Now in its fifth year, our Future African American Leaders in Radio list, as it has in previous years, includes people from every aspect of the business and from all over the country. On the 2017 list you’ll see several trends: Many of the people listed credit their success to having a mentor, many credit their success to a great team that works for them, and many talk about how blessed they are to have advanced in an industry they love.
Every member of this list was nominated by a respected peer and voted on by a panel of experienced managers across the industry. Each nominee was asked to respond to an extensive Radio Ink questionnaire that asked them about their passion for the radio industry, why they chose radio as a career, how they got started, and what advice they could give to others hoping to achieve the status they’ve achieved. Every response is like a new lesson for success in the radio industry. All the individuals on the pages that follow are gifted and respected and have the traits we believe will result in all of them becoming our industry’s next group of leaders.
Radio Ink is pleased and proud to present the 2016 Future African American Leaders in Radio.
Executive Producer/Host of CityViews
1010 WINS AM/New York
Sharon Barnes-Waters produces stories and special features for 1010 WINS radio as host of CityViews. “I look for stories about people, places, and things that make New York great,” she says. Her love of radio began when she worked at her junior college station. “Even after graduating, I kept going back; I simply couldn’t get enough of it.”
1010WINS Dir./News & Programming Ben Mevorach says, “Sharon’s work serves as a constant motivation for striving for excellence, and nowhere is that more evident than in her work as our internship coordinator. Ms. Barnes- Waters spends her free time visiting local colleges, educating, motivating, inspiring, and recruiting the next generation of journalists. She sets the bar for achievement, work ethic, and compassion. Interns who have been fortunate enough to have been mentored by Sharon maintain contact with her long after their internship has ended — a lasting tribute to a remarkable woman.”
Barnes-Waters says she is passionate about the radio industry because of the connection radio has with listeners. “We are literally a part of their lives 24/7, as well as their history,” she says. “We travel with them in their cars, are at their desk at work, and of course at home. When TV went black on 9/11, radio was the only way people found out what was going on. When storms, hurricanes, and blackouts hit, a few batteries are all listeners need to stay connected.”
Barnes-Waters says she’s been successful because she’s always bringing ideas and suggestions to her bosses: “As a result, they have given me the opportunity to do things that were not in my job description, and I just ran with it.” She wants to eventually have her own show about things happening in the African American community; she says, “Producing our Black History Month series each year has shown me there are so many stories that have not been told. With all the negative things we may see, hear, and read in the news, I want to remind our listeners/viewers that ‘we’ have a great and rich history and our contributions to this great country continue every day.”
Director of Sales
Entercom Norfolk, VA
Shaun Buford directs the sales efforts for Entercom’s four-station Norfolk cluster and coaches a sales force of 17 people. Entercom Norfolk Market Manager Bennett Zier says Buford demonstrates great leadership on a consistent basis. “It manifests itself through creativity, innovation, and knowledge,” says Zier. “His instincts for recruiting, training, and retaining top performers is extraordinary. While serving as DOS in two different markets for Entercom over the past five years, Shaun has increased top-line revenue with impressive year-over-year growth. His bigger-thanlife persona and attitude is contagious to all departments of the radio station. He is viewed as a true leader, team player, and conduit to our clients, listeners, and the community.
Buford says he’s been successful because “I build relationships, I build solutions, I execute impactful campaigns. I do not sell.” He goes on, “I coach my team to have the same attitude. To go out each day and solve problems. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. I’ve found that if we can focus on what matters, the rest will fall into place behind that.”
His advice for people new to the business? “I’d coach a radio newbie to be curious,” Buford says. “They’ve got to ask questions of every department, ask questions of business owners, and, perhaps most important of all, they’ve got to ask themselves questions. What do you want to get out of this business? What do you want to give to it? Why are you here? Be curious, be thoughtful, be reading, and be participating. Rejoice. Take heart in the idea that the profession you have joined can provide you with a lifetime of opportunity and the ability to make an impact every single day.”
