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.