Mariam Stepanian currently serves as president and general manager for Valley Public Radio, KVPR 89.3 FM Fresno and KPRX Bakersfield. She is a Central Valley native and attended Fresno State where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology.
Her leadership was responsible for the station’s most recent accomplishment of raising funds for the newly constructed broadcast center in Clovis Technology Park. Under Stepanian’s direction, the station has expanded to broadcast cultural arts programming, including classical and Jazz music, news for National Public Radio and now award-winning local news. Board members, staff volunteers and listeners have created a public service media center as an important voice for the San Joaquin Valley with plans to become a gathering place for the community.
Business leaders are encouraged to bring their management teams to the station for private sessions, and local arts organizations are invited to use the education suite for meetings. The station has plans to experiment this year with Be Public Live and will host an art project with an invitation to local artists, as well as commemorate those who have helped the station become the community voice it has evolved into.
Q (Sheldon Baker): What made you decide to build the new Valley Public Radio station in Clovis?
A (Mariam Stepanian): We searched Fresno for a long time, but this location has a direct line of sight to our transmitter. The parcel was available, the station had cash and we landed a win-win arrangement. I might add, the owners made a handsome gift back to the station.
Q: Did you have to overcome any major obstacles developing the property?
A: No, we did not. The City of Clovis and the planning department were all very accommodating. The most frustrating obstacle was trying to have the various communications companies coordinate their efforts. We are still dealing with the aftermath from this today and it’s annoying.
Q: How much of the Valley do you reach?
A: To the north, we reach Merced. To the south, all the way up the grapevine to the “75 miles to LA sign.” To the east, it’s the first set of mountain ranges. To the west as far as the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This covers 18,000 square miles in Central California. Of course, we can always be heard online at kvpr.org.
Q: What type of local content do you look for?
A: Our reporters are always looking to tell the story of the residents of our region, our challenges, treasures and solutions, and what makes our region a unique and interesting place to live. The opportunities for stories and reports are endless.
Q: Can the community take tours of the new broadcast center?
A: Yes, we welcome tours and ask that people call us in advance for scheduling. The community is also welcome to host a meeting in our educational suite, which can accommodate up to 28 for discussion purposes and 40 for lunch.
Q: What are your proudest accomplishments in the past five years?
A: I am very proud of the Central Valley community, businesses, and California foundations for their helping make possible our new 10,000 square-foot public media center. The board, staff, volunteers, and members have been very supportive and enthusiastic. In fact, I was anticipating a much larger mortgage, but not so. The goal now is to pay down the mortgage. Then these funds can be directed to the creation of local content.
I am extremely proud or our local news team, led by Joe Moore, for being awarded five Golden Mikes in nearly four years. This station was in competition with much larger commercial and noncommercial stations, so it is a real honor to receive this recognition. The station also has a four-star charity navigator ranking, which means we are in the top 25 percent of the country for solid financial transactions including transparency and use of funds. VPR was one of the first to be recognized for this and has received the award numerous times. Again, we have outstanding board leadership and staff talent committed to the mission of public media.
Q: Do you have a favorite author?
A: No I do not, as my reading preferences vary.
Q: What book might you be reading now?
A: I am inspired to read more about Alexander Hamilton. Learning he was an immigrant who came to this country and helped establish our early government fascinates me. Being a first generation born in this country I am inspired by immigrants, who come here and accomplish great things, largely because freedom and opportunity abounds.
Sheldon C. Baker is chief executive officer for Clovis-based Baker Dillon Group. He has created numerous award-winning brand marketing and public relations campaigns for companies and brands. For Q&A interview consideration e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.