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In NFCB’s September newsletter, we interviewed Timothy Lynch. Timothy is the Executive Director at KALX in Berkeley, California.

Interviewed by Lisa Kettyle, NFCB’s former Program Director. 

Lisa: How did you get started in community radio?

Tim: I got started in college radio back in the day on WONY in upstate NY and fell in love with it immediately. We had a huge record library and a lot of freedom to do free-form radio. I love music and took to it like a duck to water. It was just a journey of discovery.

L: How did your career progress to bring you here?

T: I had two parallel paths in my life. One of them I became a campus venue manager here. I came to do a grad degree. I liked college so much I stayed in, the same way I did with radio. I got a master’s degree at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and became the student general manager at the station there. Then I moved back to the University of California – Berkeley (Cal) for a grad degree in history. I also started writing about music. I just love to share music with people.

I was doing college administration and events, and that led to a management role. When the manager here at KALX retired after 34 years, I realized I had this one shot to bring the two parts of my life together. I feel really lucky that my vocation and my avocation are now the same thing.

L: What’s going on at your station these days?

T: It’s recruitment time. Every semester, we start recruiting new students. It’s really exciting to share the joy of radio that I first experienced with a whole batch of new students. We just started an internship for credit where we’ll be teaching students how to produce a public affairs program. A lot of KALX volunteers have gone on to professional careers in the industry. They’ll be doing some guest speaking for us and the interns will learn how to do interviews, how to use the equipment in the station, and we’ll see what comes out of it.

I’m also pretty excited that one of our public affairs shows just earned two different nominations for the College Broadcaster Inc. Awards for Best Documentary. The nominated pieces are the “Ohlone Land Episode” and “The Health of The Internet.”

L: Is KALX live 24/7?

T: No, we are live from 7am to 1am. After the pandemic, we’ve been airing recordings of shows that aired at different times during the day. When I got my start in college radio, you had to do the 3-6 in the morning slot. I don’t feel like that’s fair to students. They’re students first and foremost, right?

Honestly, the beginning of this semester is the first time it feels like the pre-pandemic era on campus and around the station.

L: What is it that makes it feel that way this year, as opposed to the last two?

T: In the last couple of years, I think people were very tentative. There was still a lot of hybrid or just plain old remote. There is a lot more in-person stuff going on now than there was. I think there’s generally more excitement and interest in being back together as people, perhaps less fear.

L: How long have you been the general manager there?

T: I started on October 1 of last year, so not quite 11 months.

L: What advice would you give yourself a year ago for this role?

T: I’d tell myself to do what I’ve been doing. I spent the first bunch of time listening to my team, not touching a thing, and asking, “How does this work? How have you been doing?” They’ve been successful for over 60 years now. We have a long tradition here. I listened to our team and how they wanted to do things and what changes they might like. Since I’m older, I see retirement on the horizon. I’ve approached this job in a way I’ve never done. If I’m here for five years, that’s less than 250 weeks. I’m approaching this job as each week, what am I doing to try and leave the station a little bit better than I found it. Now I’m trying to implement some things that I’ve learned. Because I can see the endpoint, there’s a certain amount of focus that I’m able to bring to the job that I don’t think I had in any of my previous roles.

L: What are you reading or listening to these days?

I’ve been reading books and watching films from Berkley’s summer reading list that they suggest for incoming students every year. One of them this year is a film called Crip Camp that I really love. I’m the parent of a wheelchair-using disabled daughter. That means a lot to me, that film, and it meant a lot to her, too. There’s another book on the list of a former mentor of mine – it’s her memoir. Her name is Evangeline Canonizado Buell and the book is called 25 Chickens and a Pig for a Bride. She’s a Filipina immigrant, and at one point, a Filipino farmer offered her father 25 chickens and a pig for her hand in marriage. Luckily, she and her father both had greater ambitions for her life than that. The memoir is fascinating.