© 2022 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

WKAR's new interim general manager says focus is on increasing access, engagement

headshot of Shawn Turner, wearing a suit.
Courtesy
/
WKAR-MSU
Shawn Turner is WKAR's interim general manager and director of broadcasting

WKAR is saying goodbye Friday to its general manager and director of broadcasting Susi Elkins as she leaves the organization to take a position with the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

Shawn Turner is stepping in to serve as our interim general manager.

He is a professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU and a national security communication analyst for CNN.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke to him about continuing Susi's work and how he sees the future of the organization.

Interview Highlights

On his first reaction to being asked to lead WKAR

When I was approached about stepping into the leadership position, I initially said, you know, "Let me think about this for a little while." And I wanted to do that because since I've been here at MSU, I've gotten to know Susi. I've gotten to know the team that she's built, and my apprehension was based on the fact that she has been here at WKAR for more than 25 years. She worked her way up in the station to lead a team that has just been phenomenal in my experience working with them. And so, I needed to take a deep breath and think about what it means to step in and to try to hold the reins while Susi moves on.

On what's in store in the immediate future of WKAR

It's my objective to continue to help the station be a part of the fabric of the community and to give the team here, the space that they need to continue to do the great work that they're doing. We've got some great work coming up here, where as we come out of COVID, WKAR is getting back out into the community. I think, like everyone, there's this sort of COVID fatigue, but we're going to be out this summer, doing a number of events that I'm particularly excited about.

On looking forward to how WKAR can further serve its audience

I think about the future of WKAR, what I'm thinking about is how we continue to lead through a digital transformation. We know that the people who love WKAR, many of them are traditional people. They love turning on the television and getting their programming over the air. They love turning on the radio and listening to their programming there. But we also know that, as we look to grow our audience and continue to demonstrate our relevance in the community, we know that we need to provide more ways for people to get access to our content.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: We are saying goodbye to our general manager and director of broadcasting Susi Elkins this week as she leaves us to take a position with the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

We will miss her, but we’re also excited to have Shawn Turner step in as our interim general manager.

He is a professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU and a national security communication analyst for CNN.

He joins me now. Thank you for being here.

Shawn Turner: Great to be with you.

Saliby: Can you tell me about how you felt when you were first asked to step into this leadership position?

Turner: When I was approached about stepping into the leadership position, I initially said, you know, "Let me think about this for a little while." And I wanted to do that because since I've been here at MSU, I've gotten to know Susi. I've gotten to know the team that she's built, and my apprehension was based on the fact that she has been here at WKAR for more than 25 years.

I look forward to continuing some of the great work that Susi has been doing.

She worked her way up in the station to lead a team that has just been phenomenal in my experience working with them. And so, I needed to take a deep breath and think about what it means to step in and to try to hold the reins while Susi moves on. But in the end, look, I think it's an honor for me to be able to step in and take this position. And, look, I look forward to continuing some of the great work that Susi has been doing.

Saliby: And, I guess, is there anything specific from Susi's leadership of the organization that you want to continue on?

Turner: In her time here, Susi has built a team that really understands the important role of public media in the lives of those we serve, and a team that's really passionate about the work they do. And I think that it's because of her leadership that this station is truly part of the fabric of this community.

It's my objective to continue to help the station be a part of the fabric of the community and to give the team here, the space that they need to continue to do the great work that they're doing. We've got some great work coming up here, where as we come out of COVID, WKAR is getting back out into the community. I think, like everyone, there's this sort of COVID fatigue, but we're going to be out this summer, doing a number of events that I'm particularly excited about.

We've got some great work coming up here, where as we come out of COVID, WKAR is getting back out into the community.

You know, one of them is our Director of Education Robin Pizzo, she's going to be leading a summer library tour this summer. She's going to be going to libraries around Greater Lansing with, you know, the opportunity for people to really get to know the resources that are available at those libraries. So, a lot of great things coming up. Susi has been working on some really phenomenal projects here, and, you know, our objective is just to continue to do the great work that she's been doing in this community.

Saliby: How do you think your background as a professor, as well as a national security communication analyst will help you lead WKAR?

Turner: I think that leadership experience matters, and that's one of the reasons I think Susi was so great at this job. I come into this position recognizing that good leaders make good leaders, and that's why this organization is running so well.

I do bring a different perspective, having worked in government and been in the military for a long time and having been a part of this community for the last several years.

My background is one in which I will be able to continue to support the people who are doing the work that they need to do. I do bring a different perspective, having worked in government and been in the military for a long time and having been a part of this community for the last several years.

And I think that as Susi moves on, that perspective, will only help me, will only help this team think about some of the innovative things that we need to do as we move public media, move WKAR forward.

Saliby: Looking ahead, WKAR is celebrating 100 years of service a little later this year. Where do you see the future of the station, of the organization in general?

Turner: I just came back from the General Managers' meeting in Washington D.C. It was a great opportunity to really think about the future of not only WKAR but public media in general. We spent a lot of time talking about how the public media landscape is changing, and the need to respond to the fact that our listeners, our viewers, they love what we're doing, but they are interested in getting their content in different ways.

As I think about the future of WKAR, what I'm thinking about is how we continue to lead through a digital transformation.

They're interested in more options with regards to the way they see and hear the great programming that we provide. And so, as I think about the future of WKAR, what I'm thinking about is how we continue to lead through a digital transformation.

We know that the people who love WKAR, many of them are traditional people. They love turning on the television and getting their programming over the air. They love turning on the radio and listening to their programming there.

But we also know that, as we look to grow our audience and continue to demonstrate our relevance in the community, we know that we need to provide more ways for people to get access to our content. So, I think that's what the future holds for us. It's what we're going to focus on it.

And even as I say that, I think it's important to note that we will never abandon those people who enjoy getting their content through those traditional means, but what we will look to do is to provide more options. We've got some exciting things that we're working on here with regard to next generation television and ways for people to better engage with the content that they're viewing and that they're hearing.

But we're also going to look at a number of other innovative ways to bring additional content to people through digital means.

Saliby: Shawn Turner is WKAR's interim general manager and director of broadcasting. Thank you for joining me.

Turner: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
News from WKAR will never be behind a paywall. Ever. We need your help to keep our coverage free for everyone. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. You can support our journalism for as little as $5. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.