Ron Schofield - Executive Director of Media Services
Sept. 4, 2012 by Nicole V. Rohr
This staff feature is going to be a little different. In order to explain Ron Schofield, our executive director of media services, there has to be a first-person introduction. Without him, I wouldn’t work here and someone else would be writing this. So here goes.
Until this year, I had been working in food service for 11 years, since I was 16 years old. Waiting tables and writing. In a certain place in my mind that’s how I thought it would always be, but then you meet the people you are supposed to meet at the time you are supposed to meet them.
Ron and his family were a few of my regular customers at a restaurant called Palette Bistro at Southport/Wolfram, which sadly is no longer. I worked there for two years and I waited on them many times, even for his daughter Rachel’s birthday (I believe the gelato was stricken with freezer burn and I had to apologize). We always made polite tableside conversation, but neither of us ever discussed what we did in life besides eat or serve food.
My manager at the restaurant decided to start his own staff feature section in the company e-newsletter every month. I was his first victim. My photo and bio ran and a week later, Ron told me about the job opening at WYCC PBS Chicago. They were looking for an interactive content editor/producer, and hey, I did that.
It turns out a lot of Ron’s life has been about finding opportunities through people you once knew along the way. He had a chance to pay it forward this year, and here I am.
-Nicole V. Rohr
“My philosophy is help anybody you can because somewhere along the way it kind of comes back again,” Ron Schofield explained. He is the executive director of media services at WYCC PBS Chicago, but he was not always sure that he wanted to work in journalism. In fact, when he began at the University of Georgia in 1979, he wanted to be a computer scientist.
“What was lacking were proper math skills, which I recognized in one calculus class... [I thought,] I’m going to need to do something else for a living because this is not going to work out.” Schofield always had a knack for writing and research papers, so he decided to go to journalism school. Keeping in line with his philosophy on helping others, one of his UGA professors found him his first job out of school as a cameraman in Savannah, Ga.
From there, Schofield moved to South Carolina for another cameraman assignment. “What actually saved me [was] keeping in touch with people and networking with people, even when we weren’t using the term network,” he said. “It was just calling a friend of a friend... It really is a circle of life.”
This is how Schofield worked his way to assignment editor at ABC News in Washington, D.C. He was there for an amazing 21 years, back when “TV was so much fun.” During his 20s and 30s, Schofield worked on stories, which he said, at the time seemed like “just stories.” He remembers planning coverage for former Soviet President Gorbachev’s visit to Washington, for Jackie O’s funeral, and for a surprising airplane crash in the back of the White House. Schofield describes this media chaos as a place where he feels comfortable, but after moving to Chicago with ABC News, and then working for the Associated Press, Schofield took a job in marketing and communications. This is when he realized that he really was supposed to work in television.
“Marketing and communications was... new to me, and it felt uncomfortable,” he explained. “There were times when I didn’t think I was very good at it. And that’s not a good feeling to have at that point in [my] career.”
In August 2011, Schofield transitioned within City Colleges of Chicago to work for WYCC PBS Chicago as the executive director of media services. Public media at WYCC tends to favor the long-term project, the long-form documentary – very different from the chaos of news. “That allowed me to sort of come down to reality a little bit,” he said. “This is a really slow pace of play, because there’s no news to prepare for every day... [WYCC is] trying to develop concepts that are going to bring in viewers who watch public television.”
Schofield found himself watching less traditional television news once he joined PBS. Most of the content he consumed came from his computer or his phone. This switch in his own life helped him to lead a digital focus at WYCC (which included the hiring of a certain interactive staffer). He said, “I was talking to a friend of mine, who for a dozen years or so ran the No. 1 station in the market, and her comment was, ‘We think about the Web first and the digital spectrum, and then we work our way out to television.’”
And one day Schofield will take a break from the screen to spend time with his wife and his two daughters. He has plans to visit Europe in the next year or so, and in a fitting twist of fate, wants to open his own coffee shop or restaurant (versus certain people who strive to get out of food service...).
“I like to cook. She [his wife] is a professional accountant at the highest level. We figure if she doesn’t let me screw up the books and I can cook well enough to get people to buy it, we might be able to pull it off,” he said. “That’s our little plan when we’re done with the real world.”
There is no doubt, however, that Schofield will continue to help media professionals who need a big (or little) break, and it could even be a server at his very own restaurant.