This profile originally appeared in the NFCB monthly newsletter. You can subscribe here.
WOWD-LP Station Manager Olivia Randolph came to community radio as a second career. She has a BA in Cultural Anthology, French, and Film Studies from Duke University and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Fulbright Scholar (Anthropology, Brazil 2002), and she’s a radio natural. “I am proud to support our prospering WOWD community as we live out our mission to build bridges and promote understanding. It’s exciting and fulfilling and I love what I hear on Takoma Radio.” In addition, Olivia is co-host of Rise Up, a program for children and families that airs every other Saturday morning at 8am. She lives in Takoma D.C. with her husband and two children.
What first got you into community radio?
I had just moved to Washington D.C., and I read a small notice in our erstwhile local paper that said “do you like Radio?”, promoting a vague meeting about local community radio in our neighborhood. I was interested because I always learn about a new city through its community radio. The meeting was hosted by our future Founder, and I loved the vibrant and diverse people the meeting attracted, so I committed myself to the 5 years it took to get on the air because I loved the people I would meet. Once on the air, I was asked to come on as Development Director (with no experience but a lot of love and commitment), and recently promoted to Station Manager (again, with no experience but with conviction in the significance of our programming).
Take us through an average day managing WOWD.
Our station is tiny, so the few of us on staff work remotely. The days on average involve tuning in, stopping by for quick recordings or other necessary studio-related issues, and a steady stream of correspondence with executive team members, board members, programmers, underwriters and listeners.
What’s your favorite shortcut or hack to get things done at the station?
Myself, our Founder, and our Program Director all live within 500 yards of the station, so if there is something immediate that needs to go on or come off the air and I can’t make it myself, a quick text to Marika or Steve saying, “Can you run over and …?”
How would you have approached being manager differently when you started, if you knew then what you know now?
I’ve had to learn quickly to listen to my gut and trust my instincts, simultaneously wearing a manager’s hat and a listener’s headphones. I’ve been fortunate to have my team’s support to help me gauge whether my instincts are reasonable (team being Founder, PD, programmers, and our magnificent lawyer).
Finish this sentence: The one thing I can’t live without as a manager is…
A genuine love of the station: the programmers and their content.
What has been the most unusual problem you have faced at WOWD, and you did you solve it?
Our studio is street-side, so that we can see the public and they can see us at every moment of the day. We keep the front door locked, however, so when the mail carrier comes everyday they pull and bang on the door because they can see someone inside and they don’t understand that that person is live on the air. The mail carriers seem to change every couple of days so it’s a rotating problem. Our programmers are so kind that they felt responsible to open the door to accept the mail. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware about this because I office remotely. Once I became aware, I arranged with our neighbor business to accept the mail and I put a nice sign on our door for mail carriers and other visitors. Problem solved!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
In training to be a DJ, in case of a technical mistake on-air, we are encouraged to simply acknowledge the mistake or problem, don’t dwell on it or make a big fuss about it, fix the problem, and move on. Onward and upward! I find this applies to most things in life.
How do you relax away from radio duties?
Turn off the radio and close my eyes for 15 minutes.
Any advice you would offer someone interested in managing a station?
Know the programming well beforehand and make sure it’s something you believe in. Even better, get a show on the station so that you can manage with the perspective of a DJ.