WKAR Public Media GM Susi Elkins Accepts Position at Michigan State University Federal Credit Union

Susi Elkins

Susi Elkins, WKAR Public Media General Manager and Director of Broadcasting at Michigan State University, will leave the station to become chief community development officer at Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) in East Lansing.

Elkins, who began her career at WKAR as a student employee and became general manager in 2017, made the announcement April 28 that her last day at WKAR will be Friday, May 27. The senior leadership teams for WKAR and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU are working to select an interim general manager for the station, to be announced very soon.

“I grew up at WKAR and I’m so grateful to all those who nurtured my professional growth with such care and kindness,” said Elkins in a meeting with WKAR staff on April 28. “What a joy it’s been to work with people who truly love their craft. It shines through in everything you do, delighting our members and making my time here incredibly rewarding.”

In collaboration with MSU, Elkins led the effort to launch the first ATSC 3.0 experimental station licensed to a public media organization and established WKAR’s NextGen Media Innovation Lab to accelerate development of public service applications, including the launch of a NextGen TV Course, through the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) Public Media Learns platform.

“Under Susi’s leadership WKAR has become a model community station with a national reputation for quality programming and innovation,” said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “We have made progress on so many fronts with a sense of purpose and a focus on the community. We have accomplished all this under Susi’s watch, guided by her innovative thinking and thoughtful leadership.”

A national search will be conducted to fill the role of general manager and director of broadcasting. WKAR is home to public radio and television for Michigan’s capital region, bringing the best of PBS, PBS KIDS, NPR, classical music, and award-winning original content to more than 500,000 mid-Michigan residents each week.

At MSUFCU, Elkins will work in partnership with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools to achieve the mission and strategic goals of the Credit Union through the leadership of the following divisions: Community Development and Financial Education, Campus 2 Career, Marketing and External Communications, serve as President of Ever Green 3C, a Credit Union Service Organization, and serve as the President of the Credit Union foundation, Desk Drawer Fund (DDF).

Under Elkins’ leadership, WKAR established a strategic plan focused on expanding, diversifying, and engaging audiences. Elkins also played a key role in the launch of the statewide educational channel, Michigan Learning Channel; led the launch of a new WKAR News/Talk FM station for the capital region; and strengthened local news coverage with an emphasis on education and public affairs reporting.

During Elkins’ tenure, WKAR has established and fully funded three endowments to support experiential learning opportunities for students, education services, and original content creation, and created WKAR Family, an initiative powered by MSU early childhood education research. Elkins also launched programming initiatives including Curious Crew, Curious About Careers, and WKAR Digital Studios.

Prior to her appointment as WKAR general manager in March 2017, Elkins served in a variety of roles at the station, including interim director, television station manager, content and community engagement manager, public television producer and instructional television multi-media producer. Elkins first worked for WKAR as a student while attending Michigan State University.

Elkins holds a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication and a master’s degree in educational technology, both from MSU.

Winners Announced in 2021 MAPME Broadcast Contest

The annual Michigan Associated Press Media Editors broadcast competition has announced winners in the 2021 Michigan APME awards.

In the broadcast category, General Excellence awards for 2021 went to WDIV-TV (Detroit), WDET-FM (Detroit) and WKAR-AM/FM (East Lansing).

Michigan’s Public Radio stations dominated the radio categories in all market sizes.  In television, Michigan’s commercial stations placed in first and second place divisions.

Michigan APME’s “Rising Star” broadcast award went to Megan Schellong of WKAR-AM/FM (East Lansing).

The Traverse City Record Eagle won the First Amendment Award.  The award is present by Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Board to an individual or news organization that made a distinguished contribution during the previous year on behalf of the First Amendment or Freedom of Information. The recipient committed all necessary resources to overcome obstacles on behalf of the unrestricted flow of information vital to a free society. The newspaper won with its entry, ““CAPS Transparency.”

See the complete list of winning entries here.

TAPME is a nonprofit group of newsroom leaders and journalism educators that works closely with the Associated Press to promote journalism excellence. The Michigan chapter of the APME announced the awards on April 21.

WJR Celebrates Its Centennial!

Cumulus Media’s WJR-AM (Detroit) is celebrating its 100th Birthday! On May 4, 1922, the Detroit Free Press newspaper was issued a license, with the randomly assigned call letters of WCX. On August of 1925, the Jewett Radio & Phonograph Company received a license for a new station, WJR. The company also took over WCX, consolidating as WJR-WCX on 580 kHz.

