Women to Watch: Haley Bartoletta, Cox Media Group Athens


(By Charese Frugé) Haley Bartoletta is Director of Branding and Programming for Cox Media Group’s WGAU (News/Talk) and WPUP (CHR), as well as the Morning Show Host on 106.1 WNGC, Your Georgia Country, in Athens.

She spends the first four hours of her day hosting the morning show. After that, she preps with her co-host and creates content for their social media accounts. As PD of WGAU and WPUP, her responsibilities range from doing music logs for WPUP to jumping in on afternoon news when one of their reporters is out. “It all keeps me busy,” says Bartoletta. “But the dual role has allowed me to learn so much in my short time in the industry.”

“In elementary school, I anchored the morning announcements. I knew then I wanted to do something in the broadcast industry. I grew up listening to the radio in the car with my parents on the way to school, and I truly felt like the hosts were my friends. Because of this early exposure, I recognized from an early age how unique and valuable radio is, but I didn’t really see radio as my path until I was in college. It took me less than five minutes of recording in our college studio to know this was where I was meant to be.”

“After learning the ins and outs of radio at my college station (WBCX), I applied for an internship with Jacobs Media in Gainesville, GA. I interned for a few months and was hired as a part-time reporter on WDUN (News/Talk).”

“Simultaneously, I reached out to the former morning show host on WNGC (Country), the station I grew up listening to, which is now the station I co-host mornings on. I ended up shadowing the former morning show and we stayed in touch. Eventually, the Program Director role for WGAU (News/ Talk) and WPUP (CHR) opened in the same cluster, and I applied. I began in that role six months before graduating college. I filled in on mornings on WNGC during my first year with Cox Media Group, and when my predecessor left, I took over that role while maintaining my PD role. I’ve been co-hosting mornings since February of 2023, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

“I do radio because I love the impact it has on the community, and I’ve been lucky to be a part of our Extra Special People (ESP) Radiothon for two years now,” explains Bartoletta. “In addition, ESP is an organization local to North Georgia that works to create incredible experiences for people with disabilities and their families. Being able to raise thousands of dollars for an organization that changes the lives of our community has been exciting, heartwarming, and indescribable.”

“WNGC has a devoted audience that has been built over generations. Because I grew up in the North Georgia area, I knew the local impact WNGC had before I ever hosted mornings on the station. It’s the little interactions each morning that truly show the impact the station has made. We’ve had listeners call us to ask us where they should park at Stanford Stadium when they are going to a UGA game. They come up to us at remote appearances and recall everything memorable we’ve done lately. The trust WNGC has built with the listener base is incredible, and I feel so blessed to be a part of that legacy.”

“Another career highlight for me was receiving the 2024 Rusty Walker scholarship. Not only do I work in country radio, but I am also a fan of country music, and being able to experience Country Radio Seminar (CRS) so early in my career was something that I will never forget.”

Like everyone else, Bartoletta has experienced her challenges along the way. “I am the kind of person who is already planning out another one of my goals before I even accomplish the first one. It’s a blessing and a curse. While this mindset pushes me to continue to perform better, it also opens the door for many comparisons. With social media, it is now so easy to look at where others are and what they are accomplishing. I’ve had to remind myself to ‘smell the roses’ and enjoy where I’m at, and what I’ve accomplished, instead of always looking to what’s next.”

One of the biggest challenges in the industry is engaging a younger audience and bridging the generation gap. “I think it’s overcomplicated,” says Bartoletta. “To connect, there must be an element of relatability. While the younger audience has different habits and different methods for consuming material, at the core, the audience still wants to relate. Creating the connection is the hard part and radio has done that for generations. The easy part should be evolving to continue making that connection. Now we just need to take the connection that we already know how to make and expand it to social and digital platforms to give our audience more ways to connect with us, and to build our audience.”

“The focus should be shifted from trying to go ‘viral’ to trying to make that valuable connection on social and digital platforms to extend the station’s brand.  When that focus is shifted, I truly believe the rest falls into place.”

“As far as DEI is concerned, I am proud to be a part of a cluster that has voices on the air from all walks of life, and I really believe this is crucial in the industry today. The more perspectives there are, the better the product is and the more it connects. There’s still work to be done when it comes to DEI, but I do think the industry is on the right track.”

“As far as what keeps me up at night, my mind never stops. While prep services can be great, there is no better show prep than my day-to-day life. Once I’m in bed for the night, I’m usually mentally scoping my day, pulling out bits that could be used for our morning show. Because of this, I never run out of ideas, which is a good problem to have. I have had to teach myself that there is a point where the mind must cut off, and sleep must happen, especially with a morning radio schedule.”

“Don’t get me wrong, trying to find balance is tough,” says Bartoletta. “It continues to get tougher as the industry continues to shrink, and more responsibilities are piled on the people still working. I’ve learned that there is always going to be something else to do, no matter how much I check off my to-do list for the day. Sometimes you really do have to close the computer, stop editing social videos, and watch a cheesy rom-com where you can shut your mind off for a few hours. Honestly, balance is something I am still working on finding. Some days are better days than others.”

“As far as advice for Women who want to be successful in the industry, especially in positions of power, I always remind myself that not everyone is that mean girl who bullied you in high school. You don’t have to be scared to reach out, connect, and ask questions. Every woman I have met in this industry has treated me with kindness and rooted for my success. I would not be where I am today without the support of other women in the industry, and I am forever thankful for the connections I’ve made.”

Charese Fruge’ is an award-winning Content, Broadcast, and Marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. As the owner of MC Media, she works with radio brands and individual talents, especially young women, helping them grow their brands and negotiate on their own behalf. Find her at @MCMediaOnline. See more Women to Watch here.


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