KOOP’s Lynn Cowles has been producing weekly public affairs interview shows from home. Soon she will join the Reflections of Community Outreach (ROCO) programming rotation and broadcast monthly. I spoke with her on December 16.
Michael A. Brown: How did you and KOOP first get together?
Lynn Cowles: Through Penny Jo Pullus, who also is a KOOP volunteer. She and I have worked on non-profit projects together. One day in 2019, we were brainstorming for a non-profit, but then she had to leave for a KOOP Community Council meeting. She invited me to come along and I said, “sure!” I had listened to KOOP but had never been involved. I met all sorts of interesting people and my relationship with the station started then.
MAB: Tell me about the shows you’ve done and are doing.
Lynn: Most of the work I’ve done has been with Greg Ciotti on In Touch Interviews. The show originated because of the widespread shutdowns in Austin early in the Covid pandemic. The Community Council responded to the urgent need for information about the impact of the closures … people didn’t know what resources were out there or how to access them. Greg and I created In Touch Interviews to put knowledgeable representatives from the city, county, and community organizations on the air to help fill the Covid-19 information gap via KOOP.
MAB: Talk about some memorable episodes and guests and the reasons they stand out.
Lynn: I spoke with a director of the Health and Human Services Department, who started the Covid-19 Mental Health Hotline, and the director of the Central Texas Food Bank, and the City of Austin’s Equity Office, all of whom provided valuable guidance that directly affected the lives of people in the community. Some of our guests have been business owners doing innovative things despite Covid-19, and folks from grass roots community groups like the Mutual Aid Network who are responding to the urgent needs of friends and neighbors during the pandemic.
MAB: As a News and Public Affairs programmer, what have been the challenges and advantages of home production during the pandemic?
Lynn: The main downside is that you don’t get the same audio quality as you do when producing in a radio studio, with broadcast-grade microphones and sound gear. The main upside is that you get access to people from across the state who would not be able to come to the radio station, and people who couldn’t come in at our specific broadcast time. For example, we did an interview with four people organizing a new community group and there’s no way we could have gotten all four in a studio together. Plus, because I have a professional life, I couldn’t have done a weekly show if I had to come to the station.
MAB: How do you and Greg Ciotti go about crafting In Touch Interviews?
Lynn: I do the interview portions of the show and then Greg does the post-production … adding the music intros and outros, the PSAs, and so on. I know it takes a lot longer to produce and edit than to broadcast.
MAB: Besides your show, what other KOOP and community activities are you involved in?
Lynn: At KOOP, I’ve done the voter registration drive because I’m a deputy voter registrar. I also participate in web and social media design. During the shutdown, Greg and I produced the Covid-19 Updates. In the community, I work with ATX Camp Support, which helps central Texans who are un-housed. We take meals, sleeping bags, and tents to people who need them. I’m on the Austin co-ed soccer team. I do editing for people who are writing articles and dissertations. And I run the Humanities Research Initiative.
MAB: You and I produce and conduct our shows within the Reflections of Community Outreach collective. What new and interesting things might listeners expect from ROCO in 2022?
Lynn: Expect more about community organizing and more about resources in the local area. There are some really great ROCO shows, like Boots On the Air, that address important and timely topics for specific populations. In the new year, we intend to broaden In Touch Interviews’ reach into more diverse parts of the community.
Starting in January, you can hear In Touch Interviews on the third Monday of each month at 1:30pm central. The Jan. 17 premiere is about Martin Luther King Day, with interview guest Roscoe Overton. In Austin, tune to 91.7FM. Worldwide at www.KOOP.org
Interview by Michael A. Brown