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Vivian Schiller of NPR | Interview by I AM Modern Magazine | People

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Vivian Schiller of NPR | Interview by I AM Modern Magazine
Vivian Schiller of NPR | Interview by I AM Modern Magazine

Interview originally posted on I AM Modern Magazine

We live in a constant state of immediacy. Dying are the days of the in-depth coverage that we'd get when reading the morning newspaper. We are too busy for the 6:00 pm evening news and too tired to stay up to get a roundup of the day's events at 11:00. Instead, we set up RSS feeds; our phones 'ping' with our selected breaking news; we follow tweets or Google to hone in on the information we are interested in knowing. Nothing is as it used to be.

As President and CEO of National Public Radio (she resigned in March 2011), Vivian Schiller has had to maneuver through this uneven and unbalanced media landscape, but it's a job she's confident she can handle, coming from The New York Times, the Discovery Times Channel and CNN. She earned along the way multiple honors, most notably a couple of Peabody Awards and five Emmys. Obviously she must be doing something right. What Vivian does well in both her personal and professional life is, as she once described in an interview, 'to live in the moment of what makes sense now.' Whether it's fostering ideas on how to incorporate radio into the digital marketplace or handling the ever changing moods of her 13 and 15 year old teenaged children, Vivian knows it's all a matter of testing the waters to see what works best, moving on if it doesn't, making adjustments, but always learning along the way.

It's a paradigm she hopes to pass on to her children. "I tell them: 'I don't want you to even come close to deciding or thinking about what you want to do when you grow up. It's too early.'" Adding, "I want them to go to college and get a liberal arts education and be exposed to all kinds of things." She does not say this lightly. Raised in a house with mom as a homemaker, Vivian's parents, nevertheless, had equally high expectations for both their daughters and son. "It was assumed that I would have a career. Expectations we set for our children matter," she says.Realistically, Vivian does not subscribe to the idea of the 'superwoman.' "That's the biggest myth in all of America: You can't do it all. You can't have a successful career, AND raise your kids AND have a picture-perfect house AND bake fresh cookies AND have a romantic life." She also struggles with guilt and knows she's given up some of the rewards of motherhood, but admits, "I like working and am a workaholic, but I don't put in long hours in the office. It's not that I've checked out after 6 pm, it's just that I'd rather be home." As necessary, she deals with work issues after dinner. She is also up early, gets the kids off to school and is then back on the computer. Her husband (TV producer Phillip Frank) works out of the home. Yes, she agrees her life is profoundly and radically different than the one she was raised in. "That's all I knew growing up and it felt normal, but to my kids, the dynamics of our family feels normal to them." she says.

Becoming a normal setting for Vivian Schiller is the move she made a year ago from NYTIMES.com to radio and from a commercial to a not-for-profit environment. It's a move she seems to be very comfortable with as she looks towards setting a strategic direction for her organization and the 26 million listeners behind it. The focus, she outlines is to: grow their national/international output; work with stations to grow their capacity to do local news; and be available to their audience on any platform they want—iPhone, mobile phone, website, etc. It's a matter of trying different models, she says and coming up with new ideas to incubate. Being dependent on listener's contributions is also a challenge that Vivian enjoys: "We're not trying to make money for shareholders, but at the end of the day we need to make money to put back into what we deliver."

With all the uncertainty and stresses of her professional life, it was very refreshing to see how Vivian comfortably moved between being President/CEO and mom. We asked for her top tips on parenting and without a moment's hesitation she listed them:

1. Give yourself a break about what you should or shouldn't do. You're not ruining your children. Obviously, kids need someone, but get rid of the idea of what a mom 'should be.' My husband and I came up with a model and it constantly evolves. Keep adapting.

2. Try to keep a sense of humor.

3. Don't worry about the house or car being clean. You can't be a working mom and a control freak. I don't have time and it's not that important.

4. Believe in E-commerce. Order everything online.

5. Use a Nanny Cam (Note: When her children were young, Vivian and her husband discovered that their nanny was verbally abusing them.) I always tell people, "How great if you look at the video and catch your nanny being wonderful."

6. Depend on and use the network of your neighborhood. We all need to help each other out. One thing is for certain; if this doesn't work Vivian will try other options, but for now she has successfully found her way both as the modern mom of two beautiful kids and the President/CEO of NPR.

To read more about Vivian and her Q&A click here.