A Farewell (Not Us)

Oct 17

Local listeners may  have noticed the story in the Gazette or elsewhere that longtime VP/General Manager of WRSI, Sean O’Mealy, is leaving the Pioneer Valley to return home to Pennsylvania.  (He’ll be running a cluster of stations in Scranton, which evidently exists outside of The Office.)  (Note: I actually did know that Scranton exists.)  Today was his last day.

Some background: just about four years ago, I sent an e-mail off to a couple of people at the legendary WRSI, asking for some help promoting something or other.  At the time, the show was a couple of years old, having been on a low-power community radio station.  Within an hour or so, Sean called me to see if I wanted to talk about doing the show on The River.  I’d never met him before, but he was enthusiastic and convincing.

A few months later, we started the new era of Spare the Rock being on 93.9 The River.  Other than pre-recording and doing the show in segments (to allow for stop sets), Sean (and Monte) asked us to change precisely nothing.  Kid-involvement, in-studios, local events — it was all good.  He even affirmatively encouraged me to continue airing the show on Valley Free Radio, nominally a competitor.  They’ve provided terrific feedback on the show, but only for getting the show better — not trying to make it fit any more commercial mold.

A year later, folks at the station had the idea of doing a family-oriented event.  With essentially no model to work from, we (with Jarrett Krosoczka) created the Meltdown — at no small financial risk to the station — which turned into a tremendously successful event, drawing over 3,500 annually.  (One of my favorite Meltdown-related stories is that at the second one, someone came up to me to tell me how she’d been coming to the Meltdown “for years.”  When a second-year event feels like a cherished annual tradition, you know you did something right.)

In both picking up the show and helping create and support the Meltdown, Sean showed his faith in focusing on programming quality and in the value of community connections.  In a time when radio stations are sounding less and less diverse and so very untethered to the communities in which they reside (thanks, consultants!), and when so much of online and satellite radio is about narrowcasting, Sean believes in the notion of connecting media to communities through broad programming.  In short, he believes in radio.  Local radio.  Radio that’s in the community, whether it was promoting shows at the Carle, or contributing tremendous media support for the Many Hands CD release show, or being out at Tuesday Market every week, or raising thousands of dollars for the Cancer Connection or any number of other examples.

Sean has made some decisions I disagreed with, of course.  But radio in the Valley is dramatically better thanks to his impact on the station, and he’ll be missed.

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