WUOT-FM Welcomes New General Manager Jody Hamblett
Jody Hamblett has worked with public radio stations across the country, and there’s one she’s always had her eye on: WUOT-FM, East Tennessee’s NPR station. So, when she saw a job posting for the general manager position at WUOT-FM, she jumped at the opportunity to apply.
“When the WUOT job opened I said, oh yeah, that’s the one. That’s my dream job, leading that station,” she said.
That dream will come true when Hamblett starts in her new position as general manager of WUOT-FM on Aug. 14, filling the role of the station’s longtime manager, Regina Dean, who retired in May after 30 years at the helm of the award-winning public radio station. Hamblett comes to Knoxville and the station with a strong background in public radio, leadership, and fundraising.
Her career highlights include managing Blue Ridge Public Radio, a 14-station regional network serving Western North Carolina, South Georgia, South Carolina, and Eastern Tennessee, as well as experience in strategic planning and philanthropic fundraising for various nonprofits. She comes to WUOT from her position as executive director of Greenville Area Parkinson’s Society in Greenville, South Carolina. Hamblett said all her combined experience has given her the skills, knowledge, and passion necessary to take WUOT-FM into its next phase of growth.
“I am so excited, I feel like my entire career has prepared me for this moment,” she said. “WUOT was always the station I had my eye on and I felt it was positioned for great success. It is in a great market in a beautiful region of the country. The staff is doing amazing work, and I think station is ready to blossom.”
Hamblett said she admires the vision College of Communication and Information Dean Joe Mazer has for both CCI and the station, which transitioned into CCI July 1 of this year. Her time as a producer, reporter, and station manager has given her the birds-eye view necessary to assess what a station needs in order to grow its presence, voice, and fundraising efforts. The transition leverages the expertise of the WUOT staff, and the faculty and staff expertise in CCI, to provide rich content for listeners, and more experiential learning opportunities for students.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jody Hamblett to WUOT,” said Mazer. “With her expertise and accomplishments, Jody is well-equipped to drive WUOT’s success and further our university’s land-grant mission by delivering exceptional public radio programming to our communities.”
Now, with the station joining CCI, Hamblett believes there’s more opportunity than ever to tap into the community and make WUOT embody and reflect the people who live in East Tennessee.
“The work we do in public radio is so vitally important in the media’s changing landscape, which is changing seemingly day-by-day. And the work we do in public radio is needed now more than ever,” she said. “One of the things public media does well is shine the light on those under-served communities in our region. Our job at WUOT is to really amplify issues in the community, give a voice to those who are under-served, and to serve as a connector and convener for important conversations that need to happen.”
Getting to know the community and its people is at the top of Hamblett’s to-do list, and she’s hoping to have time to conduct a listening tour across the station’s broadcast area to gauge the pulse and needs of the East Tennessee audience.
In addition to seeing a station prime for growth, Hamblett is thrilled at the opportunity to work with CCI students who want to learn the ins-and-outs of radio news and public radio production.
“For years, I have been concerned about the next generation of journalists, and being able to work with the University of Tennessee and the College of Communication and Information is extremely exciting to me. I want to be able to work hands-on with students and instill in them solid journalism practices. We need to teach young journalists to be courageous and boldly tell stories of the human experience while holding those with power accountable. I think working with college students will bring a fresh face and voice to WUOT, and I’m excited to see what we can do together as partners,” she said. “There’s potential for amazing content, but also to give these students a really broad and thorough foundation of journalistic experience before they even walk out the doors of the university.”
When Hamblett visited CCI as part of her interview process, she had the opportunity to meet the current staff at WUOT, and that was yet another aspect of the job that sealed the deal for her.
“I am beyond excited to work with the team at WUOT; they’re incredibly dedicated and talented people who have done great work. I look forward to doing even more amazing things with them in the future,” she said.
As if overseeing her dream station and team wasn’t enough, there continues to be bonuses for Hamblett moving from South Carolina to Knoxville: her husband, Jason, is a diehard and lifelong Volunteers fan. In fact, she had to agree to leave her The Ohio State University Buckeyes fandom behind her when they were married, a light-hearted gesture (as she is from Ohio but didn’t attend OSU) that now seems prescient.
“My husband bleeds orange. His father was a fan, meaning Jason grew up loving the Vols,” she said, also noting that her longtime best friend is similarly a Vol for life, and is looking forward to staying with Hamblett in her new hometown and attending football games together.
Overall, Hamblett said she’s grateful for this new opportunity and plans to truly embrace WUOT and Knoxville as her new home. Though she comes from the north, she long ago fell in love with the southeast and Appalachia and all the rich history, culture, and everyday life that happens here.
“Life in the south has been a true gift for me. The people are incredibly warm and caring, and it’s a place I’m proud to call home,” she said.