Local PBS affiliate station WYES has been a staple for New Orleanians and those on the Gulf Coast for 64 years. Robin Cooper started her new post as president and CEO of WYES on Aug. 1 after a three-decade relationship with the station. Cooper started as an associate producer and worked her way up, now taking the reins from Allan Pizzato. We caught up with Cooper to get the latest on her new role and what’s next for the beloved station.
Q: How did you get started with WYES? I have been with WYES for over 32 years. I started in a two-year training position as an associate producer. I was about to graduate from UNO and saw the job posting and I was fortunate to be graduating in December so that I could start working at WYES in January. Some of the first projects that I worked on were “Varsity Star Quiz Bowl” where Dan Milham, the program host, would introduce me as “Robin the recognizer” and a Justin Wilson cooking series. Justin was a character, so I have many fun memories.
Q: What’s your favorite part of working at WYES? That’s hard – I like it all. I especially like the people – talking with the viewers and hearing about how WYES impacts their lives. It is a constant reminder of how important WYES is to our community. I hear stories such as the donor who supports us because his mother is homebound yet experiences the world through WYES. He and his mother have stimulating and meaningful conversations that extend beyond the confines of the home.
Q: What are you looking forward to in your new role as president and CEO? I look forward to building on what our founders envisioned, and upon the hard work and contributions of my predecessors, to ensure that WYES remains a premier educational, artistic and cultural service that is free and accessible to everyone in our viewing area – from Greater New Orleans to the northshore to the bayou area to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Additionally, there are incredible new technology advances coming in broadcast television. I look forward to exploring all of the possibilities these will offer and making sure that WYES is poised to enhance our educationally based service for our region.
Q: What’s the first item on your to-do list? WYES has always been known for our original and award-winning productions that showcase and tell the stories of New Orleans, our region, and our community – both locally and nationally. I am excited about some of the new projects that we are working on. WYES will debut a special about Irma Thomas – “IRMA! Songs From My Heart” that will air locally in October, and will be offered nationally to public television stations later this year. In December, we will debut a documentary on the founding of the World War II museum. And, we have a lot more in the queue, so stay tuned.
Q: What can everyone expect from WYES in the next year/future? You can expect to see even more high-caliber original productions that touch our region on all levels: history, culture, public affairs, and more. We’ve always been known for our national cooking shows that highlight our unique culture and cuisine and we look forward to continuing that tradition. We were very successful in creating unique and accessible virtual events during the pandemic and we are excited about expanding on some of those and finding new ways to engage with our viewers. Additionally, we have plans for transmission upgrades that will improve and strengthen the WYES signal throughout southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.
Favorite program on WYES? MASTERPIECE – I particularly love the period dramas. I also love the WYES local productions – the cultural and history documentaries, cooking series, and profiles of those who have made outstanding contributions, in a variety of disciplines, for New Orleans and our region.
Favorite TV show (in general)? MASTERPIECE
Favorite thing to do around the city? Dining is a favorite thing to do in New Orleans. There are so many good restaurants – I don’t think that I will ever get to them all. Another favorite thing to do is drive along St. Charles Avenue in the spring when all of the azaleas are blooming – it is just gorgeous.