Michelle arrived in Austin in 2018 and quickly found her way to KOOP, where she says she can exercise her passions for media production and social justice. We spoke on June 15.
Michael A. Brown: How did you first encounter KOOP?
Michelle Manning-Scott: I found out about KOOP in 2011 because Robert Sims’ wife was my college roommate in Boston. I studied mass communications there and in Ft. Worth. When I moved to Austin and saw Robert again, KOOP became the place for me to put my audio production skills to good use. And because it’s a volunteer station, it was easy to get started, learn, and then get on the air.
MAB: Talk about your interest and involvement in media production and anti-racist and social justice activism.
MM-S: I have been on the volunteer production team since early 2019 and have lent my voice and produced many of the promos/UAs/PSAs you hear on the KOOP airwaves. Then, when I joined Bob Dailey’s Civil Rights and Wrongs program as associate producer, I was able to highlight the activists for racial justice and social justice. I met and interacted with many organizations and people in Austin that are working toward those goals. My research into those groups and people showed me how I could get involved to help advance their causes.
MAB: On the News / Public Affairs show Civil Rights and Wrongs, what was the most egregious civil wrong you discovered in your reporting or heard about from one of your guests?
MM-S: I don’t know that there was a particular “wrong” that stood out for me, but I learned so many aspects of civil rights and wrongs beyond what I knew about previously. I’ve always been politically liberal, but I had not recognized that the injustices are systemic in this country and the world. That’s why no single issue jumps out. Rather, I gained a fuller understanding of the systemic issues, so I now feel better educated and in a better position to address those things and try to make a difference.
MAB: Tell us about the most positive and gratifying civil rights story you have reported.
MM-S: One of the organizations I’ve been most impressed with is the Austin Justice Coalition because they seem especially attuned to what needs to change in Austin to improve the lives of all residents. They know how to work with city leadership, the police, the education system, and others. And on Civil Rights and Wrongs, they told their story and it’s a good one.
MAB: You have approached the Corporation for Public Broadcasting about perhaps having KOOP become part of their StoryCorps initiative. Tell us about that please.
MM-S: StoryCorps promotes dialogue between and among people with vastly different viewpoints, so they can get to know each other on a personal level. They hear and react to each other’s stories without contentiousness, which hopefully reduces polarization. StoryCorps partners with radio stations around the US, and because KOOP wants to increase our N/PA programming, we may match up well! For example, we could offer our studios and programmers who are close with the Austin community to produce and promote interesting StoryCorps shows that support the KOOP mission.
MAB: You’re the newest member of KOOP’s Programming Committee, representing News and Public Affairs programmers. What are the latest happenings on the PC regarding N/PA shows?
MM-S: Over the coming months, the PC will be wrestling with how best to expand our N/PA schedule. We recognize the lack of new programmers wanting to do an N/PA show versus a music program. Of course, producing and presenting N/PA shows is very different from doing a music program and we’re trying to develop ways to attract more new programmers to the N/PA side of KOOP. Among other things, we’re talking with Austin Community College to find media students who have an interest in broadcast journalism. We would really like to increase the number of N/PA programs, so we’re open to all possible ideas of how to achieve this.
Michelle Manning-Scott, along with Ken McKenzie-Grant, now edits and airs the recently-added syndicated N/PA show “Democracy Now!”, 2-3pm on Thursdays.
Interview by Michael A. Brown