Radio vet Dunlap finds his diamond in North Dakota

Seth Dunlap was winding down an early January evening with a warm espresso during a rare multi-day freeze in New Orleans. He checked his STAA Job Leads+ email as he had done hundreds of times before. This time, though, he spotted his diamond in the rough and applied immediately. “I didn’t expect to have a reply waiting for me when I woke up with my morning coffee the next day, but boy was I excited!”

One month later, Dunlap is on his way north to Jamestown ND to host a daily air shift and broadcast play-by-play, Most important, he will soon take over as program director at KSJB radio.

“I had spoken to [STAA Owner] Jon Chelesnik and others about my narrow desires to work for a non-corporate-owned station or group,” Dunlap recalls. “I was willing to bide my time as much as possible until there was an opportunity I was truly excited about. The KSJB job listing read like my wish list.”

Searching patiently

Dunlap is a radio veteran who most recently has been working outside the industry. “Getting back into media/radio wasn’t something I necessarily thought would happen during that time. However, I felt the tinge of passion creeping up on me during the latter part of 2022.” Dunlap continues, “I reached out to Jon Chelesnik, who I had worked with at STAA for about a decade, with a brief hiatus during that year, to re-activate my profile and update my demos and work.”

And to receive STAA’s Job Leads+ emails. “The job listings for premier members are incredible,” he enthuses. “Even if you currently have a role you are comfortable and happy in, anybody would be doing themselves a disservice by not opening those emails or checking those listings. You never know when you’ll spot that diamond in the rough job that excites the heck out of you, like the KSJB job did for me.”

He adds, “These aren’t opportunities that are just lying around for us in the industry dominated by the Big 3.”

New opportunity

One part of the KSJB opportunity about which Dunlap is excited is being a program director. He’ll be in-training to start but will assume to PD role shortly. “If there is one gap in my resume and work experience in the industry it is a true PD role. I’ve had PD-by-another-name roles for various organizations, but the ability to fully round out my skills and experience in this way is something I’ve been pursing for many years.”

Play-by-play love

Another aspect of his new position that Dunlap finds especially appealing is the coverage of small, Class B high school football and basketball, including state tournaments. “I’ve had an amazing, diverse career that includes NFL game-day broadcasts to Power 5 football and basketball games and hosting big shows in Top-50 markets. My favorite broadcast memories, bar none, are doing high school sports and state tournaments. There’s something about the relative purity and goodness of sport at that age it’s truly awesome. I can say without hesitation or exaggeration that there’s likely not a single type of play-by-play I enjoy more than small high school basketball and football. Something completely and engrossingly enjoyable for the old radiohead in me.

“I grew up in a small ‘B’ town in Washington State. My single fondest memory in sports is being a kid from a town of 200 people and playing in front of 12,000 fans in a Hoosiers-like environment. My first few full-time jobs involved play-by-play for small schools like this, and one of the startups I worked for broadcast high school games year-round.”

As Dunlap shared his memories, he recalled sitting courtside at a ‘State B’ tournament early in his career with Bob Robertson, the late Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Washington State Cougars. “One night after the broadcasts we were talking over wine in his hotel room. I asked him why he was broadcasting for the small-school state tournament when he would obviously have higher profile opportunities elsewhere. Not to mention a huge pay cut! Robertson said he did those games because he loved doing those games, and loved the true spirit of sport embodied by the Hoosiers-type atmosphere these small town kids and their fans brought.

“Essentially, do the things your passionate about, what you love to do, and be-damned what other people think. A firsthand lesson from the legendary Bob Rob, a true childhood icon of mine, that will stick with me for life.”

Being genuine

Honesty and genuineness helped Dunlap’s KSJB application stand out. “Don’t try to sound, write, or talk like somebody else,” he suggests. “Don’t fluff or polish your cover letter, resume, or conversations with things that you may have heard sound or look good, but don’t reflect who you are!

“When I wrote the initial email to [KSJB GM Patrick] Pfeiffer on that cold, late evening, I just typed out exactly what I was feeling. The excitement for the job, the reasons that I truly believed it was a rare and wonderful opportunity that would be overlooked, and a small bit of my personal and professional history that related to my excitement for the opportunity. It was pretty much a fire-from-the-hip cover letter, but I believe the genuineness of my interest in the job and the market came across.”

Dunlap continues, “There’s a saying I recently heard about living and thriving New York City that applies to our industry as well: ‘You need a personality. Good or bad, just have one, and embrace who you are. Don’t be generic. Nobody wants generic.'”

Now Dunlap is taking his personality and radio passion to the plains of North Dakota. “There are so many more things than money, market size, or clout-by-proxy that drive me now. There’s nothing wrong with other people valuing those things more highly, but it’s just completely not me. Maybe that makes me a radio fool, but I’ll be one darn happy fool then!”

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