like pay-per-view. And she surprised
herself with how quickly she took to cable's technical bent.
"I became the marketing person you could take to an engineering
meeting and not get lost," Elander says.
In 1991, Elander was promoted to Cox headquarters in Atlanta to become
product manager for pay-per-view. She would progressively get more
responsibility and, in 1994, became project manager of Cox's first VOD trial,
in Omaha, Neb. While the trial proved that VOD didn't yet make economic sense,
Elander acquired valuable knowledge of digital compression and interactive
In 1996, Elander became the lead project manager for Cox Digital
Cable, a post she held for four years Her peers were engineers. "But Cox took
the view that it was not about the technology but what the technology can do,"
she says. "They saw it as a marketing task: How can digital cable compete with
satellite?" She became Cox's vice president of video product management in 2000
and was figuring Cox's HDTV play when her career changed big time.
Microsoft approached Elander last year with an offer to help develop
and market interactive-TV software. She wasn't looking for a job but couldn't
pass up an opportunity to work on what she calls "the next generation of
product enhancement in the industry."
As general manager for marketing, Microsoft TV, Elander is now focused
on adding functionality and control to operators' digital-video offerings with
Microsoft software such as Foundation Edition 1.7, an onscreen user interface
for digital-cable applications, and IPTV, a software platform that enables the
delivery of digital video over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. Comcast is the
first big customer, committing to deploy it in up to 5 million homes.
She's excited by what comes next.
"Up to now, bundling competition has primarily been about
discounting," she notes. "But operators need to think about the future and how
to make the TV product better for consumers because they get it from the same
company that provides their high-speed data service. How do those two products
interact together?" No doubt, she'll answer her own question sooner than
Belo's new lobbyist is coming home
By Alan Breznick
Although she has never told him this, DeDe Lea gives Jack Valenti
credit for inspiring her to become a leading media lobbyist.
Lea, the new vice president of government affairs for Belo Corp.,
recalls seeing a Sunday Washington Post
Magazine cover story on Valenti, the long-time head of the Motion
Picture Association of America (MPAA), at the end of her first year of law
school in 1991. After reading the story, she decided that she wanted to push
media causes in government circles, too. Sure enough, the National Association
of Broadcasters (NAB) soon hired her to do exactly that as a legal intern.
"I said I wanted to do what he does," she says. "Then I was offered
the opportunity a few months later."
More than a dozen years later, Lea has moved on to her third lobbying
post with a major media company or organization. The Howard University and
Georgetown University Law School graduate joined Belo in early September after
rising as high as senior vice president of government affairs at NAB and then
completing a seven-year stint with Viacom as vice president of government
Representing the broadcasting industry in both positions, Lea played a
big role in pushing the 1992 Cable Act and the Telecommunications Act of 1996
through Congress. She also pursued stronger piracy protections for television
programmers and helped block various lawmakers' efforts to auction off digital
spectrum to the highest bidders and impose content regulation on
"There's been so much [that] you forget about it after a while," she
says. "It's always such a fire fight."
Lea entered the broadcasting industry nearly two decades ago. After
graduating from Howard in 1985 with a degree in broadcast management, she
worked in radio and TV sales for several Washington stations before setting her
sights on law.
"I saw my [sales] colleagues and asked myself whether I want to do
this when I'm 40," she says. But at least she tried it. "I felt, as a woman, I
needed as many toys in my war chest as possible."
Now, after 23 years in Washington, Lea has just returned to her native
Texas. In her new job at Belo, she will work out of the company's Dallas
headquarters, flying up to D.C. perhaps a couple of times each month for
lobbying blitzes. She also expects to spend time in Austin, the Texas capital,
representing the company on state tax proposals and other key issues.
"It's the best of both worlds," says Lea, who's happy to be back in
her home state. "I could not have asked for a better situation."
