TV exec lauds digitally engaged viewers

John “Jake” Remes ’80, has been president and general manager of Gannett-owned television station KARE 11, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, since 1996, and was named Gannett Manager of the Year in 1998. He joined KARE as an account executive in 1984 and was promoted to national sales manager in 1988. He served as vice president of broadcast from 1994 through 1996. Remes and his wife, Sandy, reside in Edina, Minn. They have a daughter, Britta, at the University of Montana in Missoula and a son, Jake, at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Remes worked with the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota Vikings, and NBC to help bring the 2018 Super Bowl to Minneapolis.

John "Jake" Remes ’80
John “Jake” Remes ’80

Q: How has television successfully adapted to the digital age?
A: The digital age is a booster rocket for engaged viewers. Roughly two-thirds of television viewers watch with some device, like a smartphone or iPad, and are actively engaged in a viewing experience. Passive viewing still exists, but more people enjoy sharing and comparing on social media while watching shows or sporting events. The result is more engagement and higher viewership. Now smart TVs put the whole experience together. Who knows what’s next, but whatever it is will be even more interactive.

Q: What’s the most important thing you learned at Cornell?
A: It’s not just one thing. College years are significant for anyone who enjoys the privilege of a place like Cornell. At that age you are learning who you are as a person, new social scenes, new choices, all the while getting systematic exposure to ideas and thoughts through academic rigor. So it’s not one thing you learned but a full experience that transforms the individual. I will single out one specific class taught by Professor Bill Debbins. It was a political philosophy class on John Rawl’s “Theory of Justice.” Critical concepts from Rawls are a guide for choices in my life and, I always fall back on Rawl’s principles when I have a tough decision to make.

Q: What person on campus had the biggest impact on you?
A: Basketball coach Paul Maaske literally plucked me out of a pickup basketball game before varsity practice and asked why I wasn’t playing for Cornell. Ten minutes later I was introduced in a team meeting as the new guy. I didn’t stick with basketball, but Coach Maaske was also a football coach for wide receivers, where I was eventually able to represent Cornell as an All-American. Coach Maaske believed in me before I believed in me. In my professional life I try to pass along the gift of confidence Paul Maaske gave to me.

Q: What qualities do you most admire in others?
A: Team players. They get that they win when we all win. It is much more gratifying to share success with a team.

Q: If you could go back and tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
A: Same thing I tell my kids in college. Know that life will never be this good again! Seriously, we all get so busy with life, and at age 20 we do not appreciate that you are actually given the time to absorb and learn from the world’s greatest thinkers by professors trained to make you think. Stay open-minded, stay curious, and take it all in.