WMNF announces new GM hire

click to enlarge WMNF announces new GM hire - WMNF
WMNF announces new GM hire

Disclosure: This reporter is a former employee of WMNF as well as a longtime listener.

After months of searching, community radio station WMNF 88.5 FM has announced it will be bringing on current WUSF All Things Considered host Craig Kopp as the station's new general manager.

Kopp will be filling the void that opened when the station's board of directors voted to fire Sydney White as manager last June.

Like White, Kopp has an extensive public radio background, particularly with NPR stations, only Kopp's experience lies in news. The station recently cut back substantially on its news programming as a result of its biannual program changes. That cut included the axing of a daily half-hour local news broadcast helmed by Sean Kinane, the station's assistant news and public affairs director, in favor of shorter broadcasts scattered throughout the day, something for which the station has drawn criticism.

During yesterday's [email protected] program, Kinane asked Michael Bagby, president of the station's board of directors, what having a more news-oriented general manager means for the station's programming.

“Well, we just went through a period of program changes where we rearrange some things for our programming, of course, with news and public affairs programming. And every time we go through that it upsets people and rightly so; if you're used to hearing certain shows at certain times. And one of the issues was it looks like we're cutting back. And we really wanted to say something with this hire that we are committed to news. We think our news team, including yourself, needs to expand and needs to really get out there and cover the local scene and that's what Craig is going to bring to the station. And that's what he is clearly communicated to us that we really have to emphasize who we are locally and what's going on here locally.”

Anyone who's been involved with the station knows of its progressive message as well as its eclectic musical programming, but also the passionate disagreement among some over how the station should be run. Pieces of that debate can be seen all over social media and in Web comments on news stories about the station. Such drama is understandable for an organization run largely by volunteers with a small staff, one that gets the bulk of its sparse funding from listener donations and has struggled some in recent years.

With all the disagreement, the station has gone through two general managers in the past six years. In 2011, Jim Bennett left amid a tumultuous relationship with the board. Then White was fired after two years on the job.

Bagby told Kinane that Kopp appears to be in it for the long haul.

"[H]e's really committed to the sense that this station needs to reaffirm who we are and to remind ourselves who we are and to raise the level of our professionalism. Of course, the other people — the other station managers, the general managers who were here — when they were hired the same was thought; that they were going to really be the right fit for the station. And for one reason or another — whoever's fault or maybe no fault at all — there just wasn't a good fit. And hopefully this time it will be. And the station is going to be a beacon in this area and beyond to what community radio can really be.”

Kopp will be leaving his post at WUSF, and is scheduled to start his new gig March 2.

On a personal note, as a former WMNF staffer and public radio-phile, I wish Kopp and the station— staff and volunteers — the best of luck as they power through what is a tough environment for all media, especially for indie outlets.

Go get 'em!

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