It's My Job
Sandra Wasson, General Manager, KALX
02 April 2009
BERKELEY — Sandra Wasson has served for 20 years as the general manager for KALX 90.7 FM, the campus radio station. Her roots in college radio extend back to her own undergrad days as a DJ for the campus station at Rice University. After college, Wasson moved to the Bay Area, volunteering as a producer of live events for a San Francisco radio station. She honed her management skills in a field outside the music industry, then worked in concert promotion and as a publicist before coming to work at Berkeley.
What drew you to the job at KALX?
It was — and is — the perfect combination of two things: It allows me to use my managerial skills in radio, a field I very much enjoy.
What does your job entail?
I'm responsible for the entire operation at KALX, from the human side to the fiscal side.
How many people work at the station?
In addition to my position, there's an operations coordinator, a part-time engineer, and between 200 and 250 volunteers. Not all of them are on the air — many of them work in publicity and promotion or one of the station's other departments, or help maintain the music library.
What are the challenges of depending on volunteers?
There's a high turnover of volunteer staff. A lot of people come through the station, and a small percentage of them actually stay. We constantly have to orient and train new people, whether they're students, community members, or campus staff who volunteer. On the plus side, I get to see lots of new volunteers exposed to radio who learn to love it, whether they are working in sports, DJ'ing, or involved with some other department at the station.
What do you like best about your job?
This is a vibrant media environment, and I get to work with a diverse group of people. I get to see our volunteers grow as leaders and gain media-management skills. It's really satisfying to see people take what they've learned here as volunteers and go on to succeed, whether it's in broadcasting or not.
What's kept you at KALX so long?
Partly I've stayed because I've been able to grow. Of the UC campus station managers, I'm the one most interested in legal issues affecting radio, so I've done the groundwork to understand them and share my research with the group. I've also been on and chaired the Chancellor's Staff Advisory Committee at Berkeley. If I were doing the same things that I did when I first started, I probably wouldn't still be here.
Has being general manager of KALX influenced your listening habits?
They say that as you get older you listen to the music you listened to in your 20s. That's definitely not the case for me. My tastes have changed, because I'm listening to the radio all the time.
What are your current favorite bands?
If you choose one thing, people peg you. However, I will say that I love a wide variety of music — from Cuban son to industrial music.
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