KPFA General Manager Quincy McCoy Interviewed by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters

KPFA General Manage Quincy McCoy is featured in the most recent newsletter from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

More about the NFCB on their website.


Quincy McCoy is a busy man. As general manager of KPFA in Berkeley, CA, he oversees one of the nation’s most influential community radio stations. He is the former Vice President of Radio for Rhapsody America, and MTV Digital Music Group.  A well-respected radio and music industry veteran, McCoy has worked as a major market on-air personality, program director and operations manager.

In addition, Quincy McCoy is the author of No Static: A Guide to Creative Radio Programming, and has penned several screenplays and short stories. He is winner of the International Peter Brock Award for feature writing and former Co-Chair of Youth Radio Board of Directors and recipient of the 2001 Peabody Award for significant and meritorious achievement in broadcasting.

What is your first community radio memory?

A small station in Upstate NY aired a radio documentary about slumlords who weren’t supplying heat to their tenants. The program was called “They Don’t Give a Damn,” and it aired in February with compelling interviews of the tenants, who were old and poor folks. What’s important to note is the major impact it produced. The Mayor’s office appointed a task force and the conditions were changed. That was my first glimpse at the power of radio.

When were you first acquainted with KPFA?

When I moved to the Bay Area in 1995, I became a mentor/board member at Youth Radio, the headquarters of which was next door to KPFA. There was a partnership between the two non-profits, so our YR kids had access to equipment and training. Today several Tech Operators and Producers working at KPFA came from Youth Radio (now called YR Media).

You have led your station through many changes as well as challenges. What advice would you give a colleague for navigating to the best outcomes?

I believe in talking out loud about failure—what works and what doesn’t—is essential to your eventual success. It’s crucial to talk about failure because it creates a database of knowledge of what not to do in the future. Best of all, failure is an indicator of innovation and a driver of collaboration keeping us unafraid to take calculated risks and think big.

Are there any techniques you find most useful for resolving differences?

First, you must embody a value system, one that deals with human relationships within the station. Second, you should maintain and encourage a strategy of collaboration and teamwork among people at every level. This will lead to team-oriented, results-seeking, and self-starting behavior. The third essential quality is accessibility. A manager must be available for honest, open, two-way communication.

How do you stay positive about the work you do?

I’m devoted to developing my skills. You have to dedicate yourself to being a fair leader who provides a creative, positive, stimulating workplace for all your players. Be honest and be a living example of the qualities you demand from your players. Great managers make the commitment to excellence, to challenge themselves and others, to reinvent themselves and step up to a lifetime of learning. My mantra is, “What can I do today to make KPFA better tomorrow?”

What are you most proud of as a veteran manager?

I’ve been mentoring folks for years. I remember where I came from and the people who helped me navigate the twisting, barrier-filled radio mind fields to get to where I am. I’ve stayed connected to the common threads of persistence and determination, and my desire to see success echoed in others who were determined to follow in my radio footsteps. So, the list of folks I shared knowledge with and support over 30 years are still in the media landscape, and it’s their success that makes me proud.

Is there anything your station does so well that you think other stations should borrow?

What the most creative people in radio do is create a dialogue between themselves and their listeners. When this is done well, our mission, music and stories connect and enhance the overall relationship between our programming and our listeners. KPFA’s 70-year history speaks volumes and is arguably the best radio narrative in the country. We tell our story well.

What are you most optimistic about right now in regard to noncommercial media?

The digital environment of podcasting with its on-demand and time-shifted content provides a platform of opportunity to offer new voices from the progressive community, ranging from novices to popular writers, commentators, and activists in exclusive formats. An astonishing schedule of podcast channels can truly create a meaningful difference in our membership numbers.

Are there any tips you could offer early-career producers and aspiring managers?

To borrow a phrase, you must “declare”—make a covenant with yourself—that you are committed to hard work and the constant focus it takes to be great. It’s like coaching a sports team, it takes a complete commitment in the success and well-being of everyone on the team.


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