Kevin Brooks: Up to Eleven
BY Jelli ON February 13, 2015 IN Up to Eleven
Today, the Jelli team shines a spotlight on Digity Media’s Farmington, Missouri Chief Engineer Kevin Brooks in our latest installment of “Up to Eleven.”
The people we’re interviewing for “Up to Eleven” are turning it up past ten every day and Kevin is no exception. He has been working as a radio station engineer for 37 years and is the Chief Engineer for Digity’s three stations KTJJ FM, KREI AM and KJFF located in Farmington and KJFF based in Festus, Missouri.
We hope you enjoy February’s “Up to Eleven” feature!
The Jelli Team
Chief Engineer, Digity Media
Jelli: What led you to a career in radio?
Brooks: It started out when I was a teenager… a friend had a job at a little 500 watt radio station and I used to visit him and watch him work. After college I got a part time job there doing some on-air work. In 1977, I got a job at KTJJ and in 1979 I became that station’s chief engineer and operations manager and have been here ever since. Back when I started at KTJJ we weren’t too big of an operation. We only had six to seven employees but now we’ve grown to more than 20 employees. My position today is chief engineer.
Jelli: How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
Brooks: Farmington is about 60 miles south of St. Louis. Our FM signal reaches all the way to St. Louis in the north and to Cape Girardeau in the south that is a town of about 50,000 people and the home of Southeast Missouri State University. In our market we have to compete with the St. Louis stations and the smaller stations. It’s kind of a unique area given the competition between the large and small radio stations.
Jelli: Are you wearing more “hats” than you have in the past?
Brooks: Basically I’m a one person engineering and IT department. One day I’m installing a server and then the next day I’m installing a water heater. Back in the early days we didn’t have computers– just radio frequency (RF) and audio. Now, within the last 20 years, I’ve had to learn networking and IT skills. It’s always a learning game.
Jelli: What is your favorite part of the job?
Brooks: My favorite part of the job is to invent solutions to new and challenging problems. Something new is always popping up. Every day is something different. You can have your day planned and then something major comes up. It’s never boring!
Jelli: What is the most challenging part of the job?
Brooks: The most challenging part of the job is keeping up with changing technology. Nowadays nothing stays the same very long. It’s challenging being a one-man shop. The problems don’t line themselves up and take a number. You may have two to three people coming at you and their problem is always the most important one. I have to help them plus get my work done.
Jelli: What are you doing social media-wise?
Brooks: Our stations are very active. We do Twitter, Facebook and stream our on-air signal like most stations. We also have a dedicated website calledMyMOinfo.com where we post all of our news, sports and weather information. It’s a big part of our operation. Our programming department have apps they post to our website for listeners. We also do live video streaming of some of our select sporting events and community events. We’re pretty involved in the social media thing.
Jelli: What makes your station “unique?”
Brooks: We’re unique in our market because we’re dedicated to community service. We try to make a difference in our listener’s lives with our programming content. If something big happens, whether it’s weather, a disaster or a political event, we have it covered. People come to us for information.
Jelli: Why do you think terrestrial radio stations should invest in technology… like programmatic?
Brooks: First of all, when I saw the word programmatic I had to Google it. Nowadays with a lot of network spots and barter ads it takes a lot of time for our staff to fill out affidavits. The Jelli server calls up the ad when it’s asked for and really simplifies the process for our staff. The general trend is to do more with less so everyone needs to make adjustments and work with technologies, like programmatic, to streamline things and save time.
Jelli: What advice would you give to people new to the business?
Brooks: The first thing is you gotta do radio because you love it. You’ve gotta be versatile and flexible and you can’t wear only one hat. In all reality an engineer could probably make more money going into an IT environment but radio is more fun. Once you’ve been bitten by the radio bug it’s hard to get out of it!
Jelli: What was your favorite radio station to listen to when you were a kid?
Brooks: KXOK in St. Louis. I grew up about 65 miles southwest of St. Louis. That was the big station then and it was Top 40. At night we could listen to WLS in Chicago. That was back in the Seventies when AM was king.
Jelli: Bonus question (#11): For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they “must see?”
There are a few must see things if you’re visiting Missouri. If you vacation in St. Louis you have to visit the Arch. And, you’ve got to visit the St. Louis Zoo – it’s always free and a very nice zoo.
If you come down to Farmington it’s called the Parkland area and we have a lot of state parks here that you can visit. You gotta check out Elephant Rocks State Park that has giant granite boulders shaped like elephants. Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park has an impressive gorge that the Black River runs through and is a great place to swim, camp and hike.