Springfield Journal Register

December 11, 2006

City native named C-SPAN co-president


WASHINGTON - Rob Kennedy, a Springfield native, has been named co-president of C-SPAN, the public affairs cable television network based here.

Kennedy, 50, who graduated from Springfield High School in 1974, said his childhood years in the state capital fueled his love of politics and history.

"Looking back, I think that's one of the reasons that C-SPAN is such a good fit for me," Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

The announcement of Kennedy's promotion to co-president, along with Susan Swain, was made last week by C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, who will continue to serve as C-SPAN's chairman and chief executive officer.

"Our board is recognizing these two professionals for the work they already do, while also taking an important step toward an eventual transition to new corporate leadership," Lamb said in a statement issued by C-SPAN.

Kennedy and Swain, 51, will retain their current responsibilities as co-chief operating officers.

The two have worked together for almost two decades and have served as co-chief operating officers since 1995. Kennedy focuses on finance, engineering and technology, and affiliate relations. Swain's responsibilities include programming for C-SPAN'S three TV stations, its radio station and the network's marketing.

C-SPAN, which employs 265 people in Washington, was created by the cable television industry in 1978 and launched its first public affairs channel in 1979. Today, its flagship channel, C-SPAN, can be seen in nearly 91 million cable and satellite homes and worldwide on the Internet.

Kennedy said his interest in business and technology grew out of summers he spent working at his family's business.

Kennedy's grandfather, William Schnirring, started Springfield Electric Supply Co., an electrical supply company headquartered at Ninth Street and Enos Avenue.

His uncle, also named William Schnirring, currently runs the family business, and his brother, John, works there. His mother, Marilyn Kennedy, is retired but still lives in town.

"I've always been interested in engineering and electricity, and I probably got that from my family," he said.

But he also enjoyed the business side, which led him to obtain an MBA. "I still look back at those summers in the warehouse as being formative to seeing how businesses are run and how important people are to everything that's done, and so I think it's all connected," he said.

Kennedy's promotion sets the stage for a smooth transition when Lamb chooses to leave C-SPAN.

"I also think it's an interesting time for C-SPAN, not unlike the early '80s, in that C-SPAN faces a lot of challenges in the future. We have a great foundation and great financial backing from the cable industry, which funds us as a public service," he said.

"But in the future, with the explosion of the Internet and with all of the new technologies that are available to people who want to get their news in different ways - more mobile, more personal ways to get public affairs and news - we have to find a way to make C-SPAN just as relevant ... So, there are a lot of challenges in the future," Kennedy said.

Swain has been an on-air moderator, but Kennedy prefers to stay behind the scenes.

"It's not me. Those who remember me from Springfield High School will remember me as someone who was quiet. They won't be surprised," he said.

They might be surprised to hear he also plays in a blues band.

"I don't sing," he said. "I just sort of stay in the background and try to help keep things running."

Kennedy recalled with a chuckle how he and his younger brother made the front page of The State Journal-Register in the early '60s when they were registering for Butler Elementary School.

The caption was "John and Bobbie Kennedy register for school here," he said.

His younger sister, Janice Kennedy Singer, lives in Dallas.


Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or dori.meinert@copleydc.com.