Talking Shop with Dan Woods, general manager of radio station KRCU

Monday, July 27, 2009

Southeast Missouri has its fair share of radio stations, one of which is KRCU, a National Public Radio station on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. General manager Dan Woods, born in Neelyville, Mo., in the Bootheel, grew up with a keen interest in communications and learning. He moved to Cape Girardeau to attend Southeast and majored in radio with a minor in political science. Southeast Missouri business reporter Brian Blackwell visited with Woods to learn more about his life and interest in the field of radio.

Q: What is your motivation for getting up in the morning and doing your job?

A: I don't know how everyone else in media feels about their job but for me, in media we have an opportunity to talk to thousands of people on any given day. Radio is a powerful medium and is a constant companion for many. I wake up every day with the goal of KRCU providing quality programming that our listeners expect to be there -- with the best possible quality that we can offer. Anything less than the best isn't good enough. If we do our jobs right, our listeners will never know what we have to do behind the scenes to bring them good radio. It's our job.

Dan Woods, longtime manager at KRCU. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Q: Who has influenced you the most in your life?

A: My mother. It is because of her influence and guidance that I'm the person I am today. The older I get the more I realize what sacrifices she made for me and my siblings and it makes me appreciate the person she is all the more. We are a lot alike and by that I mean she hardly ever misses work. Neither do I. We both will go to work even if we don't feel well and if we do decide to stay home because we're under the weather we feel a little guilty. My mom is the best.

Q: What is one thing most people don't know about you?

A: That I like to sing and what I like about it is that it scares me to death. I think we all get in our comfort zones in our lives and sometimes we need to try something that we want to do but maybe are too scared to do. That is what singing is for me. I have sang a few times with groups at church and I am now doing it again. It's good for all of us to challenge ourselves every now and then and try something new. You never know what may happen.

Q: What other jobs have you held prior to KRCU?

A: Well, my work history revolves a lot around radio and specifically around KRCU. I worked at KRCU for three of my four years as a student while I attended Southeast Missouri State University. Then I headed off to Savannah, Georgia. and worked for almost two years at WSVH radio. I hosted Morning Edition and helped out the station operations. It was a great place to live and work. Then in late 1995, I was back in Cape Girardeau at KRCU and I've been here ever since.

Q: What led to your becoming the head guy at the radio station?

A: I often joke and tell folks that if you stay around long enough, you eventually float to the top of your organization. Seriously, I believe in radio and in public radio. I know that there are thousands of people who value what we do each and every day and I want to be here to make sure the station meets the needs of our region and grows and gets better at the craft of radio. There are always new things that we can do to better serve our listeners and finding out what people are interested in is one of our programming challenges. Our industry is always changing and that is what makes my job a lot of fun?and challenging, too.

Q: What is the best and worst part of your job?

A: The best part of my job is talking with listeners and hearing what they think about KRCU. I love to hear stories about how a couple met because of KRCU or how the station brought them a different perspective that they'd never thought about before. It's very rewarding. I also like to hear listeners tell me when we can do better or that we should cancel one show in favor of another. Knowing what people are thinking is important to me.

The worst part of the job for me is when we have technical problems that can't be quickly corrected. There is never a time when I just ignore a problem or say "it's no big deal." Every technical issue is important and is addressed. Sometimes the issue may require a lot of money to fix and I have to decide if we invest in the fix or leave it alone because it is a minor technical issue. It's tough sometimes.

If you could do anything else in life besides your current job what would that be and why?

I think about this every now and then and I don't really know the answer. I have always thought it would be fun to be a network news anchor. I think it would be a lot of fun to interview major newsmakers and cover elections (cause I love politics). Of course, since I have a face for radio, I'm not sure the TV thing would work. My other job interest would likely involve web site design. I think that would be a lot of fun, too.

How has the radio business changed since your first started working in it?

I have been involved in radio for 18 years now and I have seen a lot of changes. When I started, I used to cut reel to reel tape with a razor blade to make edits. All editing is now done on the computer digitally (it's much easier, too). We used to use carts (they looked like 8 track tapes) for playing promotions and underwriting messages. All of that content is now played back from computer. Everything has moved away from tapes and minidiscs and carts to computer based storage. It all makes our job easier but you have to be good with computers to do a most of the work required in a radio station today. Staying up with the technology is challenging but it's also fun.

I know there have been a few expansion projects along the way. Which one impacted the station the most?

We have had several big project in the past 3 years or so. Adding a repeater station in Farmington, MO was a big deal for us. It allowed KRCU which started out at just 10 watts in 1976 to add another transmitter in another community to reach even more people. Our signal now covers most of the I-55 corridor from South County St. Louis to New Madrid, MO.

But the project that had the biggest impact on KRCU was our studio relocation in 2008. We had long outgrown our studios on the corner of Henderson and Broadway. With the addition of the new residence hall near Houck Stadium, we were given a chance to give KRCU a major face-lift. It says a lot about Southeast Missouri State University's commitment to the region when you come and tour our new studios. The University has always had a strong commitment to public broadcasting and our new studios show that. KRCU works to help extend the university's reach and makes sure that our region has access to NPR news, great music and new ideas.

How difficult is it working for a station that broadcasts NPR, in terms of having sponsorships?

I wouldn't say it's difficult, challenging maybe. I believe that for many years NPR was stereotyped into being a liberal news operation. I don't hear that as much today and I used to. NPR is fairly balanced and does a great job of trying to cover all viewpoints of a story.

I always challenge people to listen for themselves and then judge the content. Don't believe what your neighbor says about KRCU and NPR. Listen to the station and decide for yourself.

Sponsorship opportunities for businesses are available and are different than announcements that our commercial radio friends offer. We don't play jingles, we don't play sound effects on our underwriting announcements (or commercials). They are simply a 15 second announcement telling our listeners about a business that supports KRCU, what products and services they offer and how to reach them. National surveys indicate that 7 out of 10 public radio listeners will support a business that supports public radio. That says a lot about our listeners.

How important is a station like yours that is an NPR station?

Very important. KRCU provides in-depth news coverage from around the globe. You may not always agree with every opinion you hear on the radio but you are a more informed person for having listened and thought about the story. In media today, there are fewer and fewer independent voices and public radio still is that independent voice for many communities around the nation. We are very fortunate to have KRCU in our region offering great programming and with our variety, something for everyone.

KRCU is a resource for the entire community. We offer tours of our facilities and would be glad to show anyone around their public radio station. Just call 651-5070 to schedule a time.

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