In 1928, as part of a major AM band reorganization, WJR-WCX was assigned as the sole North American occupant of the clear channel frequency of 750 kHz. On December 16, 1928, the station moved from the newspaper’s offices to its current location in the Fisher Building in uptown Detroit, and began identifying as “WJR Detroit, from the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building.” In 1929 the license was transferred to “WJR, Goodwill Station, Inc.”, and on April 22, 1929, “WCX” was formally dropped from the dual call sign, with the station becoming just WJR.  The station increased its power to 50,000 watts in 1935.

A shift from 750 kHz to 760 kHz happened in 1941 as part of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement.

The station is currently presenting online it’s Centennial Celebration! From the debut broadcast at the offices of the Detroit Free Press to it’s current and longtime home atop The Golden Tower of The Fisher Building.

J.P. McCarthy, Jack Parr, Ernie Harwell, Warren Pierce, Frank Beckmann, Mitch Albom, Paul W. Smith, and countless others have all culminated over the years to present our region’s history, heritage and hopes through one Great Voice of The Great Lakes.

The station has set up a web resource for its centennial celebration hereHappy Birthday, WJR!

This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters

David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford,
Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week (4/16-22), with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC this week released a Public Notice announcing that it is soliciting public comment on the recent tests of GeoBroadcast Solution’s zonecasting system, which proposes to allow FM boosters to originate some local programming so an FM broadcaster can provide different commercials or news inserts to different parts of its service area. Comment dates will be announced after this notice is published in the Federal Register (Public Notice). One party, NABAB (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters), wasted no time, meeting with FCC staff to support the deployment of the zonecasting system, arguing that it would give smaller stations a new tool with which to compete in their markets (NABOB ex parte). This position is contrary to that taken by the NAB, which we noted last week.
  • Another presentation on a controversial issue was made to FCC decision-makers last week when the organizations representing the affiliates of the four major television networks asked that the FCC adopt rules to treat for purposes of the retransmission consent rules virtual cable systems delivering multichannel video programming through online platforms like cable and satellite television providers. The affiliates suggested that this would be so that local TV stations can guide retransmission consent negotiations (Affiliates ex parte).  When the FCC 7 years ago last asked for comments on treating online linear video programming providers as MVPDs for purposes of the FCC rules, it noted many issues raised by the proposal, issues we summarized here.
  • The FCC Commissioners this week upheld a Media Bureau decision to grant an application for a new FM translator near San Diego, California after an opposing party filed for review and dismissal of the application. The application was granted after the applicant had been given an opportunity to amend its application to resolve a perceived interference issue.  The FCC determined that applicants in translator windows should be able to amend their applications to non-adjacent channels to resolve interference issues, as long as the applicant specified a new channel that was open in the area that the applicant planned to serve. The FCC also determined that, in allowing such an amendment, the alternative channel must not only have no current stations operating on it, but there cannot be any dismissed applications for new stations on that channel if an appeal of the dismissal is still pending, as resolution of such an appeal could result in the amended translator application having no viable channel. (Order)
  • The FCC resolved another group of mutually exclusive applications filed in last year’s window for new reserved-band noncommercial stations. One of the applicants, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (“SCTCA”) proposed to serve Tribal lands and was tentatively selected to receive the construction permit as the FCC gives a preference to a federally recognized Native American Tribe or Alaska Native Village proposing to serve Tribal land.  In selecting SCTCA, the FCC waived the requirement that, to qualify for the preference, at least 50% of the proposed 60 dBµ contour be comprised of the applicant’s Tribal Lands and that at least 50% of the population covered must be members of the tribes.  Because the tribal areas were so diffuse, and the population of the area so great, the FCC waived the rule on population coverage to allow the numerous small Southern California reservations to receive this tribal service.  (Order)
  • Following last month’s filing of applications that would transfer control of dozens of TEGNA stations to Standard General, the FCC set the pleading cycle deadlines. Interested parties must file comments by May 23, 2022.  Oppositions to those comments are due by June 7, 2022.  Replies to those oppositions are due by June 17, 2022.  (Public Notice)
  • On our Broadcast Law Blog, we provided more context on the FCC’s recent decision determining that a purported write-in candidate for a US Congressional seat was not entitled to reasonable access to buy advertising time for his campaign on a local radio station as the candidate had not made a “substantial showing” of his candidacy entitling his to be treated as a “legally qualified candidate.” (Blog Article)

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access). There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership. 

