MARQUETTE - Evelyn Massaro has returned to her alma mater of Northern Michigan University to serve as station manager of WNMU-FM, Public Radio 90.

After a few months at the helm, she has identified three primary goals: working to remedy signal interference created by the loss of one of the station's translator frequencies; building a more substantial support base of businesses and individuals; and upgrading the station's development and membership tracking software, which is 18 years old.

"Public Radio 90 is already a gem that the region values, but I think there is a lot of untapped potential," Massaro said. "I have some things to learn about the programming aspect licensing, carriage rights, Federal Communications Commission requirements - but it's been going very well. I have a phenomena] staff that is open and receptive to change."

Massaro was a student employee at the station while enrolled at NMU. The Flint native helped in the traffic department and had on-air duties Sunday afternoons and during late-night jazz programs. Around the time she graduated, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced a training grant initiative as a way to recruit more women and minorities for full-time managerial and administrative positions.

"The station applied and was awarded two grants," Massaro explained. "One was for a development position filled by Susan Sherman (who retired last year as station manager). The other enabled me to become promotion director. It's interesting to note that the CPB's investment in women and minority training grants 20 years ago ultimately provided Public Radio 90 with tnvo consecutive station managers."

After a few years as the radio promotion director, Massaro moved down the hall to fill a comparable position for Public TV- 13. She spent nearly a decade as an NNW employee before moving to Florida. Massaro served about nine years as membership manager at WUSF, the National Public Radio affiliate at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She directed pledge drives and special events and managed individual donor gifts under $ 1,000.

"When the opportunity surfaced at Northern, I jumped at it," she added. "I really missed the people and the feeling of community in the Upper Peninsula. Tampa was so big that you just didn't develop the same close-knit circle. We also knew it would be a great place to raise our daughter.”

Massaro and her husband, David, met at NNW. They lived in the same co-ed campus residence hall. The couple moved back to Marquette in time for 3-year-old Anna to experience her first winter.

A week after joining the staff, Massaro hit the ground running by taking part in a Public Radio 90 pledge drive. The station hit its goal on the 5th day. She said the economy has had less impact on listener support than the station's loss of its Marquette translator frequency at 102.3 FM.

Public Radio 90 had operated the translator for nearly 16 years to improve the signal in the local area. But the FCC determined that it had to relinquish the spot when a U.P. commercial station claimed an adjacent frequency on the dial for its primary signal.

"Forty percent of our local membership can't get us without interference unless they listen through cable channel 20 or through a cable radio hookup in their homes," she said. "External antennas improve the sound and are available free of charge from the station. NPR is trying to resolve some of these issues with the FCC. But until there's a ruling, we can't pursue an alternate frequency. Our hands are tied."

Meanwhile, Massaro's attention is focused on making the station more financially independent. She said about half of its funding comes from the university. Public Radio 90 is in the midst of upgrading its software to improve efficiency and service to listeners.

"We have about 3,000 active members who give on an annual basis," Massaro said. "I would like to build a larger support base of businesses and individuals and expand our local presence as much as possible. If the community wants you, they will support you. We have noticed some growth in Escanaba and Houghton, though."

Massaro would like to oin the Development Exchange, an NPR group that pools resources and knowledge from stations across the country. The exchange offers consultants with expertise in smaller markets like Marquette. She said research tools are expensive, so it would be worth about $2,000 per year to cultivate information and tips from other stations that have already done the groundwork.

As for internal changes to complement the on-air programming, Massaro would like to do more with the station's Web site to make it both informative and interactive.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director