Radio station manager tunes into Delta voices, promotes service across Black Belt airwaves

October 01, 2014

Candy Capel’s varied career has included multiple ventures in public service, but she seems to have found her voice at the Alabama State University’s radio station WVAS. Now the station manager for the non-profit university station, Capel nurtures new reporters and on-air announcers delivering a mix of “Jazz, Blues, News and Views.” The station provides Capel with the perfect blend of creativity and community service she needs to indulge her passion for radio while training a new generation of talent on campus and providing valuable promotional support to a multitude of causes that impact her state.

While licensed to ASU and housed in the oldest building on campus, the non-profit station is far from a typical classroom environment. The 80,000-watt NPR affiliate boasts the second-most powerful signal in its 17-county listening area. With eight daily broadcasts, WVAS provides the most comprehensive coverage in the greater Montgomery region.

Capel strives for visibility in the community--supporting blood drives and food drives and covering issues in local schools. The station was designated a certified minority station by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and it targets issues of significance to Alabama’s communities of color. A qualitative analysis conducted in 2009 found that WVAS programming delivers $1.3 million in public relations services to the university every year.

One program queued up for completion about which Capel is very excited is the design and construction of the Black Belt Farmers Fruit and Vegetable Market and Innovation Center.  “This project, when it finally comes to fruition, will provide truly unique opportunities for Black farmers in Alabama to process and market their produce as well as to train the next generation of growers,” Capel said.

Capel’s commitment to the Black Belt of Alabama transcends her personal and professional life, and she views the challenges the community faces as opportunities for economic growth in the Delta if correctly addressed and supported. “I believe that the top priority for the Delta, particularly within our great State of Alabama, is the improvement of economic conditions for our citizens.  Our state's Black Belt includes some of the poorest counties in the nation.  While we are taking great strides with respect to the recruitment of industry and business to this region, any support that we can provide for these efforts is always a good thing.”

The station answers the call of the community in a multitude of ways, ranging from on-the-scene coverage during a tornado to a step-by-step recount of a political debate. Capel’s tasks during an “average” day are equally eclectic, as she bounces between paying bills, educating future broadcasters, and housekeeping duty when necessary.

Capel believes in lifelong learning, and she takes her own professional development as seriously as one of her students. She recently completed coursework at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government through the Delta Leadership Institute to learn more about the region she calls home and strategies to apply solutions to its most pressing challenges. “The DLI has allowed me to make lifelong friends with great leaders and achievers from throughout the Delta.  It has also allowed me, I truly believe, to grow as a leader in my own arena through excellent training and priceless networking opportunities,” she noted following her graduation from the program.

While some broadcasters tend to view the world from a safe place on the other side of the lens, Capel is determined to affect the action as it happens, when she can, in her community. For those in the Delta, her voice will be amplified by those she teaches and reaches through the airwaves of WVAS.