Caryn Mathes is the General Manager for WAMU 88.5.
Since she began her tenure at WAMU 88.5, the station has seen tremendous growth and progress. WAMU 88.5 nationally ranks among the top five public radio stations for total listening, with an audience of more than 740,000 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, and an aggregate audience of 769,000 across analog, HD Radio and online platforms.
Under her leadership, a multi-year trend of contributor loss was halted, with the number of individual donors increasing by more than 18,000, or 57%, between Fiscal Year (FY) 05 and FY 11. She led the station through a lengthy contractual process to acquire state-of-the-art technology to manage the contributor database, a strategic move which will bear fruit for many years to come. She also energized the Major Individual Philanthropy program, chartering a volunteer Development Advisory Council to shepherd new donors to WAMU 88.5 and increasing the professional staffing in Development which has resulted in a 63% increase in the number of gifts of $1,000+ and an 85% increase in contributions since 2007.
Additionally, private sector revenue from individual and corporate sponsorship supporting the general operating budget increased by more than $9.2 million, or 121%, between FY 05 and FY 11. The operating reserve — the amount the station keeps on hand for unforeseen opportunities or emergencies — has grown to nearly $14.4 million, up from $382,000 as of FY 05.
Mathes oversaw the launch of additional terrestrial radio services utilizing HD radio technology; the expansion of WAMU's Bluegrass Country, the station's online bluegrass service, to a full-service, live-content HD Channel 2; and the creation of Intersection at HD-3, which features a mix of eclectic music, sound-rich story-telling, and issue-driven programs. To provide greater service to bluegrass listeners, WAMU's Bluegrass Country also expanded to 105.5 FM in Reston, Va., in 2006. In June 2010, Bluegrass Country became the first digital multicast station in the Washington market to place in an Arbitron monthly report. Also in June, the station launched 88.3 Ocean City on the Delmarva peninsula, expanding the station's signature brand of civil discussion and public affairs to a new audience.
Under Mathes' leadership, WAMU 88.5 has strengthened its position as a national and international content provider, with its own The Diane Rehm Show reaching a national audience of 2.2 million on more than 150 public radio stations, plus Sirius Satellite Radio, NPR Worldwide, and Armed Forces Radio. WAMU 88.5 continues to expand its syndicated offerings, which now include The Kojo Nnamdi Show, available on Sirius Satellite Radio, and The Animal House. In 2011, WAMU 88.5 premiered a foreign affairs program, Latitudes.
Mathes fostered the growth of WAMU 88.5 into a multiplatform multimedia organization, overseeing an expansion of the award-winning local news team which included the addition of digital media journalists. The station also revamped its website to make content more easily accessible for listeners utilizing social media, mobile, and other evolving technologies.
Mathes has supported WAMU 88.5's goal of preparing future journalists by directing ongoing investment into youth journalism training. To uphold WAMU 88.5's responsibility to youth mentorship and to the students at American University, the station put 32 students to work in FY 2011 as either interns or paid part-time employees.
Maintaining and building on WAMU 88.5's commitment to community involvement, she expanded the volunteer Community Council, both the size and in geographical, ethnic, and constituent representation. In 2011, Mathes directed the launch of WAMU 88.5's new marketing campaign, including new imaging, branding, and promotional materials. This campaign, with the slogan "the mind is our medium," emphasizes the station's commitment to good journalism, civil dialogue, and traditional American music and entertainment.
In 2007, Mathes received a Women of Distinction Award from the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), presented annually to pay tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary accomplishments in their professions or their communities. Also in 2007, she was elected an at-large member of the Executive Committee of Eastern Region Public Media. In 2010, she was named "One to Watch" by Radio Ink's annual "Most Influential African-Americans in Radio" list.
Mathes is a member of a number of boards and organizations. In 2011, she was elected to a three-year term as a Member Director of the Board of Directors of NPR, which sets policies and overall direction for NPR management, monitors NPR's performance and provides financial oversight. She also serves on the boards of University Station Alliance (USA); Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington; Eastern Region Public Media (ERPM) Association; National Capital Radio & Television Museum, Bowie, Md.; and participates in the Major Stations Advisory Group (MSAG) to the Chief Executive Officer of National Public Radio.
She came to Washington from WDET-FM in Detroit, Mich., where she served as general manager for 21 years and as news director for 2 years. During her tenure there, Mathes built an award-winning local news department; helped the station build a strong identity in the competitive Detroit market; instilled financial stability, including increasing external support by more than 500%; built a new transmission facility and new studios; and ushered in a web presence for WDET that included real-time gift processing.
Despite a print-focused bachelor's degree in Professional Journalism from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., Mathes embarked on an electronic media career very early, working her way up to a weeknight television co-anchor position at CBS affiliate WTHI-TV Channel 10 in Terre Haute at the age of 19. Mathes held two other commercial radio reporter/anchor positions, at WCKY-AM 1530 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and WJR-AM 760 in Detroit before making the switch to noncommercial radio in 1982.