The Midpen Media Center has a new face leading the Palo Alto-based organization as it works on a new long-term strategy for its local programming.
At a special July 20 meeting, the board of directors named Charles "Chuck" Alley as its interim executive director by a unanimous vote. Alley, who's serving in the role as a volunteer, is a former Midpen Media employee and co-founder of the MC Sports Youth program, which introduces children to sports broadcasting.
Alley works as director of operations at theCUBE/Silicon Angle Media, a tech news organization based in Palo Alto and Boston.
His appointment comes as the nonprofit tries to create a more sustainable future by reducing operational costs.
"The biggest cuts we have made were, honestly, in streamlining administrative staff costs and overhead that no longer matched the needs of the current organization," board member Becky Sanders said in an email.
Midpen Media's previous executive director, Keri Stokstad, was among the full-time employees let go. The board told her in March that it would not renew her contract, which would have ended in October. Her last day was on June 30.
Midpen Media also let go of two other full-time employees: Nicole McClain, the director of development and Joanne Sperans, the marketing and communications manager.
"We were trying to focus on which individuals could, in point of fact, move us closer from us closer from a revenue and impact-in-the-community standpoint," board member Glen Sato said.
The changes have reduced the number of full-time employees from five to two: one for community outreach and access and another for programming and classes, according to Sato.
"It was bittersweet for me that the board didn't renew my agreement," said Stokstad, who joined the organization in 2017. "I kind of felt like we were beginning to see the benefits of a lot of hard work and efforts with the team."
The nonprofit's broader strategy is to focus on three core services: coverage of local government meetings and events; local content for its five cable channels; and media training and community education, Sanders said in an email. In addition, Midpen Media also plans to concentrate on educational programming for children.
The station's production of cable television shows fell when the pandemic began, but community members can still expect the same level of services, which the organization is looking to "reinvigorate with creative approaches" in collaboration with its stakeholders, Sanders said. "Our current streamlining really has to do with keeping our total costs balanced with our services at a sustainable level looking into the future," she said.
The board also is exploring ways to reopen Midpen Media's studio system for local productions run by volunteers, send its mobile production truck to events in the area and provide other media-related services to the community. The board is helping Alley with the organization's finance, development and strategic planning, according to Sanders.
"We are taking this opportunity to be responsive to newly arising needs and interests in the community as we identify them and build viable programs around them with the help of our staff, volunteers, partners, producers and community influencers," Sanders said.
One of those benefits was Midpen Media's transformed upper level at the San Antonio Road center, which during the pandemic turned into a creative space for podcasting and music, as well as open areas that had previously been taken up by cubicles. A training section was transformed into a "proper" green room to allow for more collaboration, according to Stokstad. The organization also introduced newer technologies, such as Discord, a social platform for instant messaging and Voice over Internet Protocol services, and Patreon, a monthly membership service that provides exclusive content and perks.
Midpen Media plans to search for a permanent executive director in the coming weeks. Whoever's hired for the role will serve on a part-time basis, according to Sato.