MTSU Student Radio’s First African American GM


Approaching its 25th anniversary, the WMTS-FM 88.3 student radio station is celebrating its diversity with the landmark appointment of its first African-American general manager and a renewed push to promote its wide-ranging programming featuring the next generation of media talent.

General manager Ebon’e Merrimon, who will start in January, also is just the third woman to hold the top position at the station, which was formed in 1992 and is housed in the Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.

The Nashville area junior with the electric smile said she developed her drive in a single-parent household under the tutelage of her mother, Pastor Stacey Young.

“When it comes to growing up, I had to learn ‘adult first, child later,’ and I’m still like that now,” Merrimon said. “My entire life I’ve seen nothing but a woman on the move, on the grind. My mother worked three jobs one time to provide for me and my siblings.”

A College of Media and Entertainment student majoring in media management with a minor in African-American studies, Merrimon is looking forward to working alongside assistant general manager Melissa Summit to expand the station’s footprint and continue creating a more diverse array of shows.

She and her team will manage nearly 60 shows, which include the award-winning “The Justin Reed Show” featuring classic country, bluegrass, Americana, classic and Southern rock music, and the highly rated hip-hop program, “The Remix.”

Named for the well-known graduate student who serves as its host, “The Justin Reed Show” is broadcast 6-10 a.m. on Thursdays. “The Remix” airs 8-10 a.m. on Fridays. See the station’s full lineup at
Merrimon has been involved with the station since her freshman year and served as a radio host for the station’s first gospel show, “Deep Soul Gospel.”

Those around the station, including the director for the Center for Innovation in Media Val Hoeppner, say Merrimon’s ambition and tenacity ultimately led her to becoming the general manager.

“She’s got a ton of energy, she’s incredibly passionate about this,” said Hoeppner. “She came to me a freshman banging down my door to get in here and get on the radio. I think that’s really great and she’s so organized and dedicated to doing this.”

In such a male-dominated industry, especially in the leadership positions, WMTS has been ahead of the curve in terms of promoting diversity at the top. Hoeppner plays a vital role overseeing the station and Merrimon will be taking over for the second woman to hold the position, Melissa Ferguson.

Ferguson trained Merrimon this semester to prepare her for the role and she already has a plan set up for when she takes office.

Merrimon stressed promoting more community involvement between the station and its students. One such idea includes a WMTS-sponsored concert that will invite local acts, especially students, to perform.

While details are still being developed, Merrimon and her team envision the concert will take place in August and have multiple acts from all genres, including rock bands, rappers, and even jazz artists.

Forming stronger relationships with other organizations on campus is also a part of Merrimon’s agenda.

“I’m definitely all about networking with other organizations on campus to make sure their organization is getting out there. If the station is student run it should be student associated,” she said.

Internally, the focus will be on locating more self-motivated radio hosts such as Reed and Jasmine McCraven, who hosts the hip-hop and discussion-based “JazzyLo Radio” from 11 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays. Increasing the profile of such shows will help with acquiring more sponsorships and increase the funding for WMTS, Merrimon said.

MTSU sophomore Joe Wasilewski of Knoxville, Tennessee, whose 4-6 p.m. show “Stop Motion” features alternative rock, psychedelic and “trip hop” music, is among the varied radio personalities that listeners will find on WMTS. Wasilewski recently had a local rapper as a studio guest, a departure from his normal comfort zone but something he has the freedom to do.

“What’s surprising is the amount of listeners I get, particularly during the drive time hours,” said Wasilewski, who said he was recently accepted into the music business program.

Even though she doesn’t take office until January, Merrimon has already begun putting the wheels in motion for some of her plans. Ferguson, who served as her mentor and trainer, wasn’t surprised by her early efforts.

“She’s really a go-getter and she’s just so inspiring to me and I think to others. The biggest thing I told her was just be prepared to make decisions for the good of the station even when they’re hard or you don’t like them. I think she’ll do well,” said Ferguson.

Merrimon will hold the position until her expected graduation date in 2018, and by the time she leaves her post, Merrimon already has a vision for what her tenure will have accomplished.

“I want it to be when I leave out of here, you can’t go anywhere without knowing WMTS is a student-run station and it’s poppin’ and a hit,” she said.

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