Growing up in Los Angeles as the daughter of a playwright and journalist, and granddaughter of the head of MGM Studios, Teya Ryan says she knew from a young age that she was destined for a career in media. “I just took to it,” says Ryan, 63, who worked as a cub reporter at the Vancouver Sun before transitioning to television.
Now a 30-year media veteran with high-ranking jobs at TBS and CNN under her belt, Ryan has led Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), one of the nation’s largest PBS systems, since 2009. Under her guidance, GPB increased its ratings by 50 percent and has won more than 50 Southeast Emmy Awards, including the top award for overall station excellence. Ryan has also expanded GPB’s commitment to education by creating free digital resources for teachers and students. “Many people think public media is just Downton Abbey, but that’s one aspect of dozens of things we do,” Ryan says. “We are a massive educational company—that is the heart and soul of what we do, and it informs everything else that we do.”
Ryan, who enjoys traveling, playing games with her family, and bringing her dog to work (thanks to her, GPB is a dog-friendly workplace), is glad to be part of the public media system. “I have a bounce in my step every day because that’s what I get to do. I get to figure out how to protect and grow that system and keep it healthy,” she says. Ryan recalls a comparable feeling when she worked at CNN. “Every time I got a paycheck and Ted Turner’s signature was on it there was a sense of pride,” she says. “I worked for Ted, and Ted had a vision, and that was really an amazing feeling. I have a similar pride knowing that I am part of the public media system.”