Written by Melissa Gerrish
Photo by Steve Babin
The New Mix 96.9’s John Malone started his broadcasting career here in the Tennessee Valley in the late 1970s. He has been an on-air radio personality, TV weatherman, news reporter, producer and manager. John earned three first place awards as the city’s Favorite Air Personality as selected by readers of The Huntsville Times, was honored by the Associated Press for outstanding spot news coverage, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 American Ad Fed North Alabama Addy Awards. During his time as Program Director of WSM in Nashville, John oversaw the iconic radio station’s 75th Anniversary culminating with a live 12 hour broadcast from the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium.
EVENT: How did you get started in the radio business?
JM: I grew up in Fayetteville where the local radio station hired a couple of high schoolers to work part-time. I was 15 years old when I received my first professional assignment, color commentator on a high school baseball tournament. I did everything there: DJ, commercials, high school basketball games, whatever they would let me do.
EVENT: You wear a lot of hats at Mix 96.9 WRSA, including Morning DJ, Program Director and General Manager, tell us about your roles at the radio station:
JM: Oh, it is definitely a balancing act! Fortunately I have a tremendous staff that does an exceptional job of serving our listeners, customers and the community. It makes my job so much easier. Since Mix 96.9 is still a family-owned radio station we do things that make the most sense for our unique situation. That’s why most of us here have more than one job title. I started on the air in Huntsville in 1980 and this aspect of my career has always been a priority. The major radio companies have downsized their staff so much, there are very few local radio personalities left. That’s why it is so important for us to super-serve our community. There are definitely some long days but the rewards that come from our success make it all worthwhile.
EVENT: Why are local radio stations so important in the age of satellite radio?
JM: There is a misconception that satellite radio, Pandora, etc. has taken away listeners from broadcast radio. That is completely inaccurate. Data from Nielsen and other research companies continues to show that traditional radio actually has more listeners than ever. No one does a better job of serving local communities than their local radio station. And it has always been absolutely free!
EVENT: You also find time to be a husband and dad, tell us about the importance of making time for family amid your busy schedule:
JM: It’s not easy. Both my wife and I work long hours. Our youngest son is a high school senior and the other two are away at college. Everyone is constantly on the move but family is a priority for us all. Sometimes it has to be through phone calls and text messages but we find ways to enjoy quality time together. Last year the five of us took a family trip to Jamaica for a week. We are all very social and outgoing, so there’s never a dull moment!
EVENT: What type of civic work are you currently involved in?
JM: Personally, I’m on the board of directors for Eula Battle’s organization Free 2 Teach, which provides resources for teachers and students in our three public systems in Madison County. I also serve on the board of the Alabama Broadcasters Association. As a station, we are constantly involved in important community causes. For instance, in the last few years we’ve been heavily involved in the fight against breast cancer with our Lite It Up Pink campaign and sponsorship of the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run. I’m particularly proud of our work in saving the downtown Huntsville Christmas Parade last year. The previous sponsor withdrew and WRSA, along with the VBC, stepped in to coordinate and stage the Parade. Now we’re getting set for an even better nighttime Parade for 2015!
EVENT: What do you like about Huntsville?
JM: There is so much to love about Huntsville. The people. The culture. The smart and significant work that is done here. The quality of life. The amazing revitalization of downtown. We are big enough to have the amenities of a large city, yet still small enough to have a sense of community. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. n
Yuri Ozaki is originally from Japan, but came to the United States in 2001 to study English. After marrying her husband, she moved to Huntsville, where she began painting pictures of local scenery. She was won many awards, including the Watercolor Society of Alabama’s 71st National Exhibition Award of Excellence (2012) and Huntsville Art League Collector’s Draw First Place (2012). For more information on Yuri Ozaki’s work, please visit her website at www.ozakifineart.com.