By Judith Salkin
You gotta figure that not knowing what you want to do with your life after four years of college is a drag. For Jen Shevlin, 38, director of operations for Morris Media Desert Radio Group’s KCLB and KDGL and on-air talent for The Crush 103.9, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
In her senior year at University of California San Diego, Shevlin still hadn’t figured out what she was going to do after graduation.
“Really, I had no idea,” she said earlier this week. An internship at a San Diego station lead Shevlin, who was a communications major, was the tipping point in her life.
“It was an awesome job,” she recalled. “It was our job to listen to music, talk to people and do fun things. I’m still friends with some of the people I met when I worked there.”
Always a woman with drive, as the internship wound to a close she talked management into giving her a chance as on-air talent in the dead of night 2 to 5 a.m. slot when the slot opened up.
The middle of the night slot at most stations is known for the audience it attracts in terms of graveyard workers, inebriates and crazies who are regularly up during those cold, dark hours.
“You do get the crazies,” she said. “But you also get to meet some really interesting people in those hours.”
She was always around the station picking up opportunities to record promos or pick up the odd weekend shift. “When you’re available people start to think about using you for whatever needs to be done,” she said. “It gets you noticed.”
Between San Diego and the desert, Shevlin and her husband, Fred Nichols, made a slight detour to Anchorage, Alaska, for a couple of years as program director for a Morris Media-owned station.
“I was born and raised in Southern California (she’s originally from Thousand Oaks), so it was a bit of change for me,” she said. “The people are amazing and welcoming, but it’s so isolated.”
Long summer days were great. “We’d play softball after work and didn’t need field lights because the sun doesn’t set until midnight,” she said. “That was kind of unique.”
But it was the winters with 23 hours of darkness that was harder to adjust to, she said.
When the position for operations director came up here in the desert, Shevlin went for it.
Coming to the Coachella Valley, “was like coming home for us,” she said.
While Shevlin and Nichols didn’t know a lot about the area, “I’d been a couple of times in college,” she said. “When we moved here we were very comfortable,”
Like the move to Alaska, they had to adjust to the climate. “We spend most of the summer indoors,” she said. “But it beats shoveling snow.”
Proximity to Los Angeles, SoCal’s assortment of theme parks (great for special trips for her 3-year-old son, Jimmy) and local mountains, “makes doing promotions for the station a lot easier,” she said.
Programming for the station is also more interesting than the typical small town, she said.
She can put her influence to good use by getting the station involved with charities and community events like October’s Paint El Paseo Pink breast cancer event.
“And pretty much anything related to kids,” she said. “My husband says I’ve become a big softie for kids since I had my son.”
The recent Coachella Valley Rescue Mission’s drive to gather and distribute school supplies touched Shevlin. “It’s something you don’t think about a lot until you have kids,” she said. “Kids should have new supplies and it feels good to help with a project like that.”
Shevlin doesn’t just promote her own causes through the station. “Part of my job is to encourage the staff to become involved and promote their own charities,” she said.
While moving around to move ahead is often part of the life in radio, Shevlin has thrived by being able to stay put for years at a time.
“I like stability,” she said. “I grew up in the same house all my life before I went to college and I like staying put.”
At the moment she’s not sure what her next goal is, but Shevlin and her family are comfortable in the Coachella Valley. “I’ve been really lucky,” she said. “I’ve done a lot in the past 15 years.”