We’ve stolen two shifts away from satellite.
What got you started in radio? I’d just finished my freshman year, and one of the girls on my floor was taking Intro to Radio, and she said, “You talk a lot, you’d be good at it.” And I did, and that was it.
At the end of my sophomore year, one of the guys who had already graduated told me to go work at his station across town, because they pay you! I said pay me, really? I interviewed, and suddenly I was working 6 – midnight, Monday – Friday, plus one or two of weekend shifts every month, while I was still going to college. After about a year and a half, it was just too much, so I quit that station, and then went to another station to just do weekends and fill-ins.
I’d go to work, and go to a city council meeting for the news person, and then I’d go to school the next day and learn how to write a news story. Sometimes it was a little backwards, and I learned the hard way!
What’s your name? Kathy Lepak. But on-air, I’m Kathy Lynn. When I was going to school, the instructor advised all of the women to use a different name. We were walking back and forth from campus … I was walking 3 miles to my job at KKBJ. When you’re doing the 6 to midnight show and people know when you get off work, it just felt safer.
You walked 3 miles to work, in the snow? Yes. Every now and then I’d splurge and get a taxi. I was just a poor college kid. A taxi was $5 one way. I’d be damned if I was going to spend 5 of my dollars, when I was only earning $2.65 an hour. One Christmas Day, I was walking to do my shift, and I got halfway there in 3’ of snow, trudging in my Uggs, and the taxi pulled over and told me he’d drive me the rest of the way for free. Best ride ever!
You’ve done news and music … what took you in those directions? Openings … whatever was open at the time. “We need a news person, we were hoping you’d be interested…” I was willing to try something different, but then I went back on-air when another position opened up.
But it’s working on-air that I really love. You know how listening to a piece of music can transport you back to a certain place and time? Well, I try to do that for my audience while we listen to the music together. Even if it’s a song you’ve heard a thousand times, I hope to bring you a new way to look at the song or the artist.
Who have your radio heroes been? Roger Erickson, who was with WCCO/Minneapolis for many years. Loved his conversational tone … my parents woke up to him every morning. WCCO was known as “The Good Neighbor” at the time. He would be a relaxed delivery, “Hey, I’m your buddy, I’m here, what do you want to talk about today.” It wasn’t “MR DJ VOICE.” Dan O’Day is someone I follow; I read everything he writes. I have 6 years of his stuff on CD.
Everything I do here, I do for our owner, Jim Lamke. Jim has an amazing vision of where he wants the station to go. When he asked if we could find a way to do a live shift on our FM, I said we could. When he asked if we could take a second shift away from the satellite, we found a way to do that too. So, I’m just making his vision happen. And, as our on-air team gains experience, many of the things I do now will be redistributed. They’re a great bunch and I’m very proud of all of them.
How long have you been there? 17 years. Our morning guy just celebrated his 25th anniversary, and our traffic director/receptionist has been here 42 years.
4 months ago, we took our FM live half time. It used to be a turnkey, put in the right liners, make sure the right announcers are on, scope the logs as needed, but then we were able to snake the 10-3 live, and then we also added our evening guy, who’s on the AM, now he has an FM shift 7-10pm, and he voice tracks that all before he can get on. So we’ve stolen two shifts away from satellite, and I’m very proud of that.
How did you bond with your listeners? You have to get out! Whether it’s at station-sponsored events, or a walk-a-thon, get out. Be a part of the community. I’ve been in news and other departments at the station … so people know me. I’ve been in production, and you introduce yourself when people come in to record an ad. Introduce yourself. Create a relationship.
You’ve been at the station a long time. What do you enjoy in the community? Our annual spring home show is my favorite. We sit behind a table and say hi to everybody. It’s a spring thaw thing. You hear the ice crack, and everybody goes, “Thank God, it’s over!” and then everyone comes to our home show to say hi. You’re there 7 hours and you have time for conversation.
Your stations have a lot of moving parts – you’re simultaneously on air on 2 stations! How do you make that work? You’ve got to be organized. There are only so many production rooms. As management, I want to make sure that the people I work with have what they need to do their job, and I get mine done in between.
Our staff has to be choreographed. So, it’s 2 minutes to 10, and I’m done. Tim comes in. At 11, Tim’s done and Michael’s waiting at the door to get in. Everything has to be scheduled. We’re at our limit for time.
One of the nicest things today is email & the internet. Years ago, when a client would come into the station to do their commercial, we’d record them on reel-to-reel, and then our sales rep would reach out to the other station the spot had to run on, and then our rep would drive half of the way to the other station, and the other rep would drive half of the way, and they’d meet in the middle at a gas station parking lot and trade reels. The internet has made that obsolete, thankfully!
You’re doing 9 hour on air. How do you stay sane? I have cue cards. You get done with a minute and a half bit, and you’re just about to send it back to a Maroon 5, and for a split second you have to look up around you to see what room you’re in. I have a little cue card in front of me with the call letters to remind me where I am.
HD? No. No plans.
Streaming? Yes, both station’s streams are on their websites. It’s a tricky situation. Our FM was satellite half of the time anyway, so we only had to worry about the live hours. It is a little tricky now with the insertion software we all have. I certainly hope, and I know every other broadcaster is hoping as well, that eventually stations will be able to come to some kind of agreement with AFTRA and SAG regarding commercials.
Social Media? Sure. We use Facebook, with updates on local news, weather and events. It’s a challenge, though, since our staff is about half of what we had 7 years ago. We promo some of the weekend shows, and let people know what we’re doing on the station. We tried twitter, and our audience really wasn’t interested. We tried to push election results … but the audience just turned to the radio.
What do you do outside of the office? What’s fun? I sew. I’m working on the family tree … I’m up to about 4,000 relatives now, back 6 generations. I have 2 dogs; just adopted a rescue about 3 months ago. I collect radio things.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? Do anything & everything you can. Learn everything. If someone says they have a buddy working at a different station … go there, and learn how their systems work. Find out what everybody does, and find out what your niche is.