Ruth Seymour, who built KCRW into a National Public Radio power, sent a letter to radio station staffers last night saying she will retire at the end of February. She has run the station based at Santa Monica College since 1977. Here's her note:
I want to give you a heads-up on some dramatic news.
I've made the decision to retire as General Manager at the end of February. I will be speaking personally to many of you in the coming weeks but I wanted to make sure that you heard this from me before it becomes more public.
For almost all of you, I am the only manager you've known. Some of you go back with me to John Adams Jr. High. We have a lot of history together.
We have created a family of sorts down in the basement. We have laughed and cried together, quarreled and made up. We've welcomed new wives and husbands and lots of babies, some of whom plan to run the station themselves someday.
The College is required to engage in certain procedures to choose a new manager and they have embarked on the process. I will be here to hand off the station to my successor.
Nothing is harder than to announce that you're leaving and then try to manage for the next few months. So I hope you'll make it easy for me.
I'm attaching a letter which will be sent to the membership. Please read it.
I'm sure I'll get a chance to talk individually to everyone of you in the days to come.
With love and gratitude - Ruth
The letter to station supporters is after the jump, followed by a press release going out this morning. Santa Monica College has begun the process of selecting a new general manager.
After 32 years of leading KCRW, I am writing to let you know that I will be retiring as KCRW’s General Manager at the end of February.
What a long and exciting journey it’s been. I’ve had the opportunity to head a station that was once considered one of the most underdeveloped in the country. When you’re that poor and weak, there’s no place to go but up or out.
KCRW went up.
It became a leader and a trendsetter. Today the audience for the unique programs the station originates has spread to listeners across the country, and indeed, across the world.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have overseen the transformation of KCRW from a worn-out facility in a middle school playground into the internet powerhouse that it has become.
No one builds a KCRW alone. When you’re so taken up with the here and now, you don’t really spend a great deal of time reflecting on the past. Therefore, I’ve asked my longtime colleague Will Lewis, who has been an invaluable companion on this radio adventure, to document the years we’ve spent shaping and growing the station. His overview is included with my letter.
I want to thank our licensee, Santa Monica College, which allowed us the freedom to experiment and cheered us on. I have served under four Presidents and countless College Boards, and throughout they have been steadfast in their support and encouragement. That is no small thing and I wish every public station as exemplary a licensee as KCRW enjoys.
The KCRW Foundation was created in 1980 to safeguard the station in a precarious time. Over the years it has allowed us to undertake some of our most ambitious programs, to expand our facilities and to enter the internet age. The KCRW you know would not exist without the support of the KCRW Foundation.
Many public stations of our size and importance have long since given up using volunteers. We cherish ours. They bring the world into our basement studios. They come from all walks of life; they range from young students to seniors. They’re excited by coming down to the station and answering phones, taking pledges, working in the music library, assisting the deejays. Each year they save the station hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Over the years we discovered and attracted an impressive number of gifted individuals who poured their passion for music, the arts and political drama into dynamic and original radio. They made our reputation.
They were supported by a loyal and devoted staff, committed and inspired by the ideas and the ideals that characterize KCRW.
The media world is now in the process of dynamic change. KCRW is at the forefront, experimenting with the technical advances that are changing the ways in which we communicate.
I am confident that the station will welcome new opportunities as they arise, ever mindful that it’s still all about the programming.
I will leave a station that is strong in its identity, a station that is like no other in the country. The words I like to use to describe KCRW (you’ve seen them in my countless fundraising letters over the years) are singular, idiosyncratic, daring, independent, smart and compelling.
I believe that’s why you value the station, why we’ve been able to forge a remarkable bond with you, one of trust and affection. You have made it possible for us to become the station we are today.
You will make it possible for KCRW to continue to flourish.
It’s been an extraordinary privilege to serve as KCRW’s General Manager -- a joy and a source of great pride. That’s a pretty good note on which to say goodbye.
Santa Monica, CA….After 32 years as General Manager of Santa Monica College’s public radio station KCRW-89.9 FM and www.KCRW.com, Ruth Seymour has announced that she is retiring at the end of February.
“I am leaving a station that is strong in its identity, a station like no other in the country,” says Ms. Seymour. “It’s been an extraordinary privilege to serve as KCRW’s General Manager – a joy and source of great pride. That’s a pretty good note on which to say goodbye.”
She arrived at the station in September 1977 as a consultant and was formally appointed manager several months later.
Ms. Seymour has overseen the transformation of a station originally located in a middle school playground, with the oldest transmitter west of the Mississippi. Today KCRW’s 13 transmitters deliver its broadcast service to much of Southern California.
Online, the station has one of the largest audiences of any American radio station, providing three discreet program streams 24/7 at KCRW.com. KCRW’s 26 podcasts are downloaded 1.2 million times monthly.
Ruth Seymour also serves as the station’s Program Director. KCRW is recognized for its original award-winning programs in news, music and culture. The station’s schedule features its signature music show Morning Become Eclectic and its daily news-based broadcasts of To the Point and Which Way, L.A.?.
KCRW produces more national programs than any other public radio station. Its six series are broadcast collectively by stations throughout the country, including New York, Washington, D.C and Seattle.
Ms. Seymour is also a familiar voice to KCRW’s listeners. She often hosts The Politics of Culture and has led the station’s on-air Subscription Drives.
She credits KCRW’s large and loyal subscriber base for enabling the station to engage in ambitious productions and important digital ventures. “We have forged a strong bond with our listeners, one of trust and affection. They have come through for us time and time again.”
Santa Monica College, the station’s licensee, will engage in the selection process to choose Ms. Seymour’s successor. The College expects that it will take several months to complete.
About KCRW: KCRW 89.9FM, licensed to Santa Monica College, is National Public Radio's flagship station for Southern California. The Santa Monica-based nonprofit represents cutting edge radio at its best, presenting an eclectic mix of independent music, news, talk and arts programming. The terrestrial signal serves Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura Counties, as well as parts of San Diego, San Bernardino, Kern, and Santa Barbara Counties and the greater Palm Springs area. KCRW’s programming is internationally renowned and available worldwide via KCRW.com, including three streaming channels, 27 podcasts and archives of our locally-produced programs and live band performances. Hear KCRW music online, all the time, on the ALL music stream Eclectic24.
Photo of Seymour by Marc Goldstein