Peter Dunn, ’81
January 23, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
Peter Dunn’s arrival at WCBS-TV was a homecoming of sorts. Peter, ’81, is president and general manager* of the CBS flagship station for the network for which his father worked decades before.
“That’s the job my mom always wanted for me,” Peter says, noting that he has childhood memories of coming to work with his father, who was an engineer at the station. “I feel like I grew up at CBS.”
The journey home took longer than expected, however. Peter had contacted WCBS’s general sales manager shortly after graduating from Niagara’s communication studies program, but the GSM never returned his call. So Peter took a job at WUTV in Buffalo, then accepted a national sales manager job at WHEC-TV in Rochester and at KATZ-TV in Boston. In 1987, he returned to New York City as an account executive with the ABC Television Network for both ABC Spot Sales and WABC-TV.
“This is where my career really started,” Peter notes.
In 1997, the Long Island native joined WNBC-TV, starting as an account executive and working his way up to executive vice president of sales in eight years for NBC TV Stations Group.
Peter’s career took a slight turn in 2004 when he was hired to oversee the operations of CBS’s Philadelphia duopoly KYW-TV and WPSG-TV. Under his leadership as president and general manager, KYW became one of the fastest-growing stations in the country. This success led to his position as head of WCBS-TV’s flagship station, which jumped in the ratings to the number two spot under Peter’s watch.
While his focus is on growing ratings and offering new ways to deliver news (in 2008, the station launched a partnership with local blogs and social media sites serving metro New York to offer embeddable news widgets), Peter is also committed to enhancing the station’s community-service efforts. WCBS is one of the local presenting media sponsors for the annual Susan G. Komen New York City Race for the Cure 5K Run/Walk each year, and Peter encourages all staff members to participate in a variety of charitable events.
“We really have a focus on the community at our station,” Peter says. “We do so much and that is what separates us from the other stations and the national cable networks. I think that if you don’t do it, you miss out on both a business and a personal level.”
Peter is equally committed to his employees, who share his passion for the work that they do. He says that his leadership style is inspired by the xperience he had at Niagara, where people were treated with respect. Peter extends that respect to his team and facilitates an environment where information is shared among all members.
“There’s nothing better than having a great team and learning from one another,” he says.
Peter also enjoys the opportunity to mentor others, noting that much of his success is due to the mentoring relationships he had with his colleagues. “I was very fortunate to work with some great people,” he notes.
In summer 2009, Peter helped several Niagara University students obtain competitive internships with his network, and is now working with the communications studies department to make these internships an ongoing opportunity.
“Based on my experiences, I knew that the four students we hosted this summer at CBS would be well-rounded and well-schooled,” Peter says. “I hoped to provide them with real-life experiences that would complement their curriculum at Niagara and give them a competitive edge in this all-too-tight job market. Students today need every advantage to help break through and succeed. It was a pleasure to be able to provide that opportunity.”
*In November 2009, Peter Dunn was named president of CBS Television Stations. In this position, he will oversee the network’s 29-station portfolio.