First African-American Woman “Certified Public Radio Traffic Director”

First African-American Woman “Certified Public Radio Traffic Director”


By Kenny F. Jean

WXXI-AM/FM/TV has been Rhonda’s “home” for 27 years, beginning there as an Intern in Television, then following graduation, working her way up the ladder and being introduced to her first Traffic assignment in 1988 as WXXI-FM Traffic Coordinator. Rhonda admits the role and complexity of being responsible for Traffic has changed over the years due to enhanced technology and broadcasting concerting from analog to the digital age. Currently, Rhonda is the Radio Opertions Manager, which encompasses WXXI-AM & FM and the Reachout Radio Network feeds provided by WXXI.

“It was a race among several public radio professionals that have undertaken the three-element course, worked their way through study guides customized for the unique variables of non-commercial radio and taken the three parts of our CD examination. “Said Larry Keene,CEO of the Traffic Directors Guild of America, which administers the tests. Rhonda has the added honor of being first to pass the Public Radio version of the CTD courses, but is also the first New York State Broadcaster to achieve certification in either the Commercial or Non-Commercial sectors.”

Rhonda Austin is from a small town located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. She was raised in a small town called Housatonic and comes from a very big family. Her mother Willeen Smith Austin was always an advocate for children and anyone in need. She worked for the Elizabeth Freeman Center located in Pittsfield. Her father Labrun Austin worked for the General Electric Company until he retired in 1995. The Austin’s were a blended family of eleven children. Four biological and seven adopted plus a slew of many foster children that came and went but are still considered family.

The Austin’s made sure that all their kids graduated from high school and some have gone on to college to receive degrees. Rhonda received her A.A.S. degree from Monroe Community College in Visual Communications and Photography. She landed her first job right out of college at WXXI Public Broadcasting Council in 1988.