Chenault-Qawwee works closely with the nation’s leading health care companies and stakeholders, as well as federal and state exchanges, to develop marketing solutions for the latest health care reform needs. She began her career in radio with five years as an AE at Interep. She joined Katz Radio Group in 2005 as a senior AE and was promoted to VP of sales in 2007, then promoted again to VP of Healthcare Strategies. For more than 10 years, Chenault-Qawwee has dedicated her time and talents to educating, mentoring, and recruiting minority students to the radio industry, working to make the industry diverse and drive opportunity for minority students in radio.Through the NABEF Media Sales Institute program at Howard University, she teaches students about radio through courses titled “How to Brand Yourself” and “Introduction to National Radio Sales.” In addition, the students are able to interview with Chenault- Qawwee about potential employment at Katz.
Sr. Director/Digital Content
Radio OneDarnella Dunham develops the social strategy for Radio One’s local brands and Reach Media’s syndicated brands. She also manages several websites and social and digital platforms for nationally syndicated shows.Dunham says her love for music drives her passion for the radio industry and adds, “Also, I’m a creative person who thinks analytically, so working in a medium that has been able to evolve and survive despite endless forms of competition is as exciting as it is challenging.”She’s been successful because she loves to learn and is able to adapt to change. “So many people only want to know what they know, but you must continue to learn and adapt, no matter how high you ascend,” Dunham says. “The best advice I could give someone getting started in the business is to have dreams, but keep an open mind. Being a music director was my dream job, and I was fortunate to achieve my goal relatively early in my career. If I had not had an open mind, I would not have been able to expand into other areas and grow as an executive.”
Carter Broadcast Group
Myron Fears got into the radio business 29 years ago. He says that in college he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study, but one thing was for sure: He loved music. “It’s my girlfriend,” he says. “I started off as a DJ, and from there it progressed into a career in radio.”
Fears says his passion for radio comes from his passion for the music. “It connects with people. Also, I like to compete with other stations. Radio is an ever-evolving industry, and I’m driven by figuring out how to connect the dots. As the industry changes, I take on the challenge of discovering how that impacts what we do here in Kansas City. My biggest passion is being able to teach other people what I know. I thoroughly enjoy helping others hone their craft.”
His advice to others is not to expect to be on top overnight. “We can all fly down the highway at 95 miles per hour,” Fears says. “Sure, you’ll get to your destination quickly, but what did you see along the way? Slow down and learn! Ask questions. Take notes. Make yourself available, and get involved. Don’t be discouraged by the no’s. Be a team player and understand the process. Bring your ideas to the table and make people believe in you. Take your time and enjoy the ride.”
In the past 18 months, E.J. has transformed the sound of WBLX and created great imaging for the station, but one of his greatest accomplishments is creating a culture of inclusion with his team. All leaders know it can be difficult to head a team of veterans, but WBLX’s veterans, some of whom have been with the station for 20 years, have come to realize that he’s a leader of vision, integrity, passion, and drive.Greig started working in radio at the age of 14. “The business is in my blood, as I am the son of a former TV news anchor and reporter,” he says. “I grew up playing and exploring behind the scenes in TV newsrooms as my mother anchored the news. My first radio job was an unplanned and spontaneous gift. A major influence in my life was my grandfather, a minister, who had a weekly religious radio broadcast. I accompanied him to a broadcast one day, and the board operator never showed up. I figured out how to work the board and had him on the air and up and running in a few minutes. They hired me on the spot. My grandfather took me to get a work permit so I could take the job at age 14.”
Radio is Greig’s calling. “I have made a better living in a couple of different fields, but I did not enjoy them,” he says. “I was a sales trainer, and I did well. Radio is simply the best job I’ve ever had! Even on my worst day. I was in between radio jobs once, and I was so frustrated that I joined the Navy. After a year I finagled my way to be assigned to shore duty in Norfolk, VA, so I could work part-time at WOWI. I had not even been offered a job there, by the way. I worked part-time for them during the rest of my Navy commitment, and then became full-time. Shout out to Eric Mychals for giving me my first fulltime radio gig.”If you want to succeed in radio, E.J. says you’ll need to work hard, listen, and follow directions from people who are in the position you’re striving for.“Do everything that is asked of you that is within your ability,” he says, “including sweeping a few floors. Newcomers who want to stand out from the crowd must become enterprising, and information sponges! Have your heart in your business, and the business in your heart! Don’t take no for an answer. Never give up, but learn from your mistakes.”
