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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

CBS Detroit VP Debbie Kenyon


I met Debbie at a casino. Now that may seem like a line from a Martin Scorcese film, but when you need to stay in downtown Detroit, the casino hotels are some of the best in the city. Debbie was a breath of fresh air; she was smart, knew the market inside and out, and had a full understanding of her stations from sales to programming and everything in between. Besides being a genius regarding Detroit radio, and pretty much everything else in life, she juggled being a mother and a wife as well and did it all in the same 24 hours as everyone else who accomplishes half as much. Working the past several years with Debbie has made me a better person. Her kindness, demeanor, work ethic, and passion are contagious; and every time we talk I feel a little smarter just knowing her.

Now, in her own words, is how CBS Detroit VP Debbie Kenyon got into radio…

My radio career started in sales, and the seeds were planted at a very young age…selling candy bars door-to-door for our local swim team when I was 6 years old!
My Dad was a long-term salesperson at WJBK in Detroit and instilled a strong work ethic in me. There was no way he was going to sell the candy bars for me – I was going to have to do it myself. So  he would stand on the street as I went door to door selling the candy bars. Times have changed, of course, and now I would probably be too nervous to let one of my three children go to door to door selling anything.
Then, as I grew older, I spent a lot of time at work with my Dad; many of his clients were regulars at our house on the weekends. I loved listening to the jingles over and over that were created for his local advertisers’ TV spots.
Growing up, I would play "office" with my friends. My office, however, just happened to be a TV station! We would create an imaginary traffic department, a sales department and, of course, a general manager would oversee the operation. My passion for radio really started during junior high years when my friends and I would spend hours listening to the radio, trying to get requests on the air, or coming up with pranks to play on the local DJs. Trying to win prizes was of course a huge part of the fun too.
I graduated with a degree in finance from Western Michigan and had every intention of working in New York, hoping for a career on the floor of the stock exchange. However, while my boyfriend -- now my husband -- was finishing his own studies, I interviewed at a local radio station, WNIC (Fairmount Communications) and started working in sales. This was going to be a temporary move until he graduated, but one month into it I had fallen in love with the business. It was inspiring to create programs for small businesses and really seeing the true positive effect the radio station had on each business.

Starting out on $1,200 a month turned into $50,000 in my first year. Although I grew up through sales, the air product is thrilling for me too, which makes my job that much more fun every day. I am also fortunate in that I have worked, and continue to work, each and every day with some of the best talent around, including Detroit radio legends Dick Purtan, Jim Harper, and now Dr. Don, Mike Valenti, Jim Johnson, and many more.

Reach out to Debbie at

Lisa Miller is the President of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago. She's also one of Radio Ink's Most Influential Women in Radio. Miller can be reached at or 312-454-1111.
So, how did you get into radio? We'd love to hear the story about why you're passionate about radio. Read more "How I Got Into Radio" columns by Lisa HERE.

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