Lea and her husband, a physician specializing in spinal-cord injuries,
made the switch after he was offered a prestigious position at the University
of Texas Southwest Medical Center. But, even more important, they decided on
moving to Dallas after Lea gave birth to the couple's first child last
"When you have a kid, it just changes your focus," she says.
Coincidentally, Lea and her husband had named their little boy Dallas, after
his father, Dallas Jr., and grandfather, Dallas Sr.
At Belo, Lea plans to focus on persuading federal regulators to adopt
digital multicast must-carry mandates for cable operators. Terming digital
must-carry "the number- one, -two and -three issues" for her new company, she
argues that the multicast rules are critical to ensuring an orderly digital-TV
transition for broadcasters.
"We've put so much money and time and effort into the digital
transition," she says. "That really is the big issue for us."
An animated journey from commercial TV to PBS
By Kim McAvoy
When Linda Simensky was in college, her classmates thought she was
addicted to TV cartoons. As it turned out, the coed, who's now a veteran
children's-TV programmer, was actually studying.
For nearly two decades, Simensky pursued her passion for animation as
a successful cable executive responsible for putting such Nickelodeon hits as
Doug, Rugrats and Ren &
Stimpyon-air. Later, at Cartoon Network, she was a driving force
behind the popular Powerpuff Girlsand
Dexter's Laboratory,among others. Now, in
the enviable position of combining her love of cartoons and children's TV at
PBS Kids, she is establishing a new programming initiative designed to capture
the hearts and minds of 6- to 8-year-olds.
Simensky switched to the noncommercial side of the TV business last
November when she became senior director for children's programming at PBS. It
was an unusual career move. But her perspective about television changed as she
began watching with her then-3-year-old son, Ethan. "All he wanted to watch was
PBS Kids," she says. "I became intrigued. I watched a lot of PBS Kids with him.
I suddenly wanted to be working on shows I could show to my son."
At the same time, PBS was embarking on a new programming strategy
targeting the 6-8 crowd. Perfect for her.
She hit the ground running, says John F. Wilson, senior vice president
of programming for PBS: "With a great deal of confidence, she read scripts,
looked at boards and provided notes producers could really use. A terrific
plus. She couldn't have come at a better time."
Her handiwork can be seen this month with the launch of
Maya & Miguel and
Postcards From Buster on PBS Kids Go!
Current PBS fare Arthurand
Cyberchase are also part of the new
programming block airing weekday afternoons and weekend mornings. She's also
working on several new preschool shows for next year.
By the time Simensky was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania,
she knew she wanted to be part of the TV industry. A summer internship at
Nickelodeon "really got me excited about kids TV."
Her official entry into cable programming was at Showtime in 1986, and
she moved on to become a scheduler for sister network Nickelodeon. Two and a
half years later, Nickelodeon's newly created animation department recruited
her. "It was a dream come true," she says.
Simensky was director of animation when she left Nickelodeon for
Cartoon Network in 1995. Her nine years at Nick, working for Geraldine
Laybourne, were invaluable: "I learned to strive for excellence, to think about
kids all the time and never take no for an answer."
At Cartoon Network, she backed original product like
Samurai Jack, Ed,
Edd N Eddy and John Bravoand
pushed for the channel's own animation studio, which opened in 2000. She's
proud of her efforts in getting Cartoon Network to greenlight
Powerpuff Girls. The show was already
developed when she got there, but it hadn't tested well. Simensky believed in
it. "It was one of the few times I fought for something completely against the
tide," she says.
Now at PBS, she'll get to create a whole new kind of programming
style. Says PBS's Wilson, "We have a lot to learn from her."
Engineering cable-customer satisfaction
By George Winslow
Last summer, when a congressman sent a letter to Comcast complaining
about problems that a few customers had with their phone bill, the letter
quickly landed on the desk of Suzanne Keenan, the cable giant's senior vice
president of customer service.
"It would have been easy to get those few customers a refund and tell
the congressman we'd solved the problem," notes David Cohen, an executive vice
president at Comcast Corp.