AtlantaLoren Henderson manages the staff and daily production of The Rickey Smiley Morning Show. As executive producer, he also manages affiliate expectations and works to further solidify the Rickey Smiley brand with national television products.Henderson’s passion for radio started when he was a kid listening to The Greaseman, Rick Dees, Howard Stern, and Tom Joyner. “I was enamored by their ability to tell stories and to hold your attention,” he says. “Early on, as a kid, I knew right away I wanted to create that kind of radio. If I had to be specific about my passion, I believe it’s a desire to keep terrestrial radio alive, even with the innovations of satellite radio. Especially in the black community, where radio has been used as an instrument to galvanize African American culture and promote equal rights.”
He credits his success to the people he’s been able to work with. “Rickey Smiley, Steve Harvey, Steve Hegwood, Hurricane Dave Smith, Mary Catherine Sneed, Ryan Cameron, Mike Roberts, Cathy Hughes, and Mitch Faulkner — all these people saw something in me that needed to be nourished and encouraged. Can’t take credit for any success, just thankful to God he put the right people in my path at the right time. I learned early on that to get what I wanted in this business, I had to first help others get what they wanted. Not caring who gets the credit for success is key — but on the other hand, not to get too low from criticism or failure.”
Baton Rouge, LA
Wayne Jones oversees the sales operations for four radio stations in Baton Rouge for Cumulus, which includes a department of 15 AEs, sales managers, and sales assistants. Jones has been in the business for a decade now, but says radio found him. “I was minding my business at a show in Dallas and a mentor says, ‘You should really look into radio sales. I think it would be a great career for you!’ One day on the job and I knew my passion for music and meeting new people, combined with my drive to help people and their businesses grow, would lead me to a lifelong career in this business.”
He loves the music, he loves meeting new people — and he loves watching people grow. That’s where his passion comes from. “That experience alone is enough to get me out of bed and out to work each morning,” Jones says. “I also love the organic nature of how radio impacts the community. Since the creation of the modern radio, families have crowded around the radio to get entertainment, news, and music. And still today, people do the same.”And he’s been successful because he has that passion, along with drive and ambition. “As simple as it sounds,” he says, “I actually care if our solutions work and if they can be duplicated in multiple markets to continue to show the world our medium is vital to advertising and reaching not only the masses, but targeted audiences as well.”
DallasKiera Lytle came to Reach Media from the digital, magazine, music, and event industry. She excels at cross-platform marketing for events including the Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage, syndicated radio shows, individual talent, and Reach Media’s cross-marketing with Radio One. Lytle is a proven innovator, creating new ways to share Reach Media’s story through digital, on-air, print, and applications.“My passion for radio really starts with the people factor,” Lytle says. “I love the connection to the listeners. Each time I engage directly with our audience (a frequent occurrence in radio), I am reminded of the connection that they feel to the medium and the very real impact that it has in their lives. They feel a sense of ownership in the shows they love and a kinship to their favorite personalities. It’s personal to them — and it makes the work more meaningful to me.”Her advice to others in the industry looking to advance: “Never lose sight of the audience we serve. Our landscapes are filled with forms of interactive media that allow for remote engagement — we can remain distant and abstract. Part of the reason radio endures is because it remains a bastion of direct engagement. Radio is intimate and personal. Radio is about the people.”
CBS RadioLarry Mullins is the afternoon drive news anchor at CBS Radio’s 1010WINS in New York. He says it’s his job to present the news of the day to millions of listeners, and in a unique, conversational style geared to today’s consumers. “I provide an unbiased, authoritative voice to convey the seriousness of certain stories, but also the sense of humor to offer a lighter side in this unique market,” he says. “My goal is to make the long ride home both informative and, quite frankly, entertaining.”WINS Dir./News & Programming Ben Mevorach tells Radio Ink that in all his years as a news manager, he’s never received more of a response from the public than he gets for Larry Mullins. “He is a force in the most competitive market in the country,” Mevorach says. “His approach to news broadcasting is a breath of fresh air. Rather than voicing a string of individual stories, Larry weaves a show together where one story flows seamlessly into another. The listening experience is unlike any other in the news business. He is proactively engaged in the community, and his interviews with leading African Americans in his Black History Month series has been honored with multiple awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists.
