An Afternoon with WPR’s Dean Kallenbach

By Max Harding

“The best general managers are really the people who know how to listen to the people that work with them.” the general manager for WPR in western Wisconsin, Dean Kallenbach, said when he was asked what it takes to be a general manager in Radio.

Kallenbach has been the general manger for WPR’s western region since 1990 and in the meantime, had also become the senior regional manger in 2005.

Wisconsin Public Radio, js2or WPR, has been a pioneer in public broadcasting ever since its formation in 1971. It was founded on the basis of creating an accessible place for people to learn. In fact, some of the first broadcasts on WPR was pre-recorded lectures directly from the University of Wisconsin: Madison’s classrooms. Today, WPR’s goal is to “inform, entertain, engage and inspire individuals and communities”, according to their mission statement.

Kallenbach didn’t start out his career wanting to be a general manager, however. He
initially wanted to be a news director. That want was realized in 1981 when he became the news director at a TV station. He worked at that station until 1986, when he became WPR only regional news reporter in western Wisconsin. That job was only his until the promotion to general manger in 1990.

“The schedule can be busy sometimes,” Kallenbach said, “it comes in waves.” At first glance, Kallenbach’s day seems to be as though it consists mostly of answering emails. In reality this is only a small part of what he does on a daily basis. The most important and basic job he must do is the management of regional radio staff on top of the management of all of the regional managers in the state of Wisconsin.

Being the highest ranked person at his location, Kallenbach also has the duty of directly implementing local programming. This means that, at the end of the day, it is his call to what goes on the air. At some points, Kallenbach records promos and even goes on-air to help with shows, depending on the situation.

These are only a few duties that Dean must meet every time he comes into work, there are many more. Unfortunately, in the short amount of time that I spent shadowing him, I was only able to experience what was described.

In order for any organization to run smoothly, employees must be managed properly. Dean Kallenbach fills that position not only for employees of WUEC, but for all regional station managers in the state. In order to be effective, a manager must be diplomatic and respected by his staff, Kallenbach has an approachable aura about him that makes this possible.

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