KUOW’s Ross Reynolds stays ahead of radio industry curve, inducted to Alumni Hall of Fame
Ross Reynolds’ (M.C., 2011) long-lasting career in the radio industry has taken him around the Pacific Northwest, with stints in Alaska, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts – but no matter where he was, the resounding sentiment from colleagues is that he remained ahead of the curve of technology and always has his eyes set on the future of radio.
“His 2011 Digital Media degree from the Communication Leadership program is just one indication of how Ross has set his sights on a goal for journalists,” said Marcie Sillman, his co-host for “The Record” and a colleague since Reynolds arrived at KUOW in 1988. “He is an open-minded thinker, somebody who brings a clear head and heart to this industry. I’ve watched how he has synthesized his academic work with his real-life experience and I’m always impressed by how Ross can use that to move the needle.”
Before starting “The Record” in September 2013, Reynolds hosted “The Conversation,” KUOW’s award-winning daily news-talk program, from 2000 to 2013. For two of those years, Heather Dahl produced the show and together they covered everything from cheap thrills in Seattle to the most serious issues facing the world, such as the Iraq War at the time.
“Ross really did change my thinking in how to integrate digital technology (which in 2002 was using emails and websites) and how to integrate that not only into our reporting, but also the interaction with the community in Seattle and the show,” Dahl said. “And then also in marketing and letting everyone know what the show was about and figuring out how they could use the digital channels to communicate back to us.”
With the industry shifting from the telephone line to cyberspace, Dahl said Ross’ strategies shook the foundation in which she approached journalism and highlighted the importance to innovate as a broadcast journalist.
These sorts of advancements made by Reynolds were nothing new, as he had been implementing novel ideas from the start of his career at KUOW almost 30 years ago.
“One of the big changes he implemented after his promotion to program director was to move KUOW from a dual-format radio station to one that focused on news and information,” Sillman said. “This was at a time when many public radio affiliates tried to be all things to all listeners – so that decision to streamline the format was groundbreaking.”
Prior to KUOW, Reynolds spent seven years as news director at the community radio station KBOO in Portland, Oregon, five years as news and public affairs director at WCUW in Worcester, Massachusetts, and two years as music editor of Worcester Magazine.
Bill Wax, a colleague in community radio for 40 years until his retirement last year, worked with Reynolds in Portland in the early 1980s. Wax said, “Ross was never satisfied with what he had done. He always envisioned ways in which things could be done better. He also never stopped learning, seeking out new information and knowledge. He shares this knowledge readily with others.”
The willingness to share what he learned and create a strong team of journalists around him rang true at whatever station Reynolds was at.
“We all stayed close after working on those shows and moving on to new things – but I think that speaks to who Ross is as a leader, a manager, a mentor, and a coach,” Dahl said. “Here we are going on 15 years later and all of us that worked together still talk to each other at least once a week to cheer each other on and support one another through all the twists and turns of our careers. I think that says so much about the environment that Ross has created.”
The list of awards Reynolds has received is long, including two Edward R. Murrow awards and a Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Award. He is a frequent moderator for political debates and discussions in the Seattle community and has participated in journalism fellowships which have taken him to Germany, the Kingdom of Tonga, Tokyo, South Korea, and Malaysia.
“I’ve loved the (many) years I have worked with Ross,” Sillman said. “He is a great sounding board, a calm presence and a more-than-competent journalist. He helped steer KUOW to the dynamic presence the station has become, and he’s still eager every day to pursue the news. Everything interests Ross – from marijuana legislation to popular music. He’s well-read, up on politics and culture, and just an all-around nice man.”
Dahl recalled one of her favorite memories of producing a series called “Fun Friday” – unique stories with a different perspective or a fun way to inform people about things they haven’t thought of. She says it was Reynolds’ willingness to take a risk that finished out the week with laughter.
“I think that attitude every Friday came through in our shows,” she said. “He and I would sit at our desks and laugh about topics that we were going to take on. How many people can say that Friday was the best day of the week at their work? That was the case with Ross.”
Reynolds is a 2015 inductee to the UW Department of Communication’s Alumni Hall of Fame. To RSVP or learn more about the event, click here.