Current names WTJU’s Lewis Reining a “Rising Star in Public Media”

Current, the source for news about public media, announced its first cohort of early and mid-career employees to be recognized as Rising Stars in Public Media who are making a mark on their organizations and communities.

“There’s so much talent in public media,” said Current Executive Director Julie Drizin. “We wanted to recognize exceptional individuals and raise their profiles on a national level.”

One of these Rising Stars is Lewis Reining, producer & operations director at WTJU 91.1 FM. In more than a decade on staff at WTJU, Lewis has lent his many talents to making WTJU a destination for live & local music, an educational resource for students of all ages, and an engaged community hub.

“Lewis works hard and is tenacious at solving problems. He is down-to-earth and works very well with a large and diverse pool of WTJU volunteers and staff. He is always willing to help out and always there in the clutch. Lewis is an invaluable part of WTJU,” said Nathan Moore, WTJU General Manager.

Lewis is one of 22 Rising Stars selected by Current from 238 nominations.

“So much of WTJU’s growth and community impact can be traced to Lewis’s skills, qualities, creativity, technical mind, and tenacity. It warms my heart that Lewis is receiving this national recognition,” said Moore.

You can read more about all the 2023 Rising Stars of Public Media at


Proudest moment: I’ve had the distinct honor of participating in some notable projects: managing production of a free online music history class covering 100 years of recorded jazz, engineering incredible musicians like John Doyle and Mick McAuley, and helping to organize and run outdoor community concerts with 1,000-plus people in attendance. And yet, if I’m honest, the proudest moments that spring to mind are small.

WTJU is primarily a music station. All of our shows are hosted by community members who volunteer their time to share their love of music.

A few years ago, one of our DJs had two hours of music prepared on a laptop they brought in, but couldn’t get any of it to play for a show they’d spent hours planning. It was an easy fix, just an issue with the audio output device. A few seconds, a couple mouse clicks, and everything was back to normal. Their relief and smile when they knew that hard work hadn’t been wasted let me know that I’d helped make their day easier. For me, there’s been no greater satisfaction than helping your neighbor and seeing the immediate impact of your help.

How his values align with a career in public media: I grew up on public media and originally wanted to be a radio journalist, someone bringing people the news, making the world a better place with the power of the pen (and mic). Where I’ve ended up is vastly different from my original vision. I’ve come to understand that there are lots of other ways to help build a better community. The news can inform, but it can’t necessarily give a sense of fulfillment or help you through difficult moments. Music and the arts can.

Community stations like WTJU are uniquely positioned to help. Our hosts produce their own playlists and structure their own shows. It’s one person reaching out to their community and saying, “This is what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, this is what moves me” and why. There’s a beauty in that selfless vulnerability. There’s no money, no real fame or fortune, but they do it anyway. And in so doing, they contribute in building a piece of the unique character of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Through WTJU, I’ve learned that teaching and empowering others with the tools to tell their own stories and seek out their own truths is equally important in creating a better community. From our student summer camps to classes for University of Virginia students and DJ/host-training for community members, I’ve learned that helping sometimes means stepping back a bit. I provide support to bring people together through music and concerts, and by empowering them with the skills and tools to speak their own truths. It’s an equally important function to journalism.

Inspired by: As an avid listener, I make time to seek out new music. Recently, I was inspired by Dogtown Studio and their work with the band Crane Wives. I started listening as an audio engineer, trying to break down the way the instruments were layered, how they fit into the soundscape and how that was achieved. Finding a work that moves me becomes a great source of inspiration. It’s a great way to give me direction in my own self-improvement.

Another source of inspiration is teaching. In showing interns and students the basics of recording and editing, they sometimes ask questions that I don’t know how to answer. Their questions have made me reexamine my patterns of habit and actively relearn the tools I’m using.

A third is asking myself how I could represent “this” or “that” in an audio-only format. When I’m out and about, I stop and listen for a minute to see what the key sounds of my environment are. Or when I’m watching a film, I consider how I would adapt that scene to audio-only.

Advice for other young professionals in public media: Do everything with intentionality and consistently review your own work. By maintaining intentionality in all aspects of production, your ability to analyze and improve becomes much easier.

Creating media is often messy, complicated and multilayered. Trying to improve and strengthen your craft can be difficult because there are so many different angles to consider. Having strong intentionality isn’t just about why you chose speaker A over speaker B, it’s about why you chose clip 3 over clip 7, why you wanted the order to be clips 3-5-2 and why you wanted the music to end 2 seconds before the last clip instead of with it. It has nothing to do with whether these were good or bad decisions, just why you made them.

A second bit of advice is for all of us: Carefully consider what you need on a personal level. Work in public media is often all-consuming, even when you try to keep a good work–life balance. It’s often because the work is close to the heart and we care about getting it right; and that takes time — a lot of time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need other outlets and pursuits.

I love the work I do at my station, I love the people I work with and I think it’s impactful, meaningful work. But most of my work is technical and supportive in nature. Over time I’ve come to understand that I need a creative outlet, I need to be able to take ownership of an idea and be able to build it as I see fit. So I’ve started working on creative stories and scripts. That side of me, even if it’s not in a professional capacity, is just as important to my own well-being.

In jobs like ours where the work is always geared toward serving and supporting others, it’s easy to forget to take time for yourself.


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