Each week in 2016, New York Festivals Grand Jury Confidential shared an interview with one of the Radio Program Awards award-winning Grand Jury members. These interviews provided revealing insights about their individual path to success as well as their views on all things radio. All of us at New York Festivals are grateful to these brilliant radio executives who are recruited to select the World’s Best Radio Programs.
For the last interview of the year NYF spent a few minutes with Karena Wynn-Moylan, 2016 Grand Jury member, and public radio presenter for 18 years on Bay FM 99.9.
Her 3-part documentary series “Memories of Sarajevo” has earned numerous accolades including a Bronze award from New York Festivals Radio Awards, a Community Broadcasting Association award of Australia for best spoken word documentary, and an Honourable Mention from the International Association of Women in Radio and Television. In addition, this award-winning series has also been collected by the National Sound Archive of Australia .
She is currently designing an immersive, audio and video installation for the Immigration Museum of Australia using further material collected for the making of the series. Karena is also a Fine Artist and songwriter/composer.
In the interview below Karena shares her insights and observations from her career in radio including her evolution in the radio industry, the defining moment in her career and the hallmarks of an award-winning radio program.
New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: My father was an enormous influence on me. He was a ‘self-made’ man who had many different occupations, – he was a cartoonist, an amateur actor, a salesman and also a radio announcer. He encouraged me by being critical, and I grew up determined to impress him! Other early influences were older women artists who showed me by their own example that it was possible to be successful in the arts.
New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: Basically that being on the bottom sucks – it was much more fun running the show! I was determined from an early age to be my own boss and was freelancing from the age of 17.
New York Festivals: What were some early leadership lessons for you?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: That powerful creative women with strong personalities were much more interesting and that successful people were well organised which gave others confidence in them.
New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: If we are talking radio here I would say Empathy is top of the list – you have to care about the person you are talking too, even if that is in a negative way! Have Respect -you are not the focus in the interview, the other person is, so you must listen and let the interview develop and flow where it will. This means letting go of your ego but at the same time keeping control and being alert for the little things that are clues to a bigger picture. An absolute willingness to just listen and let the story reveal itself instead of having a preconceived idea of where you want it to go.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: I work in Community (Public) radio. This is where I started and where I have stayed.
The longer I worked in radio, the more I was aware that I place a high value on freedom – by this I don’t mean being able to play and say what I want. Community Radio is subject to stricter controls than commercial radio in this regard, but the quality of what I do, the choice of what I do is completely mine and that has become more and more important as I witness the lack of autonomy that national presenters and commercial presenters have.
I have had my own show, Arts Canvass, on radio since 1996 and right from the start it was dedicated to different music and across the board arts interviews and news. Presenting a weekly 2 hour radio show, every Thursday for nearly 20 years – and it is voluntary. We are not paid on Bay FM – our only way of earning income from our skills is to apply for funding to produce documentaries and radio specials, or run training workshops for others. I made many documentaries without grants before it was suggested to me by station producer William Martin to apply for funding for ‘Memories of Sarajevo’ – at that stage I had already spent over a $1000 on airfares alone to gather material for the series.
New York Festivals: What was a defining moment in your career?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: In the space of one year I won four awards for the one series – this brought home to me in a powerful way that Radio could reach many people and that maybe I should devote even more time to pursuing stories that interested me. Also, I would have to say winning the Bronze Award in 2016 for ‘Memories of Sarajevo’- the award opens doors in that people are more prepared to give you the time to pitch your next idea.
New York Festivals: Will you share how the culture of your company encourages creativity?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: BayFM has a dedicated core group and then a large, changing program base. Anyone can apply for a show in the 6 month submission rounds. If it is a good idea for a program and the presenter has done the appropriate training (which the station provides) they are considered by the Management committee for inclusion the next season of programming. The range of shows is subsequently drawn directly from the community and the variety reflects that. The station is funded entirely by sponsorship announcements (advertising is not allowed) and subscriptions , memberships and fundraising drives. Some government funding is available for equipment upgrades. All presenters are required to also volunteer for other duties around the station – be it fundraising, maintenance or front desk duties or committee sitting. This means everyone has an idea of the effort required to keep the station running, and encourages enthusiasm and respect for the station.
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Karena Wynn-Moylan: They take us on a journey – to somewhere or to someone we have never encountered before – and they do so in a way that leaves us feeling enriched, informed and happy to have committed the time to listen. Good production values matter, but sometimes a fantastic story can transcend a small drop in quality. They go the extra distance- with the type of story, the way it is presented. They should never insult the intelligence of the listener or the interviewee by dumbing down questions asked, or the responses to the answers. Respect, empathy and a cohesive structure to a program.
For more information on the New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards please visit: www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/ Stay Tuned, the 2017 Radio Awards competition opens January 11th.