Tammy Terwelp was hired in September to be the new general manager of KRCC, Colorado College’s public radio station.
A 20-year veteran of public radio, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate’s most recent job was director of content and programming at 90.5 WESA, the NPR member station in Pittsburgh. She also worked at public radio stations in Chicago, Bethlehem, Pa., and Madison, Wis.
She has a fine “radio voice,” although she’s rarely on the air these days. Not surprisingly, she’s also a writer, and she says her interests include “pioneer history, film noir, crafting, hiking and exploring in the mountains.”
Earlier this week, Terwelp talked to the Business Journal at KRCC’s renovated Victorian building on North Weber Street.
Tell us about your background.
I’ve worked in both public television and public radio. I found I was more at home with public radio — the ability to experiment more and just the raw human-ness of audio storytelling keeps pulling me back. I’ve worked at Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, at Lehigh Valley PBS in Pennsylvania, at WTTW PBS in Chicago and I’ve spent the bulk of my career at WBEZ in Chicago, before heading east to the NPR station WESA in Pittsburgh for four years.
How did you come to take the job at KRCC?
I was the program director at WESA in Pittsburgh and I learned of this opportunity. [It was] my dream job, I could hardly believe it. I am a native Coloradan at heart — traveling here every year for the past decade. The mountains truly are my home and to lead a great public radio station from great to astounding was my dream come true. The experience I’ve gained in programming, news, operations and systems as well as my experience starting up WESA (a new full-time NPR station) really gave me the background and cool-headedness needed to execute a vision for a station like KRCC.
Challenges and opportunities?
The challenge is managing our growth because there are so many opportunities for us to serve the community. The excitement of working to expand our news coverage and start new programs is great, but we have to plan and make smart choices.
Nonprofits all have financial challenges — tell us about KRCC’s financial concerns.
The challenge is staying relevant to people so they value and support us. There are so many things competing for our listeners’ and users’ attention like social media and streaming video — not just other radio stations. We want to continue to bring in new members while showing our long-time members we are being fiscally responsible, yet continually advancing and even leading the way to keep public radio strong. Public radio’s audience in general is aging, and we aren’t adding enough new younger members to make up the gap. I think the biggest challenge is how to attract the younger members; they want more than just $10 a month coming out of their bank account. They want to be involved.
Tell us about your plans to move KRCC forward.
We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the staff here is wonderful and willing to roll up their sleeves. Right now we are concentrating on systems and operations, and shoring up our membership strategies so we can streamline the processes so more money can go to programming. We are looking at new ways to involve people with what we do and examining different membership models. The on-air pledge drives are still the most effective and efficient way to fund-raise, but I would love to cut them down even more than we have. I want to expand our news department and have specialized reporting. I see us partnering more with NPR providing strong national content for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Our program, Wish We Were Here, is a great example of how long-form storytelling can grow and stay strong and relevant.
What’s to like/not to like about Colorado Springs?
To be honest, some friends of mine in Denver nearly talked me out of even interviewing for this position because of how “bad” the Springs is. I came out here anyway and fell in love. I love it here. People are very friendly, and I love the mix of views and opinions. The pace is a little slower than I’m used to but that’s OK. I’m learning to stop and gaze at the mountains, and take a breath and feel the sun on my face.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to hike and explore. I have a 12 year-old, one-eyed lab that still wants to truck up the hills and she keeps me going. My fiancé and I like movies a lot though I have to admit we’ve become more of the consume-an-entire-season-of-a-show-on-Netflix people. I also am fascinated with podcasts and how that business model is turning out. I consume a lot of audio content — but that is probably to be expected.