How KCRW evacuated, reported and stayed on the air

Thumbnail image for kcrw-team-at-nprwest.jpgA post at KCRW's Which Way, LA? news blog says that station general manager Jennifer Ferro was giving a small tour of the studios at Santa Monica College last Friday when one staffer, then another, brought the news that gunman was outside shooting. Ferro also started receiving texts from someone at the Santa Monica Police Department. "At that point, I knew it was real,” Ferro said. “My immediate concern was our staff. I wasn’t thinking about what was on our air.” The station ended up being evacuated by college police and switching to the live feed from KCBS Channel 2, until news staffers could get to NPR West in Culver City and an engineer could get to the transmitter in Beverly Hills and physically plug in a cable so that the station could resume live, if remote, broadcasting.

From producer Anna Scott's post:

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening station managers, producers and engineers would scramble to cover the news while being swept up into the story.

The predicament posed a logistical challenge as well as some sticky editorial questions to be sorted out on the fly — the same ones that come up even in recounting the situation here: How do we weave the station’s experience into our coverage without overshadowing the news? Where’s the line between transparent and self-serving?

“I didn’t want us to get to a place where everybody was talking about what was happening at KCRW and not what was happening with the shootings,” said Gary Scott, KCRW’s program director for news. “There wasn’t a whole lot of tension there; it was just about making sure we were doing news reports, and if KCRW’s experience was part of the news, there was no question we’d tell people.”

Nonetheless, he added: “There is an audience of people who might want to know what happened with KCRW, or why they heard certain things. We just need to tell that story in the right context.”

More on the WWLA blog. It wasn't until Monday that normal operations resumed at KCRW. My weekly LA Observed segment on KCRW Monday was about the shooting rampage and the official terminology stressing that it was not another mass American school shooting. Also on Monday, Ferro sent an email to the KCRW community:

Friday was an unforgettable day here at KCRW on the campus of Santa Monica College.

The day started with Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms for Peace performing a DJ set on Morning Becomes Eclectic. Then, at 11am the band Boxer Rebellion played a live set of music.

Just before noon we heard the gunshots that started 13 minutes of terror and days of shock and sadness.

All of our staff and visitors were far too close to the violence, and knowing that still causes me to shudder.

The evacuation of the entire campus meant leaving KCRW unattended for the first time in its modern history. Due to the great work of our engineering staff, we were able to remotely operate the station. Our friends and colleagues at NPR West offered their studios and stayed late to accomodate us. Evacuated KCRW producers conducted eyewitness interviews and collected information that we were able to send to the on-air team across town. You can read about it on the Which Way LA? Blog.

After two days out of the station we are now back and operating as usual. We are shaken and sad, but glad to be able to turn to the work you've come to expect from us.

Santa Monica College lost a wonderful employee along with his beautiful daughter. The college's foundation has established a memorial fund honoring Carlos and Marcela Franco.

I want to thank the many listeners and friends of KCRW who reached out with assistance and support. We are proud to be part of such a caring and resilient community.

Jennifer Ferro
President & General Manager

Photo: KCRW news staff at NPR West.

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