Growing up, Jill Riley always had the dream of one day perusing a career in radio.
At a young age, Riley found a love for radio and the personal connection it presented her with while listening to music, shows or DJ hosts on her dial.
With an interest in jumping into that career path increasing throughout junior high, Riley went on to attend St. Cloud State University after high school to pursue a degree in mass communications to make that dream a reality.
Ever since 2004, when she graduated from St. Cloud State with a degree in mass communications, Riley has been able to enjoy a successful career on the airwaves at The Current, a non-commercial, member-supported radio station based in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.
“In junior high, there was clearly more of an interest for me in the fine arts rather than athletics or anything else. I was always attracted to radio and wanted to get to know more of the ins and outs of the technical side of things. I always wanted to talk about music and geeked out over it,” Riley said. “When radio is done well, it gives people the opportunity to have a personal connection and share an experience that has stood the test of time.
“I enjoy communicating by using my voice and showing my personality. There’s something about being on the radio that is somewhat of a mystery and you deal with a personality while the visual aspect of things is taken out of it.”
With The Current since the beginning
Once she graduated from St. Cloud State, Riley knew she wanted to work somewhere in Minnesota and stay within the state as her career began. Shortly after, everything started to fall into place for her.
In 2005, Minnesota Public Radio was planning on launching The Current to be based in the Twin Cities area. After applying, Riley was hired by the station and has spent her entire career there ever since.
“To say that path is not typical for people in radio is a huge understatement. The reason it has worked for me is the work I have put into it and the willingness to be flexible and put in the time,” Riley said. “It’s been great to be in the same place and I feel like I grew into my career here and grew up here. When you get into the real world, you are not going to be a pro right away and if you can spend your time in one spot, you are able to develop and grow with the company. I’m very lucky in that way.”
Riley started out at The Current as a part-time overnight weekend announcer, working two days a week in the midnight to 6 a.m. time slot. For about 10 years, she now hosts a morning show weekdays from 6-10 a.m. as a full-time solo host.
In her role, she is responsible for a multitude of things, including getting news and music ready for the day, programming music and content during breaks, as well as conducting newscasts once an hour.
“The thing I enjoy most is the fact that I go into work every day doing what I love and what I dreamed of doing,” Riley said. “I get to work for a radio station where I pick the music and I love putting together playlists while talking to audiences about music. I also get to be a part of people’s lives, which I can’t fully wrap my head around sometimes.”
Getting a start at SCSU and KVSC
Prior to attending St. Cloud State, Riley went to school Ridgewater College in Hutchinson for two years until she transferred to St. Cloud. A big part of her reasoning for that move was due to the strong mass communications program at SCSU and especially the presence of KVSC.
“I listened to KVSC as a teenager in Hutchinson and we were lucky enough to get it on the radio dial there. I always knew they had a strong radio station and knew I wanted to transfer there,” she said. “I had a such a good time learning and getting on-air hours at KVSC. I had really good support from my advisor and from the faculty, and they recognized what I wanted to get out of that program and really helped me get there.”
While being an active participant within KVSC and eventually serving as a director for the station, Riley was able to form good relationships with faculty and others to establish a strong support system that helped her land a job right out of school.
“The most beneficial thing of being part of the program I was in is the hands-on learning I received while having access to a well-run college radio and community radio station right there in the building. Those experiences, that was everything,” Riley said. “I don’t think I would have had this job opportunity without that kind of training.
“The more involved everyone is with KVSC or UTVS, the more you are able to take advantage of those resources and make the most out of it. Anybody that is interested in mass communications, just throw yourself into it and make the most of those opportunities at the university. They are only going to help you.”
Riley is fortunate to be in the position she is in at The Current and to have taken a path that is somewhat rare in the radio business. With the help of many along the way, she continues to get to work at a place she dreamed about ever since she was listening the radio at a young age.
“My goal right now is to continue to do morning radio. I have been working towards this for my entire career,” Riley said. “My ultimate goal is to continue to be a host on the radio and I want to continue to do what I really enjoy doing here at The Current.”