KCRW (89.9 MHz FM) is a National Public Radio station – founded at the conclusion of WWII – broadcasting from the campus of Santa Monica College, in the beachfront city of the same name.
Its soundwaves traverse the ether across a big portion of Southern California.
We have to thank in large part Jennifer Ferro, President of KCRW, for transitioning it to digital, allowing today’s listeners to enjoy its rich music as well as cultural and informed public affairs’ programming, via five dedicated smartphone apps and online at KCRW.com.
The radio station even offers Today’s Top Tune, a free exclusive downloadable song available daily.
Ferro is also the President of the KCRW Foundation, that backs up, mainly but not only, financially the radio station, thereby enabling the latter to keep pursuing and expanding its mission, consistently with economic, social and technological developments.
Above all, Jennifer Ferro perfectly embodies the slogan of KCRW: “For The Curious.” Her curiosity and yearning to explore the unexplored being highly infectious.
Jennifer’s next goal is to trail the path, that, a century ago, brought her grandfather from Alatri – small gem in the beautiful land of Ciociaria – to the United States of America. Only, this time is going to be the other way around.
Please, introduce yourself. What is your cultural background (also in terms of studies)?
I’m Jennifer Ferro, current President of Los Angeles public radio station, KCRW. I’ve worked here for 21 years.A UCLA graduate, I started out as a volunteer and, after a couple of years, I became assistant to the General Manager/founder of KCRW.
Again, after a couple of years, I got promoted as Assistant General Manager with supervision over the day-to-day operations. Six years ago when the former President, Ruth Seymour, retired, I took over in the same position.
Where does your family hail from? How was growing up in an Italian-American household?
At the beginning of the twentieth century, my grandfather, from my father’s side, emigrated from Alatri (Province of Frosinone, Lazio) to Ellis Island, New York. His original family name was “Tagliaferri,” shortened as “Ferro.”
They soon moved to the Midwest. Afterwards, my parents relocated to Los Angeles, where I was born. I’ve always had a lot of pride about being Italian American and I only wish my parents had kept some of the traditions alive from Italy.
Since you joined KCRW in 1995, you have been bringing a “breath of fresh air” to the National Public Radio Station. Tell us more about this innovation?
We don’t look at ourselves as a radio station, but rather as a people’s aggregator through a rich programming around news, culture, political affairs.
We didn’t shelter behind the traditional ways of broadcasting. We want to be wherever our audience is, on their smartphones or listening to podcasts, or listening over a traditional radio. We embrace the digital change in behavior because we think of ourselves as more than a radio station.
Our mission is connecting a community of people, who share the same curiosity towards the world.
What are your responsibilities as Vice Chair of the AIR Board?
Air Board is a committee of independent producers in radio. My role is to make sure that these creative people have opportunities to get their work heard on public media.
In 2011, you were chosen as one of “Los Angeles’ Game Changing Women Leaders Who Make an Impact in LA” by Los Angeles Magazine. What does entail for you being socially engaged?
I try to make sure KCRW is a credible, respected and exciting public resource. We focus on news, music and culture and work to bring people together around big ideas, rich stories and excellent music.
You serve as well on the boards of NPR Berlin and Zocalo Public Square. Tell us more about your involvement in these organizations?
Zocalo Public Square is a great journalism organization that allows you to hear from voices you normally wouldn’t hear from about issues that affect them directly. They produce hundreds of live events around the city and the globe that bring people together. It’s a mission that I fully endorse and support.
NPR Berlin is American public radio broadcasting from Berlin. Berlin and LA share a lot of similarities. Berlin is not only a preeminent cosmopolitan hub for arts and culture, but also the European epicenter of politics and economics.
You moderated the panel “Is South L.A. an urban success story?” What is your personal connection with South L.A.? To your knowledge, is there an Italian-American presence in this area of the city?
I have lived in South L.A. for sixteen years, so that’s where my personal connection comes from.
I don’t think there is a sizeable presence of Italian-American in that area. South L.A. has a long-standing African-American population, as well as a Latino population. What emerged from that panel is how South L.A.’s residents have been organizing themselves to improve things and, more importantly, that they know how to advocate for themselves.
It was uplifting and positive because we all share the same city and we have to make it the city we really want to live in.
Have you ever been to Italy? Do you have any contacts with the local Italian-American community?
Last year, I visited Rome. It was such a marvelous city. One day, I’d love to go to my grandpa’s hometown, Alatri. That would be a good way to reconnect with my roots. Unfortunately, I don’t have any contacts with the local Italian-American community, but I’d really love to connect more.