Longtime Westinghouse Broadcasting television executive Carolyn Wean, who died last Friday at 68, was best-known for her strong ties to Pittsburgh and to Group W flagship station KDKA. The phrase “first woman” is unavoidable when recalling her career. But Carolyn treated sexism as a mere distraction. She won over skeptics through her enormous talent and competence and bulldozed detractors with her fierce competitive drive and sheer intellect.
Carolyn Wean: An Appreciation
Longtime Westinghouse Broadcasting television executive Carolyn Wean died Friday, Aug. 12, after a long illness. She was 68.
Although a Baltimore native, Carolyn was best-known for her strong ties to Pittsburgh and to Group W flagship station KDKA where in the 1970s she was news director and again in the 1980s as vice president and general manager. Carolyn was the first woman to hold such a position in the progressive Group W organization.
The phrase “first woman” is unavoidable when recalling her career. It appears three times in her obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But that distinction fails to do her justice. That same obituary contains five occurrences of the word “award” — as in “Emmy,” “Peabody” and “Edward R. Murrow.”
Still, Carolyn’s reputation as a trailblazer for woman in television was integral to her success both as a leader and a role model. It’s noteworthy that she entered the real world of local talk shows and news at WBZ-TV Boston about the same time as her contemporary Mary Richards threw her hat at the fictional WJM. Compared to the locker room atmosphere of station newsrooms in the ’70s, the male dominant world on AMC’s Mad Men is a feminist dream.
But Carolyn treated sexism as a mere distraction. She won over skeptics through her enormous talent and competence and bulldozed detractors with her fierce competitive drive and sheer intellect. I worked for Carolyn at KDKA as both a producer and as creative services director and her reputation preceded her. I soon learned that if Carolyn questioned the focus of a story or a shot in a promo, you were free to disagree, but her analysis was unfailingly illuminating and helpful. Carolyn was among that very rare breed of broadcasters who are equally adept in program production, journalism and upper management.
After a stint as VP and general manager of Group W’s KPIX San Francisco, Carolyn was made vice president of Group W’s news production but returned to Pittsburgh and to local production in 1995 as production chief for WQED, the city’s PBS station. Not surprisingly, the station soon produced a new generation of award-winning programs.
It’s not quite accurate to say that Carolyn didn’t suffer fools. Indeed it was the fools who were likely to suffer. From both colleagues and competitors she demanded the very best, most especially from the generation of younger women who followed her path in television. I’m certain many of them will come forward with their own testimonials to Carolyn’s rare gift for inspiring excellence and self-confidence.
Arthur Greenwald is a TVNewsCheck contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]