WAMU 88.5 general manager takes new position

WAMU 88.5’s airwaves will be under new management in January when General Manager Caryn Mathes leaves the public radio station.

After more than eight years as general manager at the AU-owned radio station, Mathes will move to the general manager position in Seattle public radio’s KUOW. Cary Needham, the Senior Director of Business Operations at the station, will become interim general manager while WAMU 88.5 launches a national search for a replacement.

Mathes became general manager at WAMU 88.5 at a tumultuous time. Mathes’ predecessor had operated in a deficit for the past three years and had depleted the reserves by $4 million, The Eagle reported in January 2005.

However, Mathes reversed the downward financial trend during her tenure, expanding WAMU 88.5 into a $22 million operation from $9 million in 2005 and increasing the station’s base of individual contributors by more than 50 percent, according to WAMU.org.

WAMU 88.5 moved into a new, larger office at 4401 Connecticut Avenue this semester and increased its radio services over analog radio, HD radio and online streams, according to a WAMU article about Mathes’ departure.

Mathes was originally approached by KUOW to be a consultant and help the Seattle-based public radio organization find a new general manager and president. After presenting her findings, the KUOW offered Mathes the position in Seattle’s NPR-member station.

Originally reluctant, Mathes said the excitement of working in a new market with a young and diverse constituency of listeners changed her mind.

“I think we’ll [KUOW] have the opportunity to experiment with some new kinds of programming for public radio so that we can make that pivot from the traditional baby boomer-aged audience to a new audience,” she said.

Another thing that drew her interest was a dedicated board to help in fundraising and governance.

“Its been a great partnership with American University, but the structure there [at KUOW] is with the separate non-profit company,” she said. “I have my own board that I don’t have to share.”


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