“His passion has most recently led to one of the most sought-after interviews in the country: He conducted a one-hour interview with Ms. Claudette Colvin, the civil rights pioneer who never received appropriate credit for her role in desegregation. His interviewing skills brought to light Ms. Colvin’s broken heart over being ‘forgotten’ in the shadow of Rosa Parks. As a result of his interview, a grassroots movement is underway to have Ms. Colvin’s story added to the National Museum of African American History.”
Mullins says he’s been able to experience success in radio because of his ability to “bob and weave.” “That is, showing the flexibility needed to go with the flow. Radio throws a lot of punches, and one must be able to handle anything thrown.
But the biggest part is to take whatever is thrown, and use it to create a better product. I remain that guy who always embraces that bottom-feeder job that ‘no one else will take,’ knowing that the next step will always be ‘up.’”
His advice to others: “Become a sponge. Absorb everything! Don’t look at the bling, the paycheck, the props, and the status of a seasoned veteran with the idea of achieving the same level of props next week. Invest in radio for the long haul, to allow those things to come to you.”
Janae Pierre is WWNO’s local host of the NPR weekday afternoon news program All Things Considered, and also hosts the weekly news and culture program All Things New Orleans. Pierre has made an incredible impact at WWNO, internally by invigorating staff and bringing a fresh new perspective and voice, and externally by forging relationships with new listeners who have responded enthusiastically to her assumption of afternoon drive duties.Pierre says she’s passionate about the radio industry because of its ageless approach to information-sharing. Her ultimate goal is to host her own syndicated radio show. “I believe I can make the industry better by providing in-depth, entertaining interviews,” she says. “My success stems from the belief I have in myself, along with an enormous amount of support from my family, friends, and peers. After graduating from college, I knew what I wanted, and I remained focused on the end goal. I’m still working hard to get where I want to be.”
Josh Raiford started out as a part-timer in Atlanta at Hot 107.9 and worked his way up to APD before being promoted to his current position. He says he’s always been into entertainment and music. “I started DJ’ing when I was 14 years old, but I honestly didn’t start taking it seriously until after I graduated from college and I needed money. I was DJ’ing and working a full-time job, and DJ’ing picked up so much it became my full-time job. Eventually I decided I wanted to take my talents to the next level and get on radio.”His advice to other young people looking to advance in radio: “I would be more aggressive on getting a wider variety of music on the air, and try to incorporate more technology to help give the listener the best listening experience possible. Keep God first, work hard, be patient, and listen. You have two ears and one mouth.”
Richards-Godet helps lead creative development of marketing and sales collateral, including general presentations, case studies, training materials, newsletters, and one-sheets. She also leads hands-on idea generation around national accounts — RFP responses, brainstorming sessions, marketing strategy, and client meetings. Her work and dedication is building radio’s value proposition and driving revenue to the sector.Richards-Godet caught the “radio bug” when interning at WBLS in New York. “I loved it so much — the work, the energy, the people — that I kept looking for opportunities to grow within the industry,” she says. “Radio is a passionate business. At Katz, I am surrounded by people who care deeply about the industry and love what they do. That type of excitement and enthusiasm is contagious.”
She says she’s been successful throughout her career because she’s always striving and never complacent. “I love to learn, and not being afraid to step outside my box has allowed me to diversify my skills and experience,” she says. “The reality is, I have much more I want to achieve. I’m always willing to take on the next challenge.”
Her advice to others? Never say, “That’s not my job.” She says, “One thing I’ve learned throughout my career is that you stand out the most when you do things that are not listed on your job description. Taking on projects outside of my required duties is what helped me to discover my true talents and interests. Always jump at the opportunity to take on a challenge; you never know where it will take you.”
James Robinson’s passion for radio comes from how the industry touches the community. “Radio is the companion in all stages of your life,” he says. “Radio is there when you cry, happy, joyous, sad, and when you celebrate. Radio is powered by emotion and relationships — that human connection inspires me. I have had some success by striving to be the best teammate I can be. I believe it is a great privilege to lead passionate people, so I never take the opportunity for granted. I do my best to win each day.”
His advice to others is to take the time to learn your craft. “Spend time getting to know how and why your product works,” says Robinson. “Be positive, and challenge yourself each day.”
