Jennifer Nicholson Salke's rise to the top creative executive slot under 20th Century Fox Television chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman has been as dramatic as any of the TV shows she has developed.
Salke joined the studio in June 2002 as senior VP of drama development. She was subsequently bumped up to executive VP of drama development before moving into her current post as executive VP of creative affairs, where she has oversight of both the studio's drama and comedy development. Nicholson Salke developed Bones, Prison Break, Lie to Me and new hour-long musical comedy Glee for corporate sibling network Fox, and Better Off Ted for ABC.
Before joining 20th, her career trajectory was similarly upward: She developed long-running WB series Everwood at Columbia TriStar Television. Before that, at Spelling Entertainment, she developed two other enduring WB series, Charmed and 7th Heaven.
Good advice, a love of her job and her writer collaborators, and strong leadership from above all played a roll in her ascent, she says: “For me, it's all about the writers. I love working with the writers. I socialize with writers.” She even married one—writer-producer Bert Salke. The couple has three children.
Former News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin told Nicholson Salke something she says she would pass on to anyone: “He says the biggest asset you have is your time. There are so many things out there that can suck your time, and you have to be able to clear the clutter and listen to the good idea and help inspire that in other people.”
She credits her bosses Walden and Newman for giving her freedom in her position. She says she is “a big delegator” who likewise allows “people to expand outside what you'd think the limitations of their jobs might be.”
The tough economy seems to have contributed to a “scrappier, roll-up-your-sleeves” attitude in the business, she says. Which is good by her: “That's sometimes where the best projects come from.”
Nicholson Salke's enthusiasm for her job comes across immediately when she starts talking about it. She says that, as corny as it may sound, the people who know her know she loves her job and wants to do it forever.
What's next for her ideally is more of the same: “I would be really happy to stay at the studio and continue to expand my responsibilities.” —Melissa Grego