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A radio renovation

Young general manager rebuilt KJNB, increased participation

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April 2, 2014

By Mike Killeen

Matt Fink '16 in the KJNB studio.

When Matt Fink got the keys to campus radio station KJNB, he did what any new homeowner might do - he renovated.

He painted the walls, and replaced the counter tops. Instead of new appliances, however, Fink saw that the station got new consoles and microphones.

The results are two new studios in the basement of Guild Hall on the Saint John's University campus, and a renewed interest in the station that serves both CSB and SJU online and on cable channels 6 and 8. KJNB can also be heard at Sexton Commons at SJU.

"We decided we needed to do some remodeling. It was pretty dingy," said Fink, a sophomore communication major from North Mankato, Minn.

But the biggest change came technically.

"(The equipment) was old and outdated. At least half of it didn't work," said Dan Sis, Media Services technical manager at CSB and SJU. "If something was not working and needed to be fixed, they'd call me. But I hadn't heard from them for a couple, three years. I had been in the studio once or twice, and it was a mess."

That changed under Fink.

"I get down there, and Matt is talking about replacing the consoles. He had things picked out. He had done the research. He asked, 'What do you think of this console, Dan? I'm thinking of getting this. How about that?' He knew his stuff, he knew radio, he knew the equipment. He not only does the talk, he does the walk, too.

"To have a student come in and see what needs to be done, and then follows through on it without someone saying 'Do this, do that,' that's unusual," Sis said.

'A voice for radio'

Fink's story is an interesting one. He attended Mankato Loyola High School, and started working with some sound equipment while in the school choir. That led to learning about the technical side of radio and visits to several Mankato radio stations. He also got behind a microphone to be the public address announcer for the Loyola boys and girls basketball teams.

"I was told I had a voice for radio — maybe a face (for radio), too," Fink said, laughing. "I came up here, and I wanted to be a part of the station."

There was one problem. Leadership in the station had lagged, and there were about 12 people doing six shows on the station when he came to Collegeville in the fall of 2012. "It kind of fell off the grid," Fink said.

In November 2012, just two months into his time at SJU, he got a call from the then general manager of KJNB.

"He said he had two jobs on campus, and just didn't have enough time to do it, and wanted to know if I would be the general manager," Fink said. "Within two days, I became the general manager as a freshman, which was pretty crazy. Halfway through my freshman year, I'm managing the radio station. It was a bit overwhelming, but I decided it was something that I really wanted to take on."

He quickly increased the station's staff. Approximately 85 students (including 12 officers) produce 43 mostly hour-long shows. Fink has a show from 6-7 p.m. each Monday, called "Finklematters."

"You basically can make it what you want," Fink said. "You can have the show in whatever format you might like, although obviously there are guidelines that everyone has to follow. It's your time to express yourself in a way that pleases you. If you want to play alternative music and talk politics, go right ahead. I think people are really interested in that."

Sports added to the lineup

KJNB has also added sports programming to its mixture of shows. Over the winter, the station broadcast CSB home hockey games from the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud, and plans to broadcast SJU baseball and CSB softball games at home — assuming, of course, winter finally ends.

Fink would like to remain KJNB's general manager throughout his time at SJU, "unless I think it's time to step back from the station." The communication major is considering a career in station management, but still isn't sure about his future plans.

SJU graduates have a rich history in radio, including Minnesota Public Radio founder Bill Kling and long-time MPR host Gary Eichten.

"That's actually really what intrigued me about this place, the seriously rich history on air. We went on the air in 1954, when it used to be called KSJU. Now it's KJNB (Johnnies and Bennies, get it?), which includes Saint Ben's," Fink said.

"I'm happy with the way things have gone. I don't have to run everything," Fink said. "People are taking the initiative, because they realize it's their station, too. It's everybody's station on these campuses. Everybody has access to it."