PBS content director enjoys ‘contributing to national conversations’

Cyndy Robbins purchases and schedule programs for Vegas PBS Channel 10 and our other channels.

Las Vegas often is thought of as a young city, but as Cyndy Robbins notes, “we do have a rich history.” As content director at Vegas PBS, Robbins has a front-row seat to the telling of Southern Nevada’s history. Vegas PBS, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, provides noncommercial television content to the area and serves the community in other ways as well.

Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?

This year we will have several celebrations, including one for major donors and another for the entire community to come and celebrate with us. We’re also working on securing funding so we can bring back one of our staples, a weekly local public affairs show. We hope to be able to announce something soon.

What are your duties and primary role as content director?

My primary role is to purchase and schedule programs for Vegas PBS Channel 10 and our other channels (Create, PBS KIDS, Rewind, Jackpot! and MHz Worldview). I oversee the traffic, programming and communications teams. I am responsible for making sure our content meets the Federal Communications Commission’s rules and regulations, and I approve our on-air content. I also help our membership team with on-air fundraising campaigns and represent the station on several national planning committees. I especially enjoy contributing to national conversations about issues affecting the public media industry.

What special programming or changes will occur this year?

Viewers will notice a new anniversary logo and a new on-air look in late March. In the digital space, we plan on releasing some historical content. 2018 has already seen some programming changes to the Channel 10 lineup with the addition of titles like “New Tricks,” “Ballykissangel,” “Doctor Blake Mysteries,” “Waiting for God” and “Moone Boy” on weekday afternoons. In January, we announced these big changes to our weekday lineup, with our PBS Kids programming ending at 2:30 p.m. (instead of 5:30 p.m.), making way for more general audience programming. We’re going to see how the audiences respond the first few months of 2018, and then may make adjustments to the schedule moving forward, based on what we hear from our viewers.

When did you know you wanted a career in television?

After earning a master’s degree in journalism, I went back to my home state of Iowa for an interview with the management team at Iowa Public Television. From the moment I met their programming director, Dan Miller, I was hooked. His enthusiasm and passion for public media was contagious. I learned much of what I know from working with Dan, who once told me to be patient because it would take me five years to become a good programmer, as that’s how long it would take to get the inventory in my head. I corrected him when I left Iowa 10 years later, as I felt like it was more like seven years before it all came together for me. I thought I would spend my entire career at Iowa Public Television, until one Friday when I came across the ad for the director of programming job in Las Vegas. I got goosebumps reading it, and said “I’m moving to Vegas!”

What are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about our noncommercial programing and the impact it has on our community. The stories I hear from our viewers are inspirational. Whether it’s a child learning to read from watching PBS Kids, a senior improving his or her quality of life and mobility thanks to “Classical Stretch,” a homebound person who forgets about their limitations through an arts performance, or a young adult who is inspired to get vocal training to perform in front of a live audience after seeing another young artist perform on “Great Performances,” viewers are positively affected by the programming they watch on Vegas PBS. Knowing that the decisions we make at the local level affect the individuals in our community excites me.

What has been your most exciting professional project?

In 2010, I was put in charge of our grand opening celebration for the Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus. It was exciting because it launched a new era for public media in Southern Nevada. The campus was designed for the future, and as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we’re seeing the possibilities of the building being realized.

What’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

There are many issues that need attention: education, water, public safety, drug abuse, homelessness and poverty, health care and finding the funds to provide the resources to address them all. For me, the biggest issue is the one that speaks to your heart and compels you to do something about it. The important thing is for people to get involved and to help make a difference.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see the media landscape changed even more drastically than we’ve witnessed in the past 10 years. And I see Vegas PBS being a vital part of that landscape. I see us still focused on education, arts and creating a sense of place. How that content is delivered and consumed will surely be different, but our mission will remain the same.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Italy holds a special place in my heart. I try to keep up on my Italian language skills, and living there again would appeal to me.

Whom do you admire?

I admire all the single parents who put their children first. I was raised by a single mother, and saw the sacrifices she made so my sister and I could have a good quality of life. Several of my friends are raising their children on their own, and I truly admire them.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I worked in road construction for a summer while in graduate school. I was looking for the most impact to my bank account in the few months I had before beginning my year abroad in Italy, and decided that road construction would be the best option with the most hours (based on sunlight). I took the course and test on how to hold the slow/stop sign, and then landed a job working on a dirt crew that was building a new section of highway. I never held the sign once that entire summer. Instead, I set the string line, calculated the grade, assisted the cement crew on occasion, and mostly ran a few different machines, including the impactor.

At the end of the summer, the foreman drove up and called me over to his truck. He said “Robbins, you’re a walk-on,” and drove away. I was still not well-versed in all the construction lingo, so the others on the crew had to explain to me that he just paid me the highest compliment possible. Any time I need a job, I just need to put on my steel-toed boots, and I can “walk on” to any job site he’s supervising.