KMUD News Enters New Phase of Leadership

Sydney Morrone and Isabella Vanderheiden

Sydney Morrone and Isabella Vanderheiden

Southern Humboldt’s community radio station, KMUD-FM, has new leadership in its news department, with two students of its former news director taking the helm.

Arcata residents Isabella Vanderheiden and Sydney Morrone, both 22 years old, have co-directed the Redway-based Redwood Community Radio’s News and Public Affairs Department since the beginning of the year. It’s a fitting transition, as former director Terri Klemetson mentored them as they studied radio journalism at Humboldt State University (HSU).

The new co-directors alternately direct and anchor weekday news broadcasts and weren’t strangers to KMUD before taking their posts. Both interned at KMUD and Vanderheiden anchored newscasts before being hired.

They worked closely with Klemetson at KRFH-FM, HSU’s student-run radio station, where Vander-heiden and Morrone produced and co-anchored news broadcasts. “We called ourselves ‘The Dream Team,’” Vanderheiden said. “And now The Dream Team is real and here we are at KMUD, a year later.”

Both came to Humboldt from elsewhere to attend HSU. Morrone moved from Berkeley and Vanderheiden from Cortez, Colorado.

Morrone’s first impression of Humboldt was had during an exploratory visit to HSU. “It was pouring rain and I didn’t have the right shoes and they were ruined,” she said. Nevertheless, she began attending HSU two years later.

The first year wasn’t promising. “I absolutely hated it,” said Morrone. But at the urging of her family, she persevered and “something clicked” during her second year here.

“I absolutely love it here now and can see myself staying for a very long time,” she continued.

Vanderheiden arrived in Humboldt in 2011, after a longtime friend and county resident assured her that she’d like it. The county’s forested landscape offered immediate appeal and she said that “Humboldt seemed like a really good fit.”

Transitioning from HSU to KMUD expanded her Humboldt experience. “I was surprised by how different it was from Northern Humboldt but I’ve been really impressed by KMUD, the KMUD community and how tight-knit it is,” said Vander-
heiden, adding that working at the station is consistently interesting due to the “huge variety of people” comprising it.

Morrone also described KMUD as “a really unique place” for its ever-changing cast of volunteers. “We have somewhere between 100 and 200 programmers coming in and out of here so there’s a lot of personalities and there’s always something different going on every day — it’s very interesting and the participation of volunteers provides a breeding ground for diversity,” she said.

Though Vanderheiden and Morrone are still in a transitional period, they’re already developing goals for the department.

Since KMUD’s broadcast range includes Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity and Del Norte counties, one aim is to expand the scope of news coverage. Another is to revitalize the department’s Emergency Response Team, which Klemetson established.

A priority task is gaining further understanding of what the community wants from its news department. “We’re really trying to grasp what we need to do on a daily basis and to learn what listeners expect, especially with our switching off on different days,” said Morrone.

“We’d like to provide more stories about the community and its people,” Vanderheiden said. “I think I have a pretty good understanding of the community but I want to learn more so I’m willing to listen to anyone.”

Feedback has been positive so far, Vanderheiden continued, adding that some people have expressed surprise at how young she is. “And I’m also really surprised at how young I am in this position,” she said, crediting Klemetson for “everything she has taught me” and thanking the community for supporting KMUD.

Morrone is finishing her studies at HSU and The Dream Team’s collaboration will enter a new phase in May, when she graduates. After that, both directors will be able work together for part of the week.

“Come May, we’ll be able to spend more time reporting and we’ll have more of a chance to get a well-rounded newscast on a daily basis,” said Morrone.

Both of the department’s directors noted KMUD’s importance to the community. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity and very glad that Izzy and I are trusted with such a big responsibility because KMUD news means a lot to a lot of people,” Morrone said.

Disclosure: Daniel Mintz is a contributor to KMUD News.