St. Louis Public Radio names Wayne Pratt Broadcast Operations Manager
After a nationwide talent search, STLPR has selected morning newscaster, senior correspondent and The Gateway podcast host Wayne Pratt as the station’s next Broadcast Operations Manager.
It will be a bittersweet farewell for many listeners, who’ve started their mornings with Pratt’s early morning newscasts and off-center weather humor since 2014.
“Radio is such a personal medium,” Pratt said of the connection he’s built with his audience. “I’m sure there are listeners who’ve gotten used to me.” It will be a big transition, on both sides of the microphone, Pratt said.
What’s a Broadcast Operations Manager?
In this new role, Pratt will oversee the day-to-day broadcast activities at the station, including direct supervision of staff and on-air traffic.
Pratt said that at every station the role is a little bit different. Essentially, he’ll have a heavy responsibility for the stations’ overall sound.
“I’ll be the supervisor for the local hosts that you hear. We have a lot of systems behind the scenes that need to be told what to do,” Pratt said.
The broadcast operations manager will also have a significant say in the station’s special programming and will work in concert with the programming committee on those initiatives. It’s a role and a transition that Pratt has been looking forward to with enthusiasm.
A dare leads to a long and winding career path
A native Canadian, Pratt’s radio career began in high school, in Renfrew, Ontario, his tiny hometown of roughly 8,000 people. He received a journalism degree from Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario, and was lucky enough to land a first job right out of college in idyllic Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
He moved back to a small city in Ontario before moving on to the big leagues in Toronto. There he worked at a national radio news service, and even dabbled in all-sports radio for a while.
“Then on a dare, in ’96 I moved to Indiana,” Pratt said laughing. Leaving Canada was never part of the plan, but a fortuitous night of job searching with his roommate — both young radio professionals, both looking for a full-time gig — changed the course of his life.
“It was the early days of getting the internet in your house,” Pratt said. “One night after we had bent the elbow a bit too much, we saw a posting for a radio news person in Lafayette, Indiana, of all places. The roommate says, ‘well, you need to apply for that.’ I said, ‘Why the heck do I want to go to Lafayette, Indiana!’”
A bit of back and forth led to the throwing of the gauntlet.
“So, you're in your early, arrogant twenties,” Pratt said. “You're thinking, how dare you dare me! So, I applied.”
He got the job. And he almost gave it away.
“It took six months to get a Visa,” Pratt said. By that time, he had been hired full-time in Toronto. But Indiana was calling and would not take no for an answer. “So I honored my commitment,” Pratt said. “And here I am.”
Pratt served as managing editor and morning anchor for WASK/WKOA in Lafayette, Indiana, for two years, and over the next several decades would serve media organizations across the US in multiple capacities: as a managing editor, news director, producer, host and correspondent.
He launched a local news operation at NPR member station WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana, and spent time as a correspondent for a network of more than 800 stations. In those roles he has trained up-and-coming journalists throughout North America.
STLPR Director Tina Pamintuan said that’s exactly the kind of depth and breadth of experience the station was hoping to find.
“Broadcast programming is central to STLPR’s daily function and public service mission. As the new operations manager in this department, Wayne brings decades of experience in radio, news, and talent development. I know our listeners (and I’m one of them!) will miss hearing Wayne’s newscasts in the mornings, however, they can rest assured knowing that his skill and professionalism are being put to great use in this new leadership position.”
STLPR in the morning
Pratt will bid farewell to his on-air role at the station on Friday, January 26, and return as the broadcast operations manager on Tuesday, January 30.
“I’ve always been interested in this part of the business, but I haven’t had a chance to explore it,” Pratt said. “Since the days I started in radio in high school. Now I get the opportunity to do it.”
Not that he won’t miss his listeners and the rest of the morning crew. “I’m lucky to have worked with the people I’ve been working with for the last nine years,” Pratt said. When you’re starting your day at 3 a.m., he says, that’s important. It’s also important to have the support of a loving wife, Jenny, who has put up with his very early morning routine for nearly a decade.
“I’m ready to do some other stuff,” he said. And Pratt moves on with a big debt of gratitude for his early days at STLPR.
“I owe a big thanks to [former news director] Bill Raack. He’s the guy who hired me,” Pratt said. "I owe this new position and the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to hang around here for 9-½ years, I owe all of that to Bill.” He saw something early that led to an incredible decade of radio.
Interim Managing Editor Jonathan Ahl will take over the newscast booth in the mornings starting Monday until a new a.m. newscaster is hired.