Jennifer Ferro has been a KCRW staffer since 1994. (Marc Goldstein / KCRW )
Jennifer Ferro, assistant general manager of public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9), is expected to be named the influential station's new general manager Saturday, succeeding Ruth Seymour, who is retiring after 32 years in the position.
The board of trustees of Santa Monica College, which owns KCRW's license, was expected to approve the appointment of Ferro, who will begin her new job March 1.
FOR THE RECORD:
An article in Saturday's Calendar section about the expected succession of Jennifer Ferro as general manager of public radio station KCRW incorrectly identified another public radio station, KPCC, as KPPC.
"Jennifer epitomizes the perfect mix of traditional public radio experience, and the strategic and creative new media thinking that will be critical to KCRW's continued success in the years ahead," Chui L. Tsang, the college's president, said in a statement released Friday to The Times.
The appointment capped a months-long national candidate search that in recent weeks had been narrowed to three finalists from an initial field of about 30 applicants, college officials said.
Ferro, 41, has worked in many aspects of the National Public Radio affiliate's operations, including programming, marketing, fundraising and new media, since she joined KCRW's staff in 1994.
In a phone interview Friday, she indicated that her initial approach to running the station would combine programming continuity with a push toward innovation in such areas as fundraising and technology. In an increasingly complex and crowded media landscape, she said, the station must continue to evolve in order to stay "relevant and important."
"Trying to be heard and noticed, that's the challenge," she said.
Toward that end, Ferro said, she planned to preserve KCRW's signature mix of news and eclectic music programming, much of it homegrown, while pursuing new revenue sources to augment membership subscriber support.
Among the strategies she intends to explore are major donor fundraising and producing more KCRW-branded events, from music performances to cultural talks to food-related activities. Ferro currently serves as executive director of several of the station's most popular programs, including "Good Food With Evan Kleiman."
Tom Taylor, executive news director of radio-info.com, an independent website that tracks the radio industry, called Ferro's appointment "a vote for continuity and also a vote for the future."
One of her assets, he said, is her existing familiarity with KCRW's exceptionally broad array of shows and on-air talent, as well as with L.A.'s large creative community.
"She comes into the job with relationships that it would take an outsider a long time to build," Taylor said.
Among the challenges facing Ferro is making sure that KCRW's listenership is being accurately reflected in ratings numbers. Last summer, Arbitron ratings showed KCRW trailing three other local public radio affiliates: classically oriented KUSC-FM (91.5), KPPC-FM (89.3) and KKJZ-FM (88.1). KCRW officials have insisted that the "Portable People Meter" device being used to monitor listenership substantially undercounts the station's burgeoning national and even international online audience.
According to college officials, Ferro has been instrumental in developing KCRW's three live Internet radio channels, iPhone applications, blogs and various social media.
She also has been closely involved in planning a new facility for KCRW, which will be part of a new $61.2-million media-technology complex on the college's campus. The facility, which is scheduled to open in 2013, will include a 1,600-square-foot performance space and a viewing gallery for audiences to attend live studio appearances by musical acts.
In an interview last month, Tsang said that one motive for locating KCRW in the new campus facility was to enhance interaction and collaboration between the station and the college's faculty and students. "We hope there's a kind of synergy," he said.
Noting that the station currently operates out of a cramped building basement, Ferro said that KCRW's relocation is "a great analogy" for its growth from an upstart radio outfit with an "underground" sensibility to one of the country's largest and most lauded public radio affiliates.
"Now here we are, 32 years later, and we're really ready to stand on our own and stand above ground and let people see us and say, 'Here we are,' " Ferro said.
Another goal Ferro cited was to provide more support for independent public radio producers, whom she said "create some of the most moving and interesting work" but often struggle to secure funding.
Ferro spoke warmly of Seymour, her legendarily feisty and intellectually formidable predecessor, who hired her as an assistant in 1994. Ferro was promoted to assistant general manager in 1997.
"I don't know if it's a strength or a weakness, but I speak my mind, and Ruth is someone who respects you more if you talk back to her," Ferro said. "So we had this great relationship."
In a written statement, Seymour called Ferro "an ideal choice to lead the station forward."
"She brings her own unique approach and vision to KCRW," Seymour said. "She's innovative, courageous and independent."
A Torrance native and UCLA graduate, Ferro is married and is the mother of two daughters, 7 and 9. She coaches youth soccer and plays in an over-40 women's league as a goal-hungry striker.
"When we play in the open, we get our butts kicked by these women who are young enough to be our daughters," she said, laughing.
Tsang indicated his support for the station maintaining creative independence as the Seymour epoch transitions into the Ferro era.
"It has its own individuality," Tsang said. "We always want it to have its own identity."