Longtime Host of African American Inspiration Radio Show in Flint Passes

Bettye Jean Hendricks

Bettye Jean Hendricks, 16-year host of the African American Inspiration radio show on WFLT-AM (Flint), heard on Saturday mornings died peacefully at her home on April 19 at age 74.

In a story in MLive, the publication wrote that Hendricks’ impact on the Flint community is hard to describe because it was shown in so many different ways. Her radio show spoke to people young and old about the positive things happening in and around the Flint community.

“There is usually a lot of negativity when people talk about Flint. Even living in Texas, people say ‘Oh my gosh, you are from Flint,’ her daughter Nikki Rochelle Dorsey said. “But what my mom has been able to do is take that negativity and turn it around. She shared what’s going on in the community and got people more involved.”

Dorsey remembered a specific segment on her mother’s program called “Young & Gifted,” which highlighted young people doing interesting things in the community.

“She was very successful because she was able to reach different audiences,” Dorsey said. “She was able to reach out to different colors and different races and different genders within the community.”

Hendricks used her own money to become the founder of the African American Inspiration show.

She graduated from Flint Central High School in the Class of 1964. Hendricks was born in Louisiana and moved to Flint during her childhood, later studying at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan-Flint.

She was recipient of the Courageous Student Award in 2011, Phi Delta Kappa “Hall of Living Legends” in 2012, Quintin L. Marshall Sr. Lifetime Legacy Award in 2021 and served as a board member of Women in Education Foundation for Mott Community College, according to her obituary, which noted Hendricks’ motto: “To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Required.”

Hendricks is survived by her daughter, Nikki Rochelle Dorsey; son, Gilbert Earl Dorsey II; granddaughter, Briella Eliza Rose Robinson; sisters, Donna Hendricks and Debra Hendricks; brothers, Alvin Hendricks and Cornell Hendricks; and, several other family members and friends.

A full funeral service, viewing and family hour took place on April 22 and 23.

Michigan-Based NEWSnet Announces $50M Investment; New News Director

NEWSnet, the 24/7 news channel with a focus on the headlines, announced on April 22 that it will invest heavily to propel the network forward and provide solutions that better meet the financial needs of broadcasters and carriers. NEWSnet is exhibiting for the first time at the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas this week.

NEWSnet was recently purchased by Manoj Bhargava, founder of 5-hour ENERGY® and the largest shareholder of Gray Television. For NEWSnet, Bhargava has set aside an additional $50 million investment for content creation and production. Founder Eric Wotila remains as president and part owner.  In addition to showcasing its 24/7 news product, NEWSnet will reveal its latest turnkey Weather Report solutions for broadcasters during NAB, an innovative and cost-effective solution to stations’ local weather needs.

  • 24-hour NEWSnet – is available to both over-the-air (OTA) broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), now offers a range of economic solutions that give NEWSnet an edge by offering high quality 24-hour news by using an innovative barter solution.
  • The Weather Report product provides OTA stations with turnkey localized forecasts presented by the network’s weather team, delivered ready-to-air within stations’ newscasts, lowering an OTA station’s weather costs.
  • Custom Newsroom Solutions – localized newscast solutions for stations that need a cost effective and quality local newscast for any size market.

(L-R) Phil Hendrix, Eric Wotila

Based in Cadillac since its inception, NEWSnet recently began construction of additional studios in Farmington Hills, Michigan with plans to significantly expand its news team.

On April 27, the company announced the hiring of Phil Hendrix as the network’s News Director, Hendrix joins NEWSnet from Black News Channel (BNC), where he served as senior producer. In this new role, Hendrix will lead the news operations of NEWSnet.

“Phil brings years of newsroom experience to NEWSnet,” said Eric Wotila, president of NEWSnet. “He will be an instrumental part of our network’s growth in the coming months.”

Having worked in all levels of television production, Hendrix brings more than 25 years of experience in television news to the team at NEWSnet. Hendrix’s responsibilities include managing the newsroom and helping to maintain NEWSnet’s integrity in covering hard news topics.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to do news the way it should be done,” Hendrix said. “The mantra of ‘news the way it used to be’ rings true to me because I believe in telling people what they need to know, without all of the extras.”

Audacy Detroit Hosts ‘Step up to the Plate’ Radiothon for Detroit PAL

This past Monday (4/25), Audacy-owned stations in Detroit, including WWJ-AM, WXYT-FM, WYCD-FM, WOMC-FM and WDZH-FM aired the 2nd annual Step Up To The Plate Radiothon to benefit PAL, the Detroit Police Athletic League.  PAL supports approximately 10,000 Detroit area kids and160,000 kids since 2007, according to the organization.

