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Profile: Ritts Presides Over ‘Noble Business’ of Channel One

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Jim Ritts, president and CEO of Channel One, considers himself a product of the public schools-all the way through undergraduate school at The University of Texas at Austin-so his current role as advocate for them comes as no surprise.
“I have a deep regard for the importance of knowledge, which accelerated when I got my graduate degree in journalism,” he said.
Mr. Ritts credits two women for instilling in him a love of the written word: his mother, who read vocabulary to him as a child, and his journalism teacher at Hillcrest High School in Dallas.
“My mother prepared me for a life of reading, thinking and language,” he said. “Julia Jeffries was the teacher who … fanned the embers into full flame.”
Following graduate school at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago, Mr. Ritts launched a career as a print journalist-and quickly discovered that he made a better manager than writer. “Fortunately I was able to find a way where I was able to be around creative people and create businesses that enabled them to thrive,” he said.
After a stint in broadcast at ABC Sports, he segued to Whittle Communications, where he developed and launched several health publications and a magazine for young women, Girls Only.
While at Whittle, Mr. Ritts and co-founders Chris Whittle, Ed Winter and Bill Gubbins came up with the idea of a news program for teens that would be engaging and educational and, most important, would not speak down to them. The partners put together a business plan and created Channel One, which they sold to Primedia in 1995.
Mr. Ritts served as commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association from then until 1999, when he was brought back to head up Channel One. “If you’re involved in creating a private-public partnership like Channel One, it just doesn’t leave your blood,” he said. “I realized how much I’d missed it. It should and does make money, but it is a business with a noble calling.”
Mr. Ritts’ interest in youth extends to his philanthropic work. He’s on the board of the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, an organization that works to de-stigmatize mental health issues, especially for teenagers. Mr. Ritts is married with no children, but his nieces and nephews attended schools that received Channel One.
“For once, they could think their uncle was doing something cool,” Mr. Ritts said.
Jim Ritts
Title: President and CEO, Channel One
Date of birth: June 28, 1953
Place of birth: Dallas
Who knew? Served as commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, 1995-1999