NAB’s Dennis Wharton To Retire
The National Association of Broadcasters announced today that Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications, is retiring July 1. Wharton, a 24-year veteran of NAB and the longest-serving spokesman in the organization’s history, will continue to serve as a senior adviser to NAB, according to President-CEO Gordon Smith.
“Dennis is a fervent advocate for local broadcasting and his dedication to NAB and the broadcast industry cannot be overstated,” said Smith. “Journalists, broadcasters and colleagues alike value his extensive insight on industry-related issues and appreciate the enthusiasm and good humor he brings to his work. We wish Dennis all the best and are fortunate to have him stay on as an adviser to NAB.”
Wharton joined NAB in 1996 as vice president, media relations and subsequently was promoted to senior vice president in 1997 and executive vice president in 2006. He has overseen NAB departments that include Media Relations, Research and Public Service. Wharton joined NAB after a 16-year journalism career in Ohio and as Washington bureau chief for Variety, where he covered legislative and regulatory issues related to broadcasting, cable and Hollywood movie studios.
In an e-mail to the NAB board of directors last night, Wharton called his retirement a “bittersweet moment” and described his tenure at NAB as “the privilege of my professional life.” Wharton wrote that he has been “in the catbird seat for countless moments in broadcast history” over 24 years, including the launch of HDTV, radio performance royalty fights, “wardrobe malfunctions,” and media consolidation battles. He said he is most proud of the unparalleled public service of local broadcast stations, which has been on prominent display during the COVID-19 crisis.
Wharton praised the NAB board, his co-workers, local broadcasters, state broadcast association executives and reporters who covered NAB through the years. He reserved special gratitude for colleagues on the NAB Communications team, which he has overseen for more than two decades.
NAB also announced today it will merge the association’s Communications and Marketing Departments into a new Public Affairs Department that will be led by NAB’s Michelle Lehman. The Public Affairs department will serve to positively position NAB and the broadcast industry through strategic communications, media and digital outreach, marketing and research to support NAB’s advocacy efforts, events and member-focused initiatives.
Lehman has served as executive vice president of marketing since joining NAB in 2006. In this role, she advances the association’s brand before key audiences and implements marketing, advertising and grassroots campaigns to address specific legislative and business challenges facing the broadcast industry.
She also spearheads the long running We Are Broadcasters campaign to remind policymakers and audiences of broadcasters’ unique role in local communities and the media landscape. In addition, Lehman directs marketing campaigns to promote NAB events and activities, overseeing the association’s brand, messaging and digital strategy. In her new role, Lehman will also be responsible for NAB’s Media Relations, Public Service and Research divisions.
Lehman began her career in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill serving as press secretary for former Rep. Bob Goodlatte and then for the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, under the leadership of former Ranking Member Sen. Fred Thompson. She also served as associate director of technology policy for a boutique public relations firm, as well as vice president of public affairs and chief spokesperson for the National Beer Wholesalers Association before joining NAB. She resides in Alexandria, Va., with her husband David and three young daughters.
Lehman has tapped Ann Marie Cumming, senior vice president of communications, to serve as the primary spokesperson of the organization. In this role, she will be assisted by Zamir Ahmed, vice president of media relations, who has been with NAB since 2011. Cumming, who first joined NAB in 1994, will oversee media relations and the Research division led by VP of Research Dan McDonald.
Jen Jose, who has been with NAB since 2007, will serve as senior vice president of public affairs, overseeing all messaging, digital and public service activities of the organization. She will be assisted by NAB’s vice president of digital, Gagan Nirula, another long-time association veteran, who oversees the digital and social media strategy for the association. Jose also serves as chief speechwriter for President-CEO Gordon Smith.
Shermaze Ingram, senior vice president of marketing and creative services, will continue to oversee association marketing and event campaigns, as well as the creative services team. Ingram has been with the association since 2006, when she joined to serve as chief spokesperson for NAB’s digital television transition campaign.
“We have assembled a talented team of professionals to carry our NAB mission and message to the public, whether that is our membership, press or policymakers,” said Smith. “We see public affairs as critical to advancing our advocacy agenda and positioning the association and our events for success.”