After learning about Friday’s Santa Monica College shooting, I’d wondered about the effect that the events had on the functioning of public radio station KCRW-FM, which is located on campus. Of course I hoped that everyone at the station was safe and sound, but I was also curious about how they handled being at the center of a crisis, campus lockdown, and major news story.
KCRW airs a mix of music, news, and talk programming, with a good portion of its daytime schedule devoted to syndicated NPR shows. The station also has a local news department and has a Los Angeles-oriented radio show and blog called Which Way, LA? Being that it was located at the center of a shooting and eventual campus lockdown, I was interested to learn whether or not KCRW staffers remained at the station. On Friday, KCRW posted a press release stating, “KCRW remains evacuated after the tragic events that happened today in and around the campus of Santa Monica College. Some of the shots were fired right outside our offices, and we are relieved that our staff escaped harm.” In a post today, KCRW’s Anna Scott recounts the frightening details about what happened last Friday. She writes,
“It was a little past noon on Friday. The Santa Monica shooting rampage that left six people dead had just culminated on the Santa Monica College campus, where KCRW is headquartered. 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.”
By around 2pm, the Santa Monica police arrived at the doors of KCRW and asked the staff to evacuate the station. KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro said that this was the first time that the station was left unattended. In the article on the KCRW blog she’s quoted saying, “Leaving your board in master control is like giving up your radio station and we’ve never, ever done it.”
I’m sure this was a tough call. As we saw at M.I.T. station WMBR during the lockdown in Cambridge in April, station personnel take seriously their commitment to both staying on the air and staying at the station during an emergency. At the same time, it was clear that there was real danger in KCRW’s immediate vicinity. KCRW posted an audio clip of its Membership Director describing her sighting of the gunman earlier in the day. She said that when she saw a man with a gun strapped to his chest, she assumed he was a police officer.
Following the evacuation and shooting of the gunman in the campus library, KCRW staffers were eventually allowed to return to the station on Saturday afternoon. Read more about how the station was able to stay on the air (and what it broadcast) during the campus lockdown on KCRW’s Which Way, LA? blog.
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