Wednesday, November 18, 2009

KCRW Pledge Drives Will Never Be The Same: Ruth Seymour Retires

KCRW general manager Ruth Seymour, who turned a tiny, little-heard community college radio station into a pubcasting giant, will retire in February.

Seymour announced her plans on Wednesday via a memo to KCRW staffers and a separate e-mail to KCRW subscribers.

“I am leaving a station that is strong in its identity, a station like no other in the country,” Seymour said.

Santa Monica College, which owns KCRW’s license, will spend the next several months searching for Seymour’s replacement.

Seymour first joined KCRW in September 1977 as a consultant, before being named general manager several months later.

As GM and also program director, Seymour grew the station’s format into a mix of music programming, public affairs shows and NPR newscasts. The station also expanded its Southern California footprint by adding several more transmitters and translators throughout the region.

Locally-produced series include the long-running “Which Way L.A.?” and its nationally-distributed spin-off, “To the Point.” KCRW distributes six programs nationwide, including “Left, Right and Center.”

Seymour is also familiar to KCRW listeners as an ocassional host of “The Politics of Culture.” She also handles much of the station’s on-air pledge drives, particularly during the daytime hours.

Her stewardship has also come with some controversy -- such as Seymour’s decision to fire commentary host Sandra Tsing Loh after an expletive accidentally made it to air.

More recently, KCRW has found great success on the web, via its program streams; the station said its 26 podcasts are downloaded 1.2 million times monthly.

But according to Arbitron, KCRW’s on-air listening has been surpassed in recent years by rival KPCC, which now ranks as Southern California’s most listened-to NPR affiliate. KCRW has questioned those ratings, however.

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