Executive Director and former board member Patricia Boero leaves Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) on March 8, 2011. In her time at LPB, Ms. Boero was committed to fulfilling the LPB mission by delivering multiple hours of new and award winning Latino programming to public media. She brought strategic partners to the organization and built solid relationships with PBS stations, funders and producers across the U.S., which will likely continue after her departure.
Before her departure, we interviewed her so we could post a profile about Ms. Boero for the LPB Community, where she could share her thoughts about her time at LPB, her past experiences in documentary filmmaking, her work with the Sundance Institute and the MacArthur Foundation, and finally, her thoughts on collaboration, engagement and impact.
Ms. Boero, you have been part of the organization for many years, either as a board member and later on, as executive director. Can you tell us how you became involved with the organization?
At the time, I was at Sundance in Los Angeles and I had met Marlene Dermer (co-founder of LPB). While working at the MacArthur Foundation, I had helped fund the previous Latino Consortium, the NLCC (National Latino Communications Center,) which funded the “Chicano” series, so I knew that there was an effort to create a new organization after NLCC was disbanded. I had always been committed to Latino culture, whether it was as an immigrant in Australia, or as an immigrant in the U.S. It is something that I care a great deal about. I also knew some people in U.S. public media through my work on the INPUT Board, and through all these other activities that I had been involved with, so I really wanted LPB to succeed, and I think it has.
It was an exciting opportunity. I never thought at the time when I was a board member that I would actually end up being the executive director of the organization. I held two different corporate leadership positions after Sundance, so it was not exactly on my mind, until after Luca Bentivoglio had resigned and there was a search under way. I thought that I was ready for a change and ready to focus more exclusively on this kind of work, so I was excited to have the vote of confidence and the opportunity to lead the organization.
I’ve seen LPB transform itself and grow at the same time as public media is transforming itself. I think that we’re at one of the most challenging times now, because public media is in a sense, becoming an endangered species. There’s been such a fragmentation of media. With the digital options that exist now, there is an almost limitless competition and alternatives to what we offer. From that point of view, it’s become a lot more challenging, and you’ve got to be creative. We are making every effort now to be accessible on every single screen and every single social site that is out there, that also helps us get the right feedback to understand what the needs are, what the issues are, and to move as quickly as the environment requires. I also think it is good for an organization to change, to bring new blood, and the opportunity will now come for LPB to renew itself as well.
What are your proudest moments as executive director of LPB?
Well, there are many. I was pleased to help bring the second season of VOCES to air, with support from the MacArthur and Ford Foundations, as well as CPB. LPB allowed me to meet amazing people and one of the proudest moments was meeting Hilda Solis, when she was representing East LA in Congress. I talked to her about joining our board, and she agreed, and really gave us a lot of great ideas. Then when President Obama named her Labor Secretary, she obviously had to resign from our board. I admire her fantastic work on behalf of all American workers at a challenging time for our country.
When she invited me to her inauguration, I remember standing in that audience, next to Dolores Huerta and to a lot of Latino activists that had been struggling for Latino people and rights and culture, and there was such a feeling of celebration and joy. That was one of those great moments, when different strands of your life and your work and your relationships all come together. I feel sometimes we’re on a rollercoaster, with these same fights for our rights repeating themselves. There are many difficulties and challenges that Latinos still face. But at the same time, it is a great moment for creative energy and talent within our community that we can be very, very proud of, like the work of LPB producers that will air on PBS this season, including “The Storm that Swept Mexico,” “Granito,” and others.
Collaborating with WETA on the White House Fiesta Latina concert in 2009 was another proud moment. That was just great, to have Latino artists be embraced by the President, in the White House, and to know that audiences responded to the show, with high ratings and such positive feedback.
Many LPB’s programs have received awards and recognition in film festivals and Latino organizations such as Imagen and the Alma Awards. What part does LPB play in supporting these programs?
The Imagen and Alma Awards to LPB and VOCES are very important and validate our strategies. I get excited when I think about those moments, and about other award winning films that we’ve had on public television (POV) like “El General” and “Made in L.A.” with an Emmy. These are fantastic moments, but still too few and far between on public media.
Often LPB is the first funder of these important projects like “The Storm that Swept Mexico,” which is airing in just a couple of months, or “Latin Music USA.” We are the risk takers, we identify talent, and we help leverage those funds. We go back and fund a program again when it comes to marketing or engagement campaigns. We then promote these programs heavily though the Spanish language media, English language media, every possible way we can. We put this information out and get feedback from viewers from the social sites. I think we bring so much more than the dollars to the table, that the impact we have is way beyond the dollar number.
Recently, there has been a push to defund public media and the fragmentation of media has taken its toll on overall viewership. What are your thoughts about the future of public media and how has LPB faced the challenges and adjusted to these changes?
Thinking about the future, I still feel confident and optimistic, but I didn’t want to gloss over the difficulties because, I must admit there were frustrations for me, and I think for many Latino filmmakers who still have to make a case to the public funders and end up working for commercial media. It is already public knowledge that Latinos are the largest ethnic, so called, minority, and the Latino market has become huge, so it should be a little easier than it has been. I feel that there is still such a long way to go within the public television system and stations, and even within the funding community, apart from notable exceptions. There are just too few Latinos and there are too few Latinos who care about Latinos, with an awareness of and respect for the talents and the importance of some of the stories that we want to tell. I really hope change happens faster, because if it doesn’t, public media in the U.S. will become less and less relevant. At this critical juncture, LPB plays a crucial role and is demonstrating that diversity brings strength and renewal to an aging public media system.
What would be your parting words and advice?
My parting words would be that I really think that the system needs to be more welcoming of Latino filmmakers and Latino content. We have all the right to be feeling impatient and frustrated with how public media and public funders are not delivering what we’ve been advocating for so long. There are so many talented Latino and Latina journalists and filmmakers, who receive recognition at festivals and community screenings, yet they struggle to be included in the high profile strands and programming on public media. I admire and encourage their perseverance and commitment. What has motivated me most over the years are the amazing colleagues I have worked with at LPB, the support of our Board and friends, and the quality programming that viewers can enjoy thanks to LPB’s support. That is why I can feel optimistic about the future.
In part two of our interview, Ms. Boero shares her experiences in documentary filmmaking and her work at foundations and the Sundance Institute. Ms. Boero also gives advice to filmmakers who want to approach foundations for funding, and stresses the importance of engaging communities and collaborating with organizations for a documentary to achieve great impact. Stay tuned!