WPSU Board Member Spotlight: Sydney Forde

The WPSU Board of Representatives is an advisory board of community members that gather on a regular basis to advise the station on programming and other activities. In this blog post series, WPSU Board Member Spotlight, we sit down with these individuals and discuss their love of public broadcasting and its impact in the communities throughout the viewing area.

Sydney Forde is originally from St. Albert in Alberta, Canada (a few hours away from Banff in the Rocky Mountains). She moved to Ontario, Canada, to pursue an associate degree in sales and marketing at Niagara College, then completed her undergraduate degree in business communications at Brock University and her master’s degree in Canadian-American studies at the University at Buffalo. Sydney is currently completing a Ph.D. in mass communications at Penn State and is the first Penn State student board member for WPSU since the spring of 2022.

What inspired you to begin volunteering at WPSU?

My research focuses on the role of journalism in democracy, and I am an advocate of public media as I think our news should be determined less by commercial logics and more by public logics. A few professors, along with the dean of my college (Dr. Marie Hardin), had heard the board of representatives was considering asking a student to join them and suggested that I would be a good fit for the position. The rest is history!

What are you studying as a Ph.D. student at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications?

My dissertation focuses on studying the policy narratives surrounding two anti-trust exemption acts meant to preserve journalism in the U.S. — one from 1970 and one from 2021 — and explores the various stakeholders involved in those acts, as well as who they really mean to serve. Essentially, I am examining the basic disconnect between media economic and media in a democracy. Recently I was awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) under the Government of Canada to help fund the remainder of my Ph.D. — which I am extremely excited about as it’s a pretty competitive process!

In my free time (which, as with most graduate students, is limited), I enjoy reading, cross country skiing with my fiancé and our dog, traveling, and spending time with my friends and colleagues. I have also recently been roped into the world of scuba diving by my partner, which is something I really enjoy and wish I could do more of while living here in Central PA.

What WPSU programming do you connect with the most? 

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the News over Noise podcast is something I certainly connect with from WPSU, as I am involved with the News Literacy Initiative at Penn State that helps to produce it. Beyond this, I think the Our Town series from WPSU is really something special that should be celebrated.

How do you see WPSU positively impacting the communities throughout Central Pennsylvania?

Beyond providing important local news and cultural programming that so many others have pulled back from providing in recent years, I think WPSU’s outreach to communities via things like datacasting homework to kids without sufficient broadband during the pandemic really speaks volumes to its positive and absolutely essential community role in Central PA.

What do you wish people knew about WPSU?

More than anything, I wish people knew just how passionate the folks at WPSU are about their jobs and about helping their communities. Even while everyone working at WPSU is running around making the most out of whatever budgetary decisions cross their paths — I have yet to meet any staff member unwilling to take the time to sit down with me and tell me about what they do at the station or answer any questions that I may have. The dedication that I have seen from all members of WPSU to serve their community really gives me hope in the fulfillment of the public service broadcasting mission.