David Wilson, a long-time volunteer and award-winning producer for KGNU, has stepped up to become the new station manager.
After Sam Fuqua left the position in July, KGNU began the search for a replacement. Wilson was appointed to the position in mid-August, and after a brief transition period, officially took over the job on Sept. 17. He's volunteered at the local non-profit station in various capacities since 1995, including positions as interim news director, board member, trainer, news producer and outside counsel for the station. With degrees in mathematics, physics and law, Wilson never imagined he'd end up here.
"It took a while. I never thought I'd be in the world of radio," he said. "I was listening to KGNU and had been a member and was like, 'Oh, they need help with a science show and I have science degree.' I was teaching mathematics at (University of Colorado) at the time. I can write and I slowly started reading news stories. Over time, after I'd learned how to do it and gotten over the nervousness of talking to a microphone and started producing the science show with other volunteers. One thing led to another. I suddenly found myself as a journalist."
In his past work for the station, Wilson has sold his stories to nationally broadcast programs like Pacifica Network News and Alternative Radio, and received awards for documentary production from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Federation for Community Broadcasters.
"He's a classic example of a passionate volunteer that is dedicated to the station's mission and goals in the community," said Barry Gilbert, chairman of the KGNU Board of Directors.
"The idea that he's willing to give up a lucrative career to serve the station really speaks to that. He's really passionate about what the station stands for and what it can do in the community."
At the time he was hired as station manager, Wilson was working as an attorney. Gilbert said the station went through two rounds of hiring before making the decision. Fuqua, whom Wilson calls one of his mentors, didn't expect him to take an interest in the job, but encouraged him when he decided to apply.
"I think one thing that scientists and journalists have in common is curiosity, and Dave was able to take the curiosity of a scientist and shift it into what I think is a rare ability to explain complicated scientific things with a general radio audience," Fuqua said. "And, in the process, he developed a great understanding of radio — both the power of the medium and the inherent challenges."
One of those challenges, Fuqua and Wilson agree, will be to continue reducing the debt KGNU took on when it purchased 1390 AM in 2007. Fuqua helped bring it down to $1.2 million from $4.1 million, and Wilson will continue that work. Other than that, the job will simply be maintaining an audience and encouraging the good work of eight staff members and more than 250 volunteers.
"It's mostly continuing to support the great work that's being done," Wilson said. "I think we've got a great thing going at KGNU after 35 years on the air. We're a really well-developed, strong organization."
Wilson also takes on the ongoing task of appealing to an audience in a digital age — something Fuqua is very familiar with.
"I think all of radio is challenged to maintain and grow the audience in the face of competition from all these other choices for audio on the internet. We don't just compete with 30-odd stations on the broadcast dial in metro Denver, we compete with 30,000 choices on the internet."
First in line for Wilson's attention, though, is KGNU's fall membership campaign. Beginning today, the station will try to raise $200,000 in 12 days. This year, the station is offering up a chance to win a trip to Iceland for new and renewing members.
"It's time we really reach out to the community, not just for the support, but also the input," Wilson said. "I feel fortunate that I'm working with a great community organization and I look forward to continuing this relationship for a long time. I really want to give this my all and really see how I can help with keeping things going."