Annenberg Radio News

Herb Scannell retiring after 40 years with SoCal Public Radio.

SoCal Public Radio’s CEO Herb Scannell is retiring after a decorated 4 decade-long career in media.

Photo of a man speaking at a podium

Herb Scannell announced his plans to depart yesterday after serving in his role for 3 and a half years. He was led to this decision due to personal reasons such as the death of his brother and living across the country from his wife and daughter.

The non-profits board will be seeking a CEO replacement immediately but Scannell plans to stay on until they find a successor.

We spoke with University of Southern California journalism professor Gabriel Kahn to learn more about what this transition of power may look like for SoCal Public Radio.

Gabriel Khan: Often getting people that are sort of at the tail end of their careers. That’s been true for the last two CEOs KPCC has had. That’s probably not great considering where we’re at now. And the way in which people consume people consume content and the role smartphones play in that, they probably want someone who’s a little bit younger who wants to see through a bold transition.

KPCC credits Scannell to the station’s 38 percent growth in revenue and oversaw the rebranding of KPCC as LAist 89.3. He also kept the station running during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and made a major push to diversify hiring after the police murder of George Floyd.

Claire Fogarty, a social media intern for LAist, described Scannell’s presence in the work place as CEO.

Claire Fogarty: I met him once. He kind of goes out of his way to make sure there’s a time that he gets to meet all the interns and we had a lunch and a Q&A with him. It was really great. As an intern, I’m working with just my team. There’s not much reason for me to ever interact with executive leadership and so if he hadn’t made that time, I probably wouldn’t have met him, so it was cool to have that experience.

Scannell’s time as CEO wasn’t always smooth sailing though. In June of 2023 there was a major outbursts when it was revealed the station laid off 12 percent of its journalists. This resulted in 21 lost jobs which was the largest layoff amount in the station’s history.

Professor Kahn believes these layoffs are due to the company biting off more than they could chew.

Khan: One thing that KPCC which now goes by LAist really tried to do was lean into the podcast as a distribution mechanism. And one reason they had the layoffs was that they probably grew too fast in that area.

Union members at the station expressed concern that CEOs made more than 500,000 dollars a year back in 2021. This hit staff hard especially after public documents show Scannell received 625,000 dollars in base pay and bonuses two years prior.

Scannell expressed that he is proud of the work he has done while at the SCPR station.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Stephen Knobel.