Virginia Center for Public Press President
Volunteer Coordinator, Executive Producer, Board Operations Manager, and now WRIR Station President—Melissa Vaughn is the go-to woman for all things community radio. Anyone who’s met her would believe she’s been part of the station for much longer than just four years. But Melissa met Don Harrison and Krysti Albus, hosts of “Open Source RVA,” for the first time in August 2016, at a local politics policy forum hosted by Diversity Thrift. Melissa was then invited to WRIR’s studios, where “I dove right in and gave myself a crash course in radio production,” she said. “I started picking things up along the way that needed to be done. And I just started taking on more responsibility, because people felt they could come to me.”
Soon she was asked to be the station’s volunteer coordinator—in addition to her duties as the host of the “Quick & Dirty City Council Roundup” and “RVA Dirt’s Municipal Mania”—which she gladly accepted. And after years under the wing of mentors Ceci Hull, Carol Olson, and Krysti Albus, in 2020 Melissa was elected President of the Virginia Center for the Public Press, the nonprofit that runs WRIR. “Carol taught me so much about interacting with others, and following the lead of experts with other realms of experience. It was a fast transition for me, but the station still needs strong leadership.”
Strong leadership is especially important now as WRIR faces the fallout of Covid-19. The transition to remote broadcasting had to be quick and efficient: “When this first started, we thought we had a week before Virginia got shut down. So we had to have a plan.” Melissa remembers many middle-of-the-night conversations with WRIR’s operations team to ensure that both streaming and broadcasting could continue.
With no sign of the effects of the virus letting up anytime soon, Melissa is proud of how well the DJs, board operators, and WRIR’s listeners have responded. “We’ve gotten more calls and comments from listeners just thanking us for being on the air. And we don’t tell DJs what to say. They are all offering messages of hope to the listeners, sincere and from the heart. That’s an organic message from our station.”
This makes the upcoming Spring Fund Drive all the more important for WRIR. Melissa puts the mission of the fund drive into perspective: “This fund drive is about keeping our little station that could on the air. Normally during our fund drives we have bands, food donations from restaurants, and amazing T-shirts. But this year it’s not just about the T-shirt—it’s about keeping us on air.”
Listener donations have always been what drives WRIR’s financial success. This is especially true this year. Melissa’s message to listeners is all about supporting what you love: “We are here for you. We are on the air for you, making original content every day. We consider our listeners and donors essential, and we hope they consider us essential as well. We will help you get through this time, through music, interesting conversation, relevant issues, and light-hearted fun. Because not everything has to be doom and gloom right now.”