Instead, Keenan dug into the roots of what turned out to be a complex
problem that had been created by an outside vendor. She worked to identify the
200-300 customers that had also been affected by the snafu and then set up a
new system so that the situation wouldn't occur again.
That kind of action didn't surprise Cohen. "It's a typical example of
how Suzanne will dig into a problem and drive a solution that will improve our
overall customer base."
Faced with brutal competition from DBS and telcos that are trying to
poach disgruntled cable subscribers, Comcast needs to keep its customers happy.
The company receives 175 million phone calls a year, and its
technicians make 25 million trips, or "truck rolls," a year. It's Keenan's job
to make sure that most of these end up as success stories. Her relentless drive
to improve customer satisfaction also goes a long way towards explaining her
Her skills in customer care grew out of an unusual background in
nuclear engineering. After getting a BS in nuclear engineering at Penn State
and an MA in physics from the University of Pittsburgh, she got a job as an
engineer in 1987 at PECO, a major Pennsylvania energy utility.
Working in an industry where mistakes can be catastrophic, she quickly
learned that "my greatest skill was helping the company fix processes and work
with outside [regulatory] agencies," she says.
Those skills helped her quickly rise through the ranks, eventually
becoming vice president of customer and marketing services. In 1999, a
headhunter contacted her about the top customer-service job at Comcast.
"It was a hard decision," she admits. She was happy at PECO. But she
was fascinated by cable and impressed with Comcast. "What really matters is the
people you work with and the trust you have in them," she says.
At Comcast, Keenan's skills at improving customer- service management
were put to the test when the MSO acquired AT&T's cable
operations—essentially the old TCI, a giant in cable but never its best
operator. That deal not only tripled the number of customers Comcast had in
1999; it also put enormous pressure on the MSO to quickly integrate AT&T
systems and show skeptical investors Comcast hadn't made a mistake.
Within a year, Keenan's team managed to expand seven call centers,
build eight new ones and hire about 3,000 new representatives. Service got a
To further improve the customer's experience and deal with those
complexities, Keenan's team recently implemented a campaign dubbed "Think
As part of that project, about 10,000 customers are interviewed each
month, providing a massive amount of data on how demographic groups in all
regions are responding to the company's offerings and its customer service.
"It gives us a clear understanding of what we need to do," says
Keenan, who was also recently put in charge of the training programs at the
company's "Comcast University."
All of this seems to be boosting customer satisfaction. Internal
Comcast surveys found that customer-service satisfaction improved by 4 points
in the second quarter of 2004.
Says Cohen, "Suzanne's leadership, her great people skills and her
ability to collaborate with every part of this company has really made a
Helping Latin America get its MTV
By George Winslow
For MTV Networks and many other programmers, political and economic
turmoil in Venezuela has posed an insolvable problem in recent years. "We just
weren't able to do any business in the market," notes Pierluigi Gazzolo, the
senior vice president of distribution for MTV Networks Latin America.
Undaunted, Adeline Delgado, now MTV's vice president of program sales
for MTV Networks Latin America, flew down to Caracas earlier this year. There,
she learned that the broadcaster RCTV still wanted to buy the programming, but
in the uncertain economic climate, network executives needed to find a way to
boost ratings to justify the purchase.
So Delgado proposed that they create a co-branded block of Nickelodeon
programming. That alliance would allow RCTV to increase ratings and revenues by
drawing on Nick's cachet with advertisers and audiences. And it would give
Nickelodeon an outlet for its programming in a market with low pay-TV
"Adeline's great strength is that she is always finding solutions to
problems," notes Gazzolo, to whom Delgado reports. "She never comes to me with
an issue without being able to offer a potential solution."
Those qualities have long guided Delgado's career, earning her four
significant promotions in the past nine years at MTV Networks Latin
Delgado admits that her interest in television and the entertainment
industry goes back to her childhood in a Cuban-American family, when Delgado
and her twin sister did some modeling and performed in a musical group.
