Susan Harmon ’67, Public Radio Career, Media Executive

Susan Harmon

I was lucky to get involved in public radio at the time NPR was created in the early 1970s. I had just completed an internship with the BBC World Service in London — an internship that in the late 1960s was available to three graduates of Wellesley and three of Vassar. It gave me credibility to get a job in a small public radio station in Washington, D.C. as a producer of talk programs. Since it was early days of public radio, there weren't so many of us, and I was fortunate to move swiftly into management where I stayed for all of my career. As our nonprofit media industry grew, many people wanted to be in programming which was key to our increasing popularity with audiences throughout the country. However, I was happy to remain on the administrative side because it allowed me to create a good environment for those programming types, to represent our organization and to be in charge of the enterprise. While raising money every year was a key part of my job and often quite challenging, it was the way we could attain more resources to support our programming habit and I was motivated by that challenge because I believed so much in the service we provided. Flash forward to today when public radio — on the radio, on the Internet and through Podcasts — is an incredibly powerful, noncommercial media force in America. There are still excellent possibilities for job seekers who see this career as an interesting one no matter where in it you decide to focus. Programming offers good jobs, including on-air work, music and podcast production, news reporting and investigation and is often the more obvious choice. But, management, fundraising, communication and other more business-oriented functions can be very satisfying — as they have been for me. I have had a wonderful time working in the often hectic, diverse and meaningful career where I have continued to learn and to connect with audiences. My liberal arts background from Wellesley was the education I needed for this. I have also been able to make a decent living! While no one in public radio gets really rich, the salaries are adequate and usually benefits (health insurance and retirement) are good.