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WNKU-FM General Manager Leaving Oct .7

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WNKU-FM
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Sean O'Mealy has resigned as WNKU-FM general manager effective Oct. 7, after 19 months on the job.

He leaves four months after Northern Kentucky University hired Kalil & Co., a Tucson-based media broker, to explore the possibility of selling WNKU-FM (89.7), WNKN-FM in Middletown (formerly WPFB-FM) and WNKE-FM in Portsmouth (formerly WPAY-FM).

"Sean accepted an opportunity to return to Pennsylvania and join the executive management team at Seven Mountains Media," said Eric C. Gentry, NKU vice president for university advancement, in an announcement late Wednesday afternoon.

"Sean and I are currently working to provide a smooth transition, and an announcement regarding an interim GM will be forthcoming," Gentry said.

"With the future of WNKU up in the air I couldn’t not pass up an opportunity to join a stable and growing media company back home," O'Mealy told me late Wednesday.

Seven Mountains Media operates 11 radio stations in State College, Lewistown, Selinsgrove and Huntingdon, PA. 

O'Mealy was hired in February 2015 to replace Chuck Miller, who had left the station the previous year.

Although WNKU-FM was his first public radio job, O'Mealy had spent the majority of his career in the Adult Album Alternative (Triple-A) music format as heard on WNKU-FM. He had been a music host, music director, program director, sales manager and general manager at stations in Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

At WNKU-FM, O'Mealy made many changes in his goal "to appeal to and engage with a larger/wider group of music lovers in the Greater Cincinnati region who otherwise are ignored by mainstream radio,” he told me a year ago.

He eliminated local newscasts; let go long-time staffers Michael Grayson, John Patrick and Steve Hirschberg; moved "The Real Mary Peale” and “World Café”to new time periods; and dropped “Under Currents,” “E-Town” and “Little Steven’s Underground Garage.”

He took over the 1-3 p.m. weekday air shift himself, and added "Sledge" from the old WOXY-FM to the weekend staff.

The station has had financial problems since the Middletown and Portsmouth stations were added in 2011 to reach 2 million more listeners in Southwestern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. At the time, the goal was to make the public radio stations self-sufficient in four years, Miller said when the stations were bought in 2011.

However, the university has subsidized WNKU's operations an average of $600,000 a year over the past five years. In 2015, the subsidy was $900,000.

When Northern Kentucky University President Geoffrey Mearns announced in early April that he would "explore the possibility of a sale of WNKU-FM and its assets," he also stressed that "this step is an exploratory one. No decision has been made regarding the future of WNKU."

When asked for an update on Kilil's progress, Amanda Nageleisen, NKU public relations, marketing and communications director, said that "the broker's work is ongoing."

Before hiring Kilil, NKU sold Middletown's WPFB-AM in April to Sacred Heart Radio, the Norwood-based Catholic radio service, for a  24/7 simulcast.