"Because my mother was a seamstress, we were always around fashion and
entertainment," she recalls.
After getting a bachelor's degree from Barry University in Miami
Shores, Fla., Delgado got her first break in television in 1993 when she landed
a job as an assistant at Telemundo. She knew she'd landed in the right place.
"I always loved television, international travel and different cultures," she
Her can-do attitude got her noticed, and within a year, she was an
account executive, selling Telemundo's soaps overseas. She sold
telenovelas to Indonesia and Turkey, markets
that hadn't previously acquired such fare.
Those successes landed her a job at MTV Networks in 1995, where she
played a key role in the Latin American launch of Nickelodeon a year later.
While Nickelodeon is now available in about 90% of the region's cable and
satellite homes, its early success was by no means assured; the market was
Now she's head of program sales for MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy
Central and Spike TV in Latin America, and her track record of finding new ways
to sell is helping the division respond to a number of problems in the region's
Since being promoted to spearhead Latin program sales, Delgado has
boosted syndication revenues by 13%. She helped expand the distribution of
their brands with broadcasters, negotiating broadcast deals for the MTV Video
Music Awards Latin America in eight territories reaching 47.5 million homes.
The traveling mother of two young children found a successful balance
between work and family life. "It is very difficult to be away from the
children and family," she admits. Her supportive husband is a big help but she
has other assistance: "Whenever the kids really miss me," she discloses, "they
can look at my twin sister."
Give this agent a goal, and then look out
By Kevin Downey
Kathy White is getting ready to run. A literary and television
packaging agent at Creative Artists Agency, White will be waking up with the
rising sun for the next 19 Saturdays, heading out into the morning mist with
more than a dozen colleagues, encouraging them, laughing with them and guiding
them to what will be a hard-won victory.
For the second year, White has recruited co-workers and clients to run
the Los Angeles Marathon. The race is in March, and the idea is to raise funds
for charities. But the months-long training, which will culminate with most of
White's team crossing the finish line for the first time, is also meant to
accomplish another goal: It's one intensely important to White and one that
underlies the work she does at CAA with such clients as Will Smith's Overbrook
Entertainment; Betsy Borns, the co-creator and executive producer of UPN's
All of Us; and Julie Hebert, a supervising
producer on NBC's ER. Mainly, her clients
are writers, and it's her job to keep them happy and working.
"It's a good example of where hard work pays off in the long run,"
says White, who also competes in triathlons.
"A lot happens as the result of completing something. It's
confidence-building; it's about believing in yourself; there's a sense of
competition. And competition is part of [the television] business."
White's colleagues are familiar with her "hard work pays off" message.
Dawn Ostroff, UPN's entertainment president, says it came through when the
network was negotiating with Will Smith for the hit sitcom
All of Us.
"She's able to figure out everybody's needs and bring them together,"
says Ostroff. "We worked through many issues, but always in a very amicable
White's clients are also familiar with her passion to guide other
people to success.
"I love the fact that she is as passionate and committed and
enthusiastic about my career as I am," says Jonathan Shapiro, a supervising
producer on ABC's Boston Legal. "The bonus
point with her, from my standpoint, is that she has always had enormous
integrity. She has a passion for it, and there is always the long run: 'What is
the right thing to do, not only for today but also for tomorrow and down the
In building the careers of her clients, White is also building her own
career, which began far removed from Hollywood.
White grew up in Stockbridge, Mass., in the 1970s and 1980s, watching
a lot of TV—something she still does today. But she had no aspirations to
parlay that into a career. After graduating from the University of
Massachusetts, White began working in Boston at her brothers' consulting
But a fateful meeting reawakened her passion for entertainment,
"One day, on New Year's Eve way back, I met a friend of my brother's
who happened to be an agent at CAA," she says. "We were discussing
television—my sad, too much knowledge of television—and he said I should
become a television agent. I said, 'That sounds great. I have no idea what that
But the thought stayed with her. A couple of years later, she moved to
Los Angeles and within a month was working at CAA. She started out in the
mailroom and as an assistant, most significantly to literary- and TV-packaging
agent Sonya Rosenfeld. Lucky move: "Sonya is one of the smartest, most
effective and greatest people I've met. She is truly a mentor," White says.