So far, the 13-hour Radiothon has raised over $50,000 for the organization and the fundraising continues with an online auction.

PAL Chief Development Officer Monica DeJesus joined WWJ’s Jonathan Carlson live Sunday morning to talk about what PAL means to the community: “Our main focus has always been sports as a hook, teaching the values for on the field, as well as after the field,” DeJesus said.

The non-profit PAL teaches those values through the GREAT model, which stands for Goal setting, Resilience, Embracing a healthy lifestyle, Accountability and Teamwork.


Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame Inducts Five New Members

Beth Konrad

At ceremonies held last Sunday (4/24), the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inducted five new members in it’s 2022 Class, including one Detroit TV and radio journalist:

  • Beth Konrad, Detroit TV and radio journalist and news director; professor and FOIA champion.
  • Robert Ankeny, dogged reporter on Jimmy Hoffa, Orville Hubbard and Kwame Kilpatrick.
  • Greg Dorsett, from Muskegon he elevated the power of photojournalists to tell stories.
  • Marguerite Gahagan, trailblazing Detroit journalist who opened doors for many women.
  • Tim Kiska, newspaperman, author, professor, historian and podcaster.

The Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame was established to recognize those who have advanced the legacy of a free and responsible press and who have elevated journalism in Michigan. Induction memorializes extraordinary and clearly outstanding careers.

Beth Konrad is an award-winning broadcast journalist and journalism/communication academic. Following her first job at WRIF-FM in Detroit, her broadcasting experiences include WDIV-TV (Detroit). Detroit Public Television, ABC network radio in Chicago, and NBC network radio news in San Francisco. Konrad is the recipient of 3 Emmys, the SPJ national award for Distinguished Service in Journalism, the National Headliner Award, several AP awards, among others. Konrad served as the Multi-Media Journalism Program Director and Communication Professor at Loyola University Chicago for 15 years. She retired from that position in December 2016 to return and work in her hometown of Detroit. Today she is an adjunct professor at Wayne State University and is the president of her own communication consulting firm, Konrad Communications, LLC located on East Jefferson in Detroit. She has a long and rich history with SPJ including past president of the Chicago Headline Club (SPJ -Chicago Chapter).

The ceremonies and banquet were held at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.



Melorie Begay Joins WKAR News Team

Melorie Begay

WKAR Public Media has announced the arrival of a new voice delivering trusted and essential information for Michigan’s capital region. Melorie Begay has joined WKAR’s news team as local Weekend Edition host and general assignment reporter.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Melorie to our award-winning news team,” said Karel Vega, WKAR News Editor. “Melorie’s strong community reporting experience showed her to be an instant fit at WKAR. I’m excited for what stories she’ll bring to Greater Lansing.”

Before joining WKAR, Melorie was a multimedia journalist for KLCC-FM in Eugene, Oregon.

WKAR news followers may have already read or heard Begay’s work reporting on the recent Capital City Film Festival.

With Begay adding depth to the news team, Michelle Jokisch Polo will be temporarily stepping away from the Weekend Edition host position to put more time toward the ¿Qué Onda Michigan? weekly podcast and radio feature and Latinx reporting.

Begay recently did a special interview with WKAR’s All Things Considered host Sophia Saliby saying, “I’m most excited to tell stories that are important to folks in mid-Michigan,” said Begay. “I’m interested in telling stories about the environment and how they impact everyday people. I’m also interested in reporting on stories that are hyper local and community centered.”

Melorie Begay has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of New Mexico, where she interned at the local public radio station KUNM.

How to Use Artificial Intelligence to Write Blog Posts (Even If You’re a Radio DJ!)

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Over the past two decades, it’s become apparent to radio stations that creating web content is an effective way to attract website visitors. Unfortunately, while radio personalities are fantastic verbal communicators, they don’t always love the written word. Fortunately, today’s radio DJs have the option of using AI to do a lot of the heavy lifting for them.

For the past several weeks, I have been playing with Jasper AI. Jasper AI is a blogging assistant that helps you write and edit your posts. Jasper uses natural language processing to understand your writing style and content, and provides suggestions on how to improve your blog posts. For example, Jasper can suggest titles for your blog post, suggest related topics to write about, and help you edit your post for grammar and spelling errors. In addition, Jasper AI provides analytics about your blogging activity, such as the number of views and social media shares you receive.

