62. Robert Pennybacker, Hawaii’s “Can Do” Renaissance Man

When I called Robert Pennybacker a “Renaissance Man” during my interview he seemed not to know why I attached the term to him. I can say with some confidence that folks in Robert’s network see him as exactly that. He is a poet, writer, producer, director, traveler, technologist, deep thinker and the very definition of both a specialist and generalist. He is also one of the founders of HIKI NŌ, arguably the most remarkable state student news network on Planet Earth. This is no joke, listeners; I am not engaging in hyperbole. There are lots of student news programs around the nation, but none with the mission and vision, nor the scope and reach of HIKI NŌ. A USC Film School graduate, Robert has driven HIKI NŌ forward for 10 years now, the last year a remarkable pivot during this Covid-19 pandemic. He is the Vice President of Learning Initiatives at PBS Hawai’i, where HIKI NŌ lives.  This program’s impact on kids is simply staggering and today we are going to hear how it was built and what drove Robert to move it forward. Robert Pennybacker’s resume is long and deep. Early on he was a local television marketing director. In late 2000 he started his own advertising/production company called Pennybacker Creative, LLC, then joined PBS Hawaiʻi as Vice President of Creative Services in late 2007. His awards and recognition include the 1984 Regional Emmy Award for Television Promotional Spots; 3 Pele Awards (Hawaii’s ADDY Awards) for excellence in advertising; he oversaw the promotional campaign for one of the most successful network affiliation switches ever (when Hawaii’s NBC affiliate switched to FOX). Robert is an independent filmmaker who has written more than 20 documentaries about life and people in Hawaii. As I wrote earlier, he is a poet and writer. In 2007 he became the Vice President of Creative Services at PBS Hawai’i and oversaw all local programming, on-air promotion, interstitial production, station branding, and the production of on-air fundraising for the station, as well as management of personnel. Robert and I go back pretty far. We played high school football together back in the 70s at Punahou School. He was a tight end, I played center, which makes this moment special for me. As always, our post-production and original theme music is provided by Daniel Gilad at DG Sound Creations. Check out Daniel’s website to learn more, or to book him for your next music gig. If you love these episodes please write us a review and rate us in your favorite podcast store. Stay safe, wear your masks and get vaccinated when it is your turn. And bring kindness and compassion into the world!