She made the jump to agent in 1996 and since then—as with the
upcoming L.A. Marathon—has been focusing on the success of her clients with
the same determination she focuses on her own.
"The more effort you put into base training, the more you get out of
it," she says. "Hard work will result in success."
Grass Valley communications chief makes it look easy
By Ken Kerschbaumer
When it comes to seeing the technological forest for the trees, there
aren't many more-articulate guides than Thomson Grass Valley's Laura
Barber-Miller. A lifelong resident of Oregon, in what is now sometimes called
"The Silicon Forest," Barber-Miller keeps Thomson Grass Valley on top by being
good at getting its story across. As the vice president of worldwide
communications for Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions, Barber-Miller must
find ways to market complex and ever-changing technology to the techie world.
It's complicated work, and she gives credit to her former Grass Valley boss Tim
Thorsteinson for making smart decisions. But she says she inherited her strong
work ethic from her immigrant Norwegian grandparents. Thorsteinson and her
current boss, Marc Valentin, have her positioning the company with a vast
Attaining such a lofty marketing position without having to bounce
around the country makes Barber-Miller unique in the technology market.
High-tech career paths typically require stops in Silicon Valley or in New
Jersey at Sony or Panasonic.
Barber-Miller's technical trajectory began when she was a child. Her
father worked in information technology, and she would play with keypunch cards
growing up. She graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in
technical journalism. "The idea was that journalists would learn how to take
highly technical subjects and make them more palatable for the lay reader," she
Her first marketing job was at a company called Floating Point. Two
years later, she moved to the agency side, working at Portland, Ore.'s KVO, a
public-relations firm for high-tech companies, where she handled Mentor
Graphics, which liked her enough to hire her as a marketing communications
manager. But she left for the Tektronix Video and Networking Division, formerly
known as the Grass Valley Group.
Her early Tektronix experience was a formative one. "On my first day,
someone in HR said, 'Welcome, and hold on—it's gonna be quite a ride,'" she
He was right. In September 1999, about 18 months after she arrived,
the Tektronix Video and Networking Division was spun off to private investors
and once again became known as Grass Valley. The company faced a tough
environment and nearly went under. Fortunately, French-based Thomson bought
Grass Valley in 2002. That gave Grass Valley strong backing, and the challenge
went from surviving to helping Thomson improve its presence in the U.S.
Two years later, Barber-Miller finds herself making the big decisions
concerning trade shows, marketing and industry educational efforts. And while
being in a male-dominated industry like technology might faze some, she isn't
one of them. For one thing, she jokes that she doesn't know any better.
"I haven't worked in an industry in my life that hasn't been
male-dominated," she says, "so I think I'd have to go through some sort of
deprogramming exercise before I enter into another industry."
The challenge facing women today? To develop a thick skin, toughness
and discipline while also offering the nurturing or softness that is sometimes
expected from women. "You can try as hard as you can to deliver to everyone's
expectations, support your management, staff and programs. but, to be honest, a
little bit more is expected of women."
Despite spending time on the road at industry events or heading to
Paris and beyond for meetings, she stays focused on balancing work and her
family, especially now that her daughter Sophia is about to turn 3. Says
Barber-Miller, "That balance makes me a better spouse, parent and
A dynamo who runs two daytime syndicated shows.
By Paige Albiniak
Look out for Amy Rosenblum. The executive producer of both NBC
Universal's Maury and
Home Delivery is a whirling force of nature.
A tiny hurricane who barely sleeps, Rosenblum fell in love with television as a
child, and she still goes at it with the enthusiasm of a teenager. "I used to
think that, if I was a television producer, my life would be so perfect," she
says. "Once it hit me that I wanted to do it, there was no stopping me."
