Diane Pratt, M.A., is the president and CEO of DP Consultants Inc., a public affairs management firm. Read
Barbara O’Connor, PhD, of Sacramento, Calif., was elected to the AARP Board of Directors in 2010.
“I grew up in West Texas, raised by a single mother. I was a first-generation college graduate. So I’ve lived through lots of what our members are living through.
“Communications and politics have really been my longstanding interests, including technology access and equity, disabled rights, communication strategies and social movement building. I have a political background, and I started a public radio station in Sacramento and ran it for a while. We now have six radio stations there, the Capital Public Radio Network.
“I have taught mostly technology policy and technology evolution — the hardware stuff. I also teach political communications and the impact of messaging on social movement formation.
“I was fortunate enough to go to the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, which is very geeky, so I was able to keep up with technology as it evolved. I chaired the California Public Broadcasting Commission, and I’m now an officer and director of the California Emerging Technology Fund.
“AARP provides me an opportunity to do tele-health, to deal with issues of getting the 50-plus generation online. I get to help people who are unemployed at 50, using the Web. So being part of the AARP board is really a wonderful synergy of my interests and the organization’s interests….”
“It’s getting more and more difficult to find a center in American politics. Part of it is the media’s fault. The news hole, in both broadcast and in print, has really been reduced. The downsizing and the mergers and acquisitions that have gone on in the media world have really done a disservice to public policy discussion. It’s made the media more event- and scandal-chasing — the lowest common denominator.
“In political campaigns, it’s 30-second spots. So it’s no surprise that the public has fatigue about dealing with politicians. Every poll in America shows that they are held in very low esteem.
“We can’t return to retail politics because we have the technology and everyone is used to using it. But longer formats, discussions, call-ins, coherent talk would be welcome. Certainly, AARP’s members would welcome that to address their concerns about big things such as Social Security.
“AARP is nonpartisan, and ours is a trusted voice. We have to provide the voice of reason in these debates, so that it’s not a partisan political discussion, but really a rational, practical discussion.
“People really do care about the issues that we work on. They’re central to their lives. We have to find a coherent solution to intractable problems.
“We need to be very heavily data-driven. I think we do that, by the way. I think staff and our board are the best. And our volunteers are terrific. So I’m optimistic, actually.
“A big part of our job as board members is to listen. You don’t let your own biases govern what you do. I have to listen to what the data says and to what members are telling me.
“So if you’re data-driven and you really do listen to the members tell you what their issues are — and we have very good organs of information that help us with that, by the way, in the organization — then you can find consensus.”
Politics, communications, debate, telecommunications policy, digital divide, senior health, tele-health, digital literacy, education technology.
Ph.D., communications, University of Southern California, Annenberg School of Communications; M.A., communications, California State University, Northridge; B.A., communications, California State University, Northridge; A.A., history, Los Angeles Valley College.
Currently, professor of communication and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, California State University, Sacramento. Previously, assistant director of debate, University of Southern California; summer debate instructor, Georgetown University; design consultant, Cablevision Systems, New Jersey.
Boards: Formerly, chairperson and founding board member, The Alliance for Public Technology; board member and officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; member, Bellcore Advisory Board.
Other: Formerly, presidential debate judge, Washington Bureau, Associated Press; ch