Madison Hodges, a longtime manager of public radio stations and advocate for the system who worked to increase the community impact of pubcasters nationwide, died July 18 in Tallahassee, Fla., from cardiac arrest following treatment of a rare bone cancer. He was 66.
Hodges ran several university-licensed public radio stations over the course of his career and served as executive director of the University Station Alliance. He also oversaw station services at NPR and spearheaded initiatives with the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program to increase community involvement, help licensees secure CPB funding, identify gaps in public radio’s coverage and quantify stations’ community impact for license-holders.
He began his broadcasting career as a reporter for a commercial radio station in Little Rock, Ark., before joining the city’s public radio station, KUAR. He went on to become general manager of KUAR and later held the same position at WEKU in Richmond, Ky., and WFSU in Tallahassee.
He joined NPR in the mid-1990s and worked for nearly a decade as the network’s director of policy and station services, during a time when Congress was changing funding priorities for CPB. New requirements put stations in need of CPB funds in precarious positions, but Hodges helped them move toward compliance.
“It takes a certain kind of personality to work on the national scene,” wrote Linda Carr, who worked with Hodges on at-risk stations while he was at NPR, in an email. “Not all individuals who come from the station level can adapt to the pressures and expectations from so many different stakeholders. But Madison did that well, and he always did so with a ready smile.”
Hodges joined NPR “at a time when we really needed some clear, focused thinking on how to help the system continue,” said Scott Hanley, g.m. of WBHM in Birmingham, Ala., who served on NPR’s board and worked with Hodges’s station-services team on at-risk stations. And Hodges provided that clear thinking, according to Hanley: “He was very good at putting things in focus and handling challenges with a great degree of grace and aplomb.”
After leaving NPR, Hodges became a project manager for PTFP, where he worked on a full-scale evaluation of gaps in public radio’s service and oversaw efforts to fill them. “The number of people who are no longer covered by public radio in the country is much less now,” Hanley said.
While executive director of the University Station Alliance, Hodges developed a metric to measure the financial equivalent of the community impact made by stations on behalf of the schools that operate them. The metric incorporated Arbitron data, listener contributions and other impact studies, and resulting numbers far exceeded the funding provided by license-holders, according to Craig Beeby, USA’s current executive director.
“It’s truly made a difference for dozens and dozens of stations around the country,” Beeby said, likening the metric to an elevator pitch that stations can use to justify continued funding from license-holders.
“He had the ability to create and develop consensus among the leaders of the national level, as well as working with stations,” Beeby said. “He was someone who really cared about what he did. He cared about the people that worked for him, and he cared about the system.”
Hodges returned to Florida in 2006 and became g.m. of WQCS in Ft. Pierce, where he remained until his death. He continued to serve on USA’s board while receiving chemotherapy and had planned to resume a larger role with the Association of Public Media in Florida, whose board he served on, when his treatments ended.
“He was a delightful colleague and a great public radio advocate,” former NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin wrote in an online guestbook for Hodges. “Thoughtful, humorous with a delightful appreciation of the best qualities of his fellow man.”
Hodges is survived by his wife Dr. Anne (Robinson) Hodges, son Matthew McBurnett Hodges, daughter Emma Steward Hodges and brother Dr. Norman Hodges Jr. The family asks that donations be made to WQCS, KUAR, the local pubradio station of one’s choice or the American Cancer Society.