In Memoriam: Tim Emmons, 1958-2012

Compiled from website

A great voice in public radio has been silenced. With the passing of Timothy Emmons, general manager of WNIU and WNIJ in DeKalb, Feb. 18, 2012, we bid farewell to an era that saw many changes.

Born June 18, 1958, in Champaign, Ill., Emmons came to WNIU in 1988, serving as program director. He was instrumental in the creation of station WNIJ in 1991. Not long after, he left to become program director at KWMU in St. Louis, but returned to Northern Public Radio in 1995 as station manager. Fifteen months later, he became director and general manager, a position he held for the past 15 years.

In 2009, Tim Emmons received the Don Otto Award from the Public Radio Program Directors Association and Audience Research Analysis for his continuing dedication to public radio excellence and public service. This is one of the highest honors in public radio. After receiving the award, he gave an interview to NIU’s Northern Today.

Besides working for Northern Public Radio, Tim and two partners were consultants for radio stations across the country with their business, Strategic Programming Partners. They also created Morning Edition Grad School, a series of workshops that trained nearly 100 public radio stations, including nearly all those in the largest U.S. radio markets. Emmons was active in several professional and community organizations. He served on the board of directors of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council, including two years as president. He was also on several advisory committees for National Public Radio.

Remembered by friends and colleagues as a dedicated worker and an efficient planner, he had been battling colon cancer for the last few years. He trained his colleague, Staci Hoste, to take over as interim general manager. She recalled: “Tim left an indelible mark on this community in the form of Northern Public Radio as you now know it. Twenty years ago, Tim was instrumental in not only launching Northern Public Radio’s second FM radio station — WNIJ — but also in re-shaping WNIU into the 24/7 classical music station we still enjoy today. Under his leadership, we have continued to evolve as a station dedicated to providing quality radio programming to the area.”

Interview with WNIJ staff

By Copy Editor Susan Johnson

The Rock River Times spoke with several of the WNIU/WNIJ staff, who reflected on their late colleague.

Dan Klefstad, reporter for Morning Edition, said: “I am very much a product of Tim’s training. He was a great teacher, probably the most important teacher I’ve ever had. The news and information I present during Morning Edition is very much a result of his ideas and his coaching. Tim was very focused on Morning Edition, in particular when trying to improve the sound of local public radio stations nationwide, and he did this through something called the Morning Edition Grad School, or MEGS. This is a project of Strategic Programming Partners. Tim and the rest of this group traveled around the country. At one point, they did receive funding from NPR to do this. They go to local stations throughout the country, including WNIJ, and train the Morning Edition hosts and associate reporters in best practices for public radio to try to achieve the NPR sound and get as close to the editorial quality and sound quality that you hear from NPR.”

Sue Stephens, reporter, said, “We got kind of spoiled working for someone so good. It was great because he really knew the business from all sides, and having been a reporter in his early years, he knew how important it was to keep the newsroom separate and independent. The other thing that was great was, he truly believed in the importance of training, continual training throughout your career. There is always more to learn, and he always encouraged us to go to workshops and attend conferences to learn more and share that with each other. Just keep learning. You don’t always find that in a boss in this business.” As an aside, she added, “We‘re all honorary Cubs fans around here by now.” (Emmons was a great Cubs fan.)

Scholarship fund for Emmons’ children

Emmons is survived by his wife, Charlene, their son, Daniel, and their daughter, Jordan. His family takes comfort in his steadfast Christian faith that sustained him to the end, and the support of their friends at Christ Community Church in DeKalb, where the funeral was held.

Staci Hoste, interim general manager, commented on the scholarship fund that has been established at the station for Emmons’ children. “Internally, we’ve been calling it the Emmons Education Fund. Tim had asked that contributions be directed toward his children’s education. When you lose a parent at that critical time in life, that was a concern for Tim that his children would have access to education. We have set our staff goal.” She added that it is open to not just the staff, but also listeners – everybody who would like to contribute. But she specified that donations should not be sent to Northern Public Radio as they would not be able to discern exactly where the funds should be directed. Contributions may be sent to: Timothy Emmons Memorial, P.O. Box 66, Elburn, IL 60119.

See the WNIJ tribute at

The website listed 21 comments as of Feb. 27, 2012.

From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue

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