Olympic High School grad hosts radio show for Seattle’s KMPS.

Shannon McKinley never saw herself earning a paycheck sitting in a room by herself, talking to a microphone for hours.

While it may have all started serendipitously, the 23-year-old 2004 Olympic High School grad is now the latest addition to 94.1 KMPS-FM’s stable of talent.

“What other kind of job has awesome perks and you still get paid to listen to music?” she asked.

McKinley owns the airwaves from 7 p.m. until midnight weeknight, acting as her own producer, answering the phone and taking requests from listeners.

McKinley, who goes by the on-air name, Dakota, her dog’s name, said it all happened by chance.

She got a job working in the promotions department at Seattle country music station 100.7 The Wolf (KKWF-FM) in 2007 while finishing her senior year at the University of Washington.

During her six months at the station she got her first crack at the mic when she was offered the chance to act as co-host on Sean Kramer’s evening radio show.

Her roommate wanted a shout out on the radio, so a nervous McKinley asked Kramer for permission before going live.

“He told me to say something kind of inconspicuous, say ‘kitty cat meow,’” she said.

She decided against it, but then Kramer put her on the spot and pressured her to say the phrase live on the air.

“It was so embarrassing,” she said.

Now, only two-and-a-half years later, McKinley has her own show.

“I haven’t been in radio that long,” she said. “It’s amazing I could get a job this awesome.”

McKinley said it’s unusual for someone with so little background in radio to be given a show, especially in a major metropolitan market like Seattle. The Seattle-Tacoma area is ranked 13th in the nation by Arbitron, a media and marketing research firm.

“There’s not a whole lot of room to move up in consideration of what’s below me,” she said.

Despite the quick ascension to radio personality, McKinley said she still had to pay her dues.

When she was hired on in promotions, McKinley worked for free for the first two months.

Between that first night and her new show, McKinley has worked odd hours at Movin’ 92.5 (KQMV-FM) including hosting a show from midnight to 6 a.m. and on the weekends from 6 to 10 a.m. And, that was when she wasn’t working at a Mercer Island bar.

Now, she’s on her way to building up her own radio personality.

McKinley said she doesn’t know how many listeners tune in to her show, nor does she care.

“The number itself doesn’t make any difference to me,” she said “One person or one million people.”

She can rest assured she has at least two loyal listeners in her mom and dad.

Mick McKinley, Shannon’s father and Bremerton assistant fire chief, said he won’t forget his daughter’s first show at KMPS.

“It seems surreal to hear your daughter’s voice on your favorite radio station,” he said.

A longtime country music fan, Mick McKinley said he couldn’t be happier with his daughter’s success, and says she has the personality to take her far in radio.

“She’s got her mom’s fun side to her,” he said. “If she didn’t have that, she wouldn’t make it on the radio.”

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