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Pat Mitchell

"Never worry about falling on your face; at least it’s a forward movement."

How She Empowers Others

Since assuming her current role as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Paley Center for Media, Ms. Mitchell has brought new life to The Paley Center for Media’s event series with innovative programming, attracting high profile leaders in entertainment, technology, business, politics, and policy. Drawing upon its influential board of trustees and International Council of media executives, Ms. Mitchell has clearly positioned the Paley Center as both a neutral forum for industry professionals and a public space for media lovers to gather for informative and entertaining events—from evenings with casts and creative teams of current popular series to premieres of new and innovative work to industry dialogues focused on the dynamics of a rapidly evolving and converging media landscape. 

Ms. Mitchell came to The Paley Center for Media from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), where she was named president and chief executive officer in March 2000, the first woman and first producer and journalist to hold the position. During her tenure, she oversaw the development of many new projects, including a celebrated new series for children focusing on teaching literacy skills and celebrating diversity, a testament to her belief in the power of media to empower and inform. She also led public broadcasting into the digital future with such initiatives as the conversion from analog to digital broadcasting, the launch of a high-definition PBS channel and an on-demand and cable preschool children’s service, the growth of PBS’s website into one of the three most visited sites on the Internet, and the establishment of the Digital Future Initiative to help define models for public service media using new digital technologies.

Ms. Mitchell came to the world of media when she was recruited from college teaching by Look magazine. Not long after, she took her first story to WNBC New York, where she saw her work go from page to screen – and never looked back. Over the next three decades, Ms. Mitchell worked for three broadcast networks and several cable channels, winning national acclaim both in front of and behind the camera as a reporter, news anchor, talk show host, White House and special correspondent, producer, and executive. In the mid eighties, she established her own independent production company that produced documentaries, series, and specials for broadcast, cable, and national syndication. She became the first woman to nationally syndicate her own show, the Emmy-winning Woman to Woman, which she also hosted.  In 1992, Ms. Mitchell became an executive in charge of original productions for Ted Turner’s cable networks. Over the next eight years as executive producer, her documentaries and specials received thirty-seven Emmy Awards, five Peabody Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. 

Ms. Mitchell herself has received numerous awards during the course of her career, including the Women in Cable and Telecommunications Woman of the Year Award; the CINE Golden Eagle for Lifetime Achievement; the PROMAX Century Award for contributions to the television industry; the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Leadership; and most recently, the NATPE Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award. In addition, Mitchell was named one of the most influential female executives in the media by the Hollywood Reporter and was honored as one of the first fifty women in The Paley Center for Media’s She Made It initiative.

In addition to her accomplishments both on and off the screen, Ms. Mitchell is also known for her humanitarian efforts and her work as a dedicated member of numerous nonprofit boards. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the vice chair of the Sundance Institute board; a founding member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s global environmental organization, Global Green USA; a member of the V-Day board, a global movement to end violence against women and girls; a member of the Human Rights Watch board of directors; an adviser to the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Harvard University; a member of the Mayo Clinic’s board of trustees; and on the corporate boards of Bank of America, Participant Productions, and SunMicrosystems, Inc.

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, with a master’s degree in English literature, Ms. Mitchell has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Emerson College, Hollins University, Bloomsburg University, and Converse College. She and her husband, Scott Seydel, have six children and ten grandchildren and reside in New York and Atlanta, Georgia.