Always ambitious, Rosenblum spent her formative years volunteering for
political campaigns and other ventures pursued by overachieving high schoolers.
But it was during her senior year at Hofstra University on New York's Long
Island that she learned another student had gotten a TV internship.
"Competitive person that I am," Rosenblum says, "I went home that
night, called Channel 5 [now WNYW] and asked, 'Do you have an internship
program?' They said, 'Can you come in next week?' I took a test on current
events, passed, and all of the sudden I was working at Midday Live and booking shows with guests like Regis,
Brooke Shields and Sarah Jessica Parker when she was Annieon Broadway."
When that ended, she ended up as the assistant to Pat Collins, then
Good Morning America's film critic. Collins
hired Rosenblum the first time she met her.
"From day one, it was clear to me that she has what it takes to be a
television producer," says Collins, now the film critic and entertainment
editor at Fox-owned WWOR New York. "She had the three requisite skills:
chutzpah, gut instinct about what the public wanted, and a dogged
Rosenblum appears to have exited the womb with a talent for nabbing
guests. In one of her first assignments at CBS This
Morning, she was asked to book a farmer named Howard Johnson for the
next day. She had him booked in record time. The old-time CBS guys were
That evening, Rosenblum got a phone call. "Miss Rosenblum, this is Mr.
Johnson. We really can't be on CBS This
Morning tomorrow morning."
Rosenblum thought fast: "Listen to me. You can't cancel on CBS News at
5:45 p.m. the day before."
And that did it. Johnson and his wife were on the program the next
"From that experience, I learned the raw power of chutzpah," she says.
"I used any trick to book any guest."
Says Good Morning America's Diane
Sawyer, with whom Rosenblum worked on CBS This
Morning, "I have known Amy since she was a tiny prodigy booker with
a fabulous instinct for stories and outsized nerve. Now she is a tiny grown-up
executive with that same instinct, nerve and fizz. And she is a kind of nuclear
reactor of unending curiosity about this weird and glorious world. No wonder
she's a star."
Finally, marriage and babies intervened, and the CBS job required too
much travel. She became a segment producer on Joan Rivers' syndicated talk
show. There she learned that, while she loved news, she was really made for
"What made Amy and I click is that, the minute I met her I knew she
was smart, smart, smart," says Rivers. "She has a great sense of humor, which I
adore in people, and she dresses amazingly well. Anyone that can dress that
well and has those kind of legs will always be in my heart."
After Rivers, where she ended her stint as senior producer after a
year and a half, Rosenblum took a break to have her second child, Brett. She
was out for only a couple of months before she got a call from Burt Dubrow,
formerly of CBS News, asking her to help out on a new show,
Sally Jessy Raphael.
"I told Burt I would do him a favor and work for four weeks, and I
ended up there for seven years. The most creative experience of my life was
working at Sally," Rosenblum says. "It was
like being reborn."
While at Sally, Rosenblum climbed
up through the ranks, eventually becoming co-executive producer. She remained
as competitive as ever, dispatching staff and herself to sleep outside of
guests' hotel rooms in fear that other shows would poach them.
"Amy is the teeniest woman, but she is the most competitive woman I
have ever met," says Holly Jacobs, who was then a producer on
Sally and is now executive vice president of
alternative development at Fox Television Studios. "Her drive and her passion
for television and what she gives to her job are unmatched by anyone I
After seven years at Sally,
Rosenblum was ready to move on. Luckily for her, Universal had just acquired
She immediately put Povich in a turtleneck and persuaded him to cut
his hair. "Out came this unbelievable guy. He's so good-looking, he looks like
a movie star," she gushes. "He's the best of anyone I've ever worked with."
But the real key to success in daytime? It goes back to her booking
days: "You have to make people care about who is on your show," she says. "I
can tell if someone's going to be a good guest from the second I get on the
phone with them."