Q&A: Porter Walks the Walk With Johnson

May 18, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, overseeing its day-to-day management, Dr. David M. Porter Jr. has had many occasions to work with NAMIC president Kathy Johnson, TVWeek’s Cable Executive of the Year. Established in 1980 to promote diversity within the cable telecommunications industry, the foundation is recognized as one of the leaders in diversifying the executive suites of the cable industry with talented and qualified ethnic minorities. TVWeek’s Allison J. Waldman spoke with Dr. Porter about Ms. Johnson’s award.
TelevisionWeek: What do you think about NAMIC President Kathy Johnson being named Cable Executive of the Year by TelevisionWeek?
David Porter: I think it’s great. She’s very much deserving of this honor. She’s very, very much deserving, and she’s had a big impact on what’s been going on in the TV industry, especially when it comes to the diversity space. She was an excellent person to be selected for this honor.
TVWeek: Having known her as long as you have, do you have an example of her influence?
Mr. Porter: There are so many examples. I can’t name one. I’ve known Kathy for about nine years now. In every case, from the things that she’s done to take NAMIC from a relatively small organization, which didn’t have a headquarters, didn’t have an infrastructure—it was basically using a small firm to kind of manage its activities—to really a first-class organization, with a full-time, competent staff that’s able to submit and develop leadership programs, a mentoring program, etc., that have been really very impactful on the industry. All of that has happened during Kathy’s watch over the last six or seven years.
TVWeek: How has the cable industry changed in the last decade, coinciding with her tenure as NAMIC president?
Mr. Porter: I’ll give you two responses. The first response is clearly that lots of things have happened that have been driven by technology, so the fact is that we have more capacity. We can offer services in a variety of different ways that are more specialized to particular customers that we’re trying to reach. That’s one big thing. The second thing is, when I put on my diversity hat, the thing that’s really helping to change the face of cable is what’s changing the faces of America, which is as we become more diverse, that makes it both an opportunity as well as a challenge for our industry to better position itself to be able to take advantage of that diversity. One of the things about cable, when you think about it from the programming side, is that the proliferation of channels really does speak to people being able to find the kind of programming that’s of particular interest to them. That type of diversity, being able to exploit that kind of diversity, is difficult. So that has been a challenge for us, but it’s also been an opportunity because of the fact that we’re able to do that effectively, [which] makes our product even more viable.
TVWeek: What is it in Kathy’s personality that makes her such a good leader, somebody who has opened doors for diversity?
Mr. Porter: The biggest piece of it is being able to work with people across the spectrum. One of the things is that when you’re in this space, you cannot make anyone do anything. Really what you’re doing is trying to make the case for people to take chances, to provide resources, to provide support, to send individuals to participate—those types of things. That really takes someone who can articulate the case. It’s someone who can build coalitions, to get people to want to be involved, to want to provide support. And that’s what Kathy does.
TVWeek: What are some of your impressions of the NAMIC conferences that you’ve attended?
Mr. Porter: The atmosphere is high-energy. The workshops are intellectually stimulating. They reach you emotionally. Last year’s conference, which was very powerful—with Marianne Pearl speaking, and Anderson Cooper—and the people they had involved were just great. There was a panel discussion which I sat in on entitled “The Only One in the Room.” It dealt with the experience of a lot of minorities who were many times the only one of color in the room. It was a jam-packed room, you know, standing room only, and the session was just incredibly powerful. When I kind of look at the whole NAMIC conference from beginning to end, there were so many different sessions and so many things I wanted to do and I couldn’t do because there were almost too many choices. It was great. It was awesome.
TVWeek: How has NAMIC interfaced with the Walter Kaitz Foundation?
Mr. Porter: NAMIC and the Kaitz Foundation work closely together, whether it be through the funding we provide NAMIC, activities that we do in partnership, all kinds of things. We share the same agenda, which is how can we help diversify the cable industry. They are one of our chief partners. This is really a well-deserved award for Kathy Johnson and NAMIC. I can’t think of anyone better to receive it.


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