2015 Gold Circle Inductee John Givens


How to thrive in television: Bury your ego and embrace the collective process. First, try for one week to write all your emails without using the pronoun I. The rewards: great process and great product.”

John Givens’ career in public television spans more than a half-century. For over 40 years, he’s held the reins as producer, executive producer and CEO, largely with Small World Productions (SWP), a company he founded with two business partners in 1984. Its mission is to make travel programs for public television, encouraging independent travel, and driven by globetrotting, inspiring hosts

John and the SWP team have created 166 travel-related episodes and specials released by KCTS, OPB and American Public Television (APT) to more than 1100 PBS channels nationwide. Small World’s work includes: 65 half-hours of Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa, the original 52 episodes of Travels in Europe with Rick Steves, 12 Adventures with Purpose one-hour documentaries plus series with Tom Bodett and with Shari Belafonte. SWP has also published more than 100 DVDs and videos and operates three travel websites based on the series.

Throughout his career, John has been dedicated to training and mentoring young producers, editors, videographers and talent. Before co-founding SWP, John had years of “learning the ropes” in an earlier world of television.

His TV career began in high school in 1960 as part-time TV studio manager at Clover Park Vocational Institute. Over the years, John taught television production and mentored students as a staff director at KPEC (KCPQ), as a senior producer/director at KCTS, and as executive producer and director of information at KTPS (KBTC). John also worked as a senior media producer at the University of Washington while building Small World in his spare time. During his ten years at UWTV he continued to train and guide student crews. In the 1990s John served two terms on the NATAS Northwest board.

Some favorite shows he produced for KCTS include interviews with Jimmy Carter, Carol Channing, Tom Wolfe, P.D. James, Dixie Lee Ray, Julia Child and Dave Brubeck. In 1980 he oversaw reporters, photographers and technicians to produce a nightly half-hour statewide news broadcast on the Washington State Legislature session. In addition, John was the executive producer for the original 39 episodes of The Frugal Gourmet series, and for projects with state and national arts and humanities commissions.

Especially inspiring are kudos from television peers. Awards for John include: an APT Most Valuable Producer Award and two APT Programming Excellence Awards. Shows he produced or directed have received seven regional Emmy Awards, seven CINE Golden Eagles, two dozen Telly Awards, three Lowell Thomas Gold Awards for Broadcast Journalism from the Society of American Travel Writers and other awards.

He is still going full speed! John and his SWP colleagues are prepping for a shoot of a new Real Rail Adventures documentary for release in spring 2016. Other Real Rail and Remarkable Travels projects are in the wings. Over the years, John has traveled to 55 countries, many for productions.

John’s wife Ann Conroy has managed the business from the start, including the online stores and fulfillment. Their daughter Sara is production manager for SWP and also works in political consulting in Seattle. Sara’s husband Eric Jensen is a photojournalist for KOMO. Sara and Eric take time away from their regular jobs to shoot SW projects with John. Unless a fierce storm is brewing, John rides his bicycle daily.