Mike McKenna - Programming Assistant

Oct. 2, 2012 by Nicole V. Rohr

Mike McKenna, Programming Assistant

Have you ever wondered where your programming questions are sent when you e-mail WYCC? Programing Assistant Mike McKenna has the answers, or he quickly gets in touch with the person who does. McKenna has been remarkably busy for the past couple of months. Our programming director Cindy Syperek welcomed a new baby earlier this year, putting new responsibilities on McKenna’s plate, and production for Justice and Law Weekly and The Professors is in full swing. He continues to promptly respond to viewers when they provide feedback, or notice an error on the schedule.

However, there are pieces of his life and personality that sometimes go unnoticed.

“I could probably teach a course here in Russian literature. Anything written from 1845 to1945, I’ve probably read like at least once,” McKenna says casually when asked what fact about him would surprise others. It’s actually a goal of his to teach a Russian literature course, and it all began on a tarmac.

“I was working at Midway Airlines, and I was loading ice on the planes… My buddy gave [Crime and Punishment] to me. I made the plane late because I couldn’t put it down. It’s about a 100 bucks a minute if a plane pushes back from a gate late,“ he explained, laughing.

McKenna said that he admired Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s writing about the slums in Petersburg, describing the author as the “Charles Dickens of Russia.” What is more important to him, however, is the fact that Dostoyevsky and other authors took great risks and a stance against censorship in publishing their words.

McKenna, 100-percent Irish himself, has written three novels, and hopes to be published one day. His blog “I Escape Beyond The Great Plains” features Escape, Beyond, and The Great Plains, among other works. Several of McKenna’s short stories have been aired on the radio – another example of how his passion for literature and writing has fluidly combined with his broadcast knowledge.

He attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., where he studied broadcast with a focus on radio. Looking back, McKenna said, “They taught us studio camera at Marquette and I’m literally using it to earn my living today. What? Twenty-five years later.” He still looks a little surprised by the direction his life has taken.

“I remember my first camera shoot was a town hall meeting in 2003 at Malcolm X College. [They told me], ‘Don’t make a mistake. You’ll eventually you get good at it. You’ll sell shots.’ You know when you kind of get a feel of what the director wants and you just kind of let your instinct take over.”

It takes talent, good judgment and intuition to predict what a director needs and deliver that shot when he/she needs it. “I kind of see myself as making the director happy. If he/she is happy, then I’m happy,” McKenna said.

And McKenna does seem happy. As a Chicago native, he enjoys what the city has to offer: pick-up basketball games, interesting food options (he recently cut out potatoes, bread, rice and pasta from his diet), and media opportunities. He is the first one to say good morning when someone passes him in the hallway, and he possesses a quiet insightfulness when speaking about life, travel or literature.

He dreams about producing a documentary featuring a Kennedy-King College student who breaks through barriers to attend college and start a new life. McKenna said, “It would be so rewarding because that’s the whole point of these colleges. Of our existence.”

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