Profile: Dave Emmert, KCAW

Dave Emmert is a radio host and broadcast professional with stops at WNYC, CBS Radio NY, WFMU, KKXT and KCAW. He fell in love with radio while listening to his Walkman doing his paper route as a kid and just kept on listening. He is also the producer and editor of the Like to Know it: Influencer Radio Podcast and a recent recipient of a national first place award for best special programming from the NFPW. He likes to ride slow mopeds fast in his free time.

What brought you to Sitka?

I have always been fascinated with Alaska. Not only is it immense and diverse in natural beauty but also steeped in culture, tradition, and history. After 10+ years doing big market radio, I was looking for a chance to get back into hands-on community radio — a type of radio that might not be perfect at times, but it is an honest and sincere reflection of the community it serves. It was a chance to get back to my community broadcasting roots. It was also a chance to give back to this kind of radio community that fostered my love for radio that became my career.

What skills do you find most helpful switching between managing content versus managing people?

Active listening is my biggest tool. In a programming sense, it lets me analyse what we are broadcasting but also how and why. As for managing people, we have a ton of smart folks who love radio and love the community, so in recognizing that not everyone is well versed in technology of radio or perhaps the larger operational picture, I make sure that I meet people on their level and actively listen to what they are talking about and respond appropriately, even if that takes a bit of time to get us on the same page.

What about your community makes radio easy, and what about it makes radio challenging?

Under normal circumstances, maintaining a diverse and wonderful celebration of community voices and eclectic music is easy because we have a great group of volunteer programmers who really know their music and are adept as sharing it in unique and fun ways.

And again, under normal circumstances, it can be a challenge to get everyone who wants to be on air, on air. I am constantly fielding calls about folks who want to get involved and get trained but that is a good problem to have in my book.

Take us through a recent workday.

I get to the station around 8am, take my temp at our screening station, put my bags down, wash my hands, and make coffee. I check in with our Morning Edition host and take a look at the rest of the broadcast day.

I have been filling in on our morning show recently, so I check my email for emergencies, and if there aren’t immediate fires that need my attention, I begin to prep my show. From 9:06-10:01 I am in the studio doing my thing. From 10:02 onward is working with volunteers, drinking coffee, answering emails, uploading content, updating existing project materials, more coffee, supporting projects in other depts, airchecking programmers, monitoring the air signal, producing spots for the station and for underwriters, troubleshooting equipment, drinking more coffee, and working on our automation system. Then I wash the coffee pot and get ready to do it again the next day.

What are you most proud of so far?

I am very proud of how the station has been supporting the community during the pandemic. We have a very symbiotic relationship with our listening community and our continued presence on air — both with news and local entertainment — helped keep our listeners informed and helped soothe frayed emotions as we all adapted together. The notes and calls of gratitude have been lovely during this stressful time.

What project have you worked on that you expected would go one way, but turned out differently?

We had a very large fundraising goal last fall, after the state cut all funding to public media. Our community rallied behind us and helped us exceed the goal. I knew we could hit it, but to surpass it was a wonderful end to a big drive.

If you had a theme song for your time as program director, what would it be?

“Can I Kick It?” from A Tribe Called Quest. Because the answer to that question is always: Yes you can. Community stations like KCAW depend on the vibrant creativity and participation of our community — so if you want to be a part of the station, all you have to do is ask. If you have the passion for radio/music/broadcasting and the willingness to learn, I can teach you everything else.

What is something about you that people might never guess?

I rebuild vintage mopeds and two-stroke engines in my spare time.

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