Jennifer Ferro Succeeds Ruth Seymour as General Manager of KCRW

Jennifer Ferro wanted to be a UCLA cheerleader. Growing up in Torrance, Ferro was a sprinter in high school because she wanted to be a jock. "I have a big mouth and I wanted to be able to express myself. I was never good with authority."

Working at radio station KCRW offers her that means of expression. "I never thought about broadcasting," says Ferro, "I just loved KCRW."

Last week, Ferro was named KCRW's general manager, replacing Ruth Seymour, a dynamo who was instrumental in KCRW's progression over the past 32 years. Ferro has some big shoes to fill, but staffers are confident that she is the right woman for the job. Ferro has worked at KCRW since 1994 and eases into the general manager position from her role as assistant general manager.

Jan Elfman, KCRW's interim volunteer coordinator, says that Ferro is beloved by her entire staff. Elfman says that the station has been "waiting on pins and needles" for news of Ferro's appointment and that they were "relieved and grateful" to have her as the new general manager.

While Ferro was a student at UCLA, her friend convinced her to volunteer as a researcher for KCRW. Ferro was comfortable working behind the scenes but her supervisors had other plans for her. One day someone stuck a microphone in her hand and told her to cover a dance event. After that, Ferro says, she realized how fun it was to do radio and she became an arts reporter in 1994.

Ferro describes how she will manage the station differently than KCRW predecessor Ruth Seymour. Ferro remembers Seymour saying that when she took over the station 32 years ago, it was being broadcasted from a John Adams Middle School classroom that had three chairs and one typewriter.

Because of the era in which Seymour lived, she had to fight her way to the top, says Ferro. "Ruth's personality is suited to do that," she says. Ferro is different in that respect. She describes herself as a much more collaborative worker.

"I'm more of a persuader than a fighter," says Ferro. "You have to learn how to keep your mouth shut when you do recording. And I did learn how to do that."

When Seymour started in radio, her children were already grown. In contrast, Ferro has two daughters, 7 and 9. Ferro says that now, in 2010, being a successful businesswoman and a mother has finally become a realistic goal. She appreciates that women like Seymour "paved the way" so that women today can enjoy success in career fields that were traditionally male-dominated.

Ferro's daughters listen to KCRW on car trips "because they have to," she says, laughing, but they do have favorite programs. They like "This American Life" and "Good Food" and they enjoy listening to the pledge drives because they recognize the voices of people they have met when they have gone to work with Ferro. Ferro says her stepdaughters, 21 and 23 are impressed with the hip music that KCRW features.

KCRW will be moving to the SMC satellite campus, The Academy of Entertainment and Technology, in 2013. Ferro says the move is like a metaphor. Presently KCRW is underground, literally located in the basement under the Cayton Center. "There are no signs and no one knows where we are," says Ferro. Once the move to AET happens, says Ferro, "We're going above ground, out in the open with windows."

Another change that the move to AET will bring is a new viewing gallery and performance space for live musical acts, which Ferro hopes will get students and others excited about the eclectic music KCRW plays.

Ferro hopes to broaden KCRW's relationship with SMC students. She is working with Professor Josh Kanin, director of film studies at SMC, to recruit video editors from film classes. KCRW is using more media outlets for its expanding online audience so the studio is happy to give students real world experience in exchange for their expertise, says Ferro.

Ferro is no stranger to the tech world. She was instrumental is developing an iPhone app for KCRW's streaming media, news, DJ shows and online presence.

KCRW offers SMC students a reduced-rate station membership of $15 that gives them discounted prices for thousands of retailers. KCRW also sends out volunteers, called ambassadors, to market the station during local live performances.

We want to start initiatives on college campuses to bring KCRW to youth audiences, says Ferro. "Students are the subscribers of tomorrow."