Announcers come and announcers go. Musical revolutions thrum into existence and disappear. But to a not-insignificant sliver of us, KCRW, the public radio station that lubricates our days and haunts our dreams, is L.A.'s permanent sound track. On the Westside, KCRW means as much as Vin Scully. To listeners in New York City studios, in London flats, in professors' cubicles around the world, Web feeds of KCRW's music shows are as essential as iPads.
KCRW has been defined for so long by the iron whim of Ruth Seymour, who long ago transformed it from a minor regional station into an international brand, that it is almost shocking to see the station manager, Jennifer Ferro, running the show — juggling three phone calls, shrugging off a producer, staring down Morning Becomes Eclectic host Jason Bentley in the newly red office from which Seymour ran the station. Have the moth-eaten Matisse posters been replaced? Why, yes, they have. Ferro is as protective of the station's legacy as you might expect of a woman who has scarcely known another place of employment. The photograph she snagged for her own office is a stark, moody portrait of Joni Mitchell performing in the subterranean studios down the hall — simultaneously a move into the future and a bow to the station's past.
"My mission is not to be dull," Ferro says, trying hard to ignore the flashing lights from the many, many phone calls that await her. "We are responsible for a lot of ears."
Ferro grew up in Torrance, was league champ in the 100-yard dash. After she finished UCLA, she went to work for the legendarily intense radio dramatist Joe Frank, helping to orchestrate his complex process. She came to the station 16 years ago, when, a few seconds after Ferro dropped by with something for a DJ, Seymour's assistant announced that she was leaving the station to join the Peace Corps in Cameroon. With a vision of Ferro's spiffy laptop fresh in her mind, Seymour ordered somebody in the office to stop her before she left the building, and offered her the job on the spot. Sixteen years later, having revamped the programming, modernized the plant, streamlined fund-raising and spent a decade as assistant station manager, Ferro is still here.
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"I love being here," she says. "I love production. I love the challenges of the Internet. I love working with compelling people who do compelling things. I even love fund-raising — I'm not selling chicken here; I'm selling something I believe in."