Herb Scannell, president and chief executive of Southern California Public Radio, announced Tuesday his plans to retire, capping off a four-decade career for the trailblazing media executive.
Scannell took the helm of the nonprofit local media organization in 2019; its portfolio includes the region’s most popular NPR affiliate station, LAist 89.3 — formerly known as KPCC-FM — along with the news site LAist and its podcast production company, LAist Studios.
Scannell, 66, told LAist he decided to retire for personal reasons, noting the deaths of his brother and his best friend, as well as working across the country from his wife and daughter, who live in New York.
“It’s really a matter of wanting to have another chapter of life where you’re with the ones you love,” Scannell said, “and doing things that you’ve always wanted to do.”
Scannell succeeded founding President Bill Davis to lead Southern California Public Radio, where he spearheaded the brand integration of LAist, which the company acquired in 2018. He navigated the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic and generated a 38% increase in revenue during his tenure.
A longtime champion of diversity, Scannell also pushed for more diverse hires and content, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.
On his watch, the company also saw the largest round of layoffs in its history. In June it cut 21 positions, citing a revenue shortfall. LAist reported that the cuts caught staff by surprise coming on the heels of “a successful on-air fundraising campaign and the release of public disclosures on executive compensation from a year earlier.”
Scannell came to SCPR after several stints leading other media organizations, most recently the English-language Latino media company Mitú. He spent most of his career at Viacom (now Paramount Global), where he was president of the children’s television network Nickelodeon from 1996 until 2006 and later oversaw several of the company’s other cable channels, including Spike TV and TV Land. He also spent five years as the president of BBC North America.
“I want to do what’s not being done,” he told The Times in 2019. “If I’m doing something that everybody else is doing, then I better do it differently.”
A search for Scannell’s successor will begin soon, according to the Southern California Public Radio board, with a decision expected to be announced sometime next year.