Sickles sees radio as an industry of creativity. “It goes well beyond what you hear on air or see online,” she says. “There are people behind the scenes generating ideas for clients, experiences for listeners, goodwill for the community, and at the root of it all, it promotes the universal language — music!”
And she’s been successful, she says, because of her faith, passion, perseverance, integrity, championship multi-tasking skills, stellar customer service, and a lot of great people helping along the way. “You have to be willing to continuously learn and adapt to change,” she says. “Also, recognizing the fact that everyone’s role is vital to the success of the whole. Having a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either!”
To advance in radio, Sickles advises learning all you can about all aspects of radio. “Value the relationships you make along the way, and stay connected,” she says. “Identify your talent and develop those skills. Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Stay passionate about your craft.”
VP/Programming & Operations
Radio One Atlanta
Rickey Smiley Morning Show
Ed Lover Show
Consultant/Advisor, Radio One
Dave Smith is accountable for all content — music, programming, social media, Web promotions and marketing, and engineering — coming out of Radio One Atlanta. He tells Radio Ink he’s been successful because he speaks directly to the audience, and that is key. “You can have all the research — which is important — all the analytics, all the charts, just about anything can be accumulated and put into a spreadsheet,” he says. “We all have that information, but I’m best when I’m having a direct conversation with the people who enjoy the brands that I’m responsible for. Charts and research are very important elements in making decisions, but remember why we got in the business. Face-to-face real and honest conversation. That’s been one of the hallmarks of my success.
“I also believe in hiring people that can do things better than I can. I have a running joke with my staff: ‘If I can do it better than you, then why do I need you?’ We must be great all the time.”His advice to others getting into radio? “Be strong, be committed, be coachable, and be willing to listen,” he says. “Realize what you can bring to the game, and be the gamechanger on the team. I would tell them, ‘Don’t believe your own personal hype. You’re never as big as the brand you’re on.’“I would share with them how this business cost me so much early in the game, both family and friends. I would tell them about the times I got terminated in this business with no cause — that’s just part of the business. I would also be sure to tell them about the many comebacks I’ve had and how I never lost passion for what I think is the most incredible job you’ll ever have in life. I’m absolutely in love with the broadcasting business.”
Nicky Sparrow reminds us that she was first recognized as a Future African American Leader in Radio back in 2013. “At that particular time I had reached a milestone that most African Americans have not in our industry,” she says. “Now, four years later, I’m a market president in a top 50 market — a milestone that even fewer African Americans, and especially African American women, have achieved across all of the radio companies. I am extremely appreciative of my career thus far, and I still have so much more to achieve.”She says outside of her hard work, building lasting relationships has been a key driver to her success. “Relationships that I built 18 years ago are still in place today,” says Sparrow. “I can seamlessly transition back to any market I’ve had the pleasure to work in. In fact, I have, with my current role as market president in Jacksonville. My advice to someone who is just getting in the business is to learn as much as possible about our industry and all the formats. It’s important that you do not allow yourself to be pigeonholed. If you can sell or manage Urban radio, you can sell or manage any format.”
Varner-Norman oversees digital sales, third-party partnerships, and the multi-cultural initiatives for iHeartMedia’s DC market.
She started in television 25 years ago but made the move to radio when she noticed how the radio industry was evolving, and how consumer habits were changing because dual-income families were becoming more mobile. She says, “I decided to make a home in radio due to the ease of immediate turnaround of campaigns for clients, as well as the ability to offer a variety of marketing assets, especially experiential, and talent being able to connect with consumers.”
She attributes her success to a few great mentors and a few great clients, saying, “I credit the clients I’ve had the privilege of working with because they taught me the value of being client-centric as a win-win proposition.”
Her advice to others? “Some say work smart, not hard. However, I say work smart and hard. There is much more competition than when I started, and you have to not only know your business, but know your competitors to ensure you are able to present the best opportunities and assets for any client you encounter.”
Rich Vicente manages Katz Radio Group’s highest-billing office, and a team of 10 salespeople and three sales assistants. He tells Radio Ink it’s easy to be passionate about something you truly believe in: “I believe in the power of radio and its ability to deliver a high return on ad spend for advertisers and agencies.”His advice for others: “It seems simple enough,” Vicente says, “but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to people instead of relying on e-mail. One simple phone conversation can replace half a dozen e-mails going back and forth.”