Thursday, June 20, 2024

Community members arrive at Cambridge Community Television’s studios on Massachusetts Avenue – still new in 2012. (Photo: CCTV via Facebook)

After 33 years at Cambridge Community Television, executive director Susan Fleischmann said she plans to step down in early 2021.

“This is not a pandemic-related decision; I have been considering this for a while,” Fleischmann said.

After arriving at the community cable station in 1988 as the second-in-charge access coordinator, Fleischmann rose to become executive director in 1993. She grew the three-channel station and rallied staff through a number of changes, including the addition of social media and other new technologies, and the challenge of finding a new home after losing space on Prospect Street in 2010. She was able to keep the offices and studios in Central Square, and oversaw a reopening on Massachusetts Avenue in 2011.

CCTV executive director Susan Fleischmann signs the papers in 2011 for the new studio space in Central Square. (Photo: CCTV via Facebook)

CCTV has brought home the Award for Excellence in Programming a dozen times from the Alliance for Community Media and got top awards in the Hometown Media Festival, Interlochen Film Festival, New England Video Festival, Boston Center for the Arts Youth Film Festival, MFA Youth Film Festival, WGBH Shorts Festival and the Annual Northeast Video Festival, the press release noted.

More recently Fleischmann cannily moved to expand CCTV’s funding base beyond fees from the cable company Comcast. The work looked prescient in 2018 when it became clear a Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission wanted to let the decades-old franchise fees nationwide dwindle potentially down to zero. Now she’s helping guide the station through the coronavirus pandemic, and finding the staff response a source of pride.

“It will be hard to step away,” she said.

She planned to remain in the community and available to help, and said she looked “forward to a new leader who will build upon CCTV’s reputation as a collaborator and problem solver, a willing partner in meeting community need.”

The board of directors at CCTV would begin a national search for a director in early August, according to a press release announcing the retirement.

Seeing Fleischmann leave will be a sad end to an era, said former station journalist Kristina Kehrer, one of the thousands of students and neighborhood members who came to the studios to learn how to do film and television. “Susan had a real gift” for inspiring new talent, Kehrer said. “My goal was always to impress Susan, and that made me work harder.”

In one of her more recent innovations, Fleischmann welcomed a podcast by two newly arrived members of the City Council, Sumbul Siddiqui and Alanna Mallon. The “Women Are Here” podcast launched in January 2018 – and one term and 75 episodes later, the councillors are now mayor and vice mayor.

Siddiqui, who recalled the executive director’s openness to the podcast concept, said Fleischmann’s tenure at the station was “remarkable.”

“CCTV’s just grown under her leadership. Her team has always, but especially during the pandemic, provided the city with such important information,” Siddiqui said. “The city will miss her, and I will miss her.”

In the press release, Fleischmann spoke about what the role at the channel and in the community meant to her:

“I have been so very fortunate and privileged to have a career that fulfills and satisfies so many parts of myself. I have been able to work in the city that I love, with people I respect and care for, doing social justice work that I consider so critical to our democracy and sense of community.

“During this very challenging time, at the nexus of a global pandemic, great social and political upheaval and grave economic insecurity, CCTV has proven itself a willing and capable partner, addressing our community’s hunger for local news and information, and connecting us to each other. It’s now time for new leadership. CCTV’s fantastic, innovative and energetic staff, led by a dedicated and committed board of directors, will ensure CCTV continues to nimbly respond to community need. I look forward to CCTV’s next phase and will continue to help in any way that I am needed.”

This post was updated Jan. 31, 2021, to note that Susan Fleischmann will have been with Cambridge Community Television for around 33 years at the time of her retirement.