Using AI for Blog Topic Ideas
For me, one of the hardest parts of writing a blog is coming up with topics to write about. Jasper AI comes helps with this by using artificial intelligence to come up with ideas for new articles. All you have to do is enter a few keywords related to your blog topic, and Jasper will generate a list of potential article topics. You can then use Jasper’s “idea explorer” tool to further expand the list of possibilities.

Create an Outline for Your Blog Post
Once you come up with an idea for a blog post, enter a short prompt explaining what you want to write about. Jasper AI will use this prompt to generate a list of related topics and ideas that you can explore in your post. You can then use this list to structure your post, ensuring that all of your main points are covered.

Filling in the Outline
Jasper AI’s Paragraph Generator is an easy way to quickly fill in an outline for a blog post. To use the feature, simply enter the topic of your blog post and the desired length. Then, click on the “Generate” button. The Paragraph Generator will automatically generate a paragraph based on your input. You can then edit the paragraph to fit your needs. Once you are satisfied with the results, copy and paste the paragraph into your blog post. Repeat this process to flesh out the entire blog post outline. With just a few clicks, you can quickly create a well-crafted blog post that is sure to engage your readers.

Finding the Right Tone of Voice

When writing a blog post, it is important to choose a tone of voice that matches the radio station and its audience. Jasper AI’s Tone of Voice feature is designed to help you capture the unique way that your brand speaks. To do this, it analyzes a variety of factors, including the words you use, the sentiment of your content and the overall tone of your communications. For example, if you were to choose “rock and roll” as your brand’s tone of voice, Jasper would analyze your content for clues that suggest a rebellious, edgy attitude. Jasper would determine the overall tone of your communications to see if they reflect the energy and excitement of rock and roll. By taking all of these factors into account, it can help you create a Tone of Voice that is unique to your brand and that will resonant with your audience.

Fact Checking
Jasper AI is not a fact-checker. That means that it cannot verify the accuracy of information for you. However, it can help you organize and find information related to a topic. For example, if you are researching a historical event, Jasper AI can help you find primary sources. It is still up to you to determine whether or not the information in those sources is accurate. This is why it is always important to do your own fact checking. Even if you are using a reliable source, things may have changed since the last time that source was updated. By doing your own fact checking, you can be sure that the information you are using is current and accurate.

Optimizing Blog Posts for Search Engines
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a technique that can be used on a website or blog to improve site visibility amongst search engines. It is important for blogs as it helps the site to appear higher up in results pages when someone uses a search engine, meaning that there is a greater chance that the blog will be seen and read. Good SEO practices can also help to attract organic traffic – that is, visitors who find the site through a search engine without having been specifically directed there through an advertisement or link.

SEO should be an important consideration in any blogging strategy. There are many different factors that contribute to good SEO, but some of the most important include choosing relevant keywords and phrases, optimizing page titles and metadata, and creating fresh and original content. With a little effort, bloggers can significantly improve their chances of success by incorporating SEO into their strategy.

You can easily optimize your blog posts for search engines by integrating Jasper AI with Surfer SEO. First, you need to sign up for a free account with Surfer SEO. Then, you can connect your blog to Jasper AI and start adding content. Surfer SEO will analyze your blog posts and provide suggestions on how to improve your SEO. For example, it may suggest adding certain keywords or phrases, or changing the title or structure of your post. With Jasper AI and Surfer SEO, you can be confident that your blog is optimized for the search engines and that you’re driving traffic to your site.

Checking for Plagiarism
Jasper AI includes a plagiarism checking tool that can quickly scan your blog post and compare it to a database of billions of online documents. If any matches are found, Jasper AI will provide you with a report that includes links to the sources of the plagiarized material. You can then edit your blog post to remove the plagiarized content and avoid any potential penalties.

Learning Jasper AI
While it may seem daunting at first, the learning curve for Jasper AI is actually quite manageable. With a little practice, most users will be able to get started with Jasper within a few hours. The software comes with a number of video tutorials that walk users through the basics of creating and editing AI models. Additionally, there is an active Facebook community that can provide support and answer any questions that users may have.

After using Jasper for a few weeks, I have found that it improves my blogging. I am not spending less time blogging, but I am able to produce more content — and content that is better-suited to search engines — in the same amount of time. Jasper AI doesn’t eliminate the work, but it shifts it: I find that I spend my time reading Jasper’s suggestions, selecting the best and editing them instead of writing from scratch. If your radio station’s staff members need a little extra help getting their blog posts written, artificial intelligence may be the answer.

P.S. — This blog post was written with the help of Jasper AI.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.