From Academia to KOOP Board President, Jean Anne Lauer Knows Media

Posted on: February 21, 2024
Filed under: ,
Screenshot 2024-02-21 at 7.07.56 PM

Jean completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in the Dept. of Radio-Television-Film and has been a faculty member at Austin Community College since Fall of 2005. She became president of the KOOP Board of Directors last Fall. We spoke on February 15.

Michael A. Brown: Tell us the path you took from educator at ACC to Board president at KOOP.

Jean Anne Lauer: I’m still both, actually! When I arrived in Austin in 2002 and began studying in the Radio-TV-Film Doctoral program at UT, I asked my classmates what the local radio stations were. They told me about KOOP, so I tuned in, loved the weekend programming at first, and have been a listener all these years. I became a sustaining member because I believe in supporting community causes and projects and KOOP is one of them. I have had friends on the air, and I’ve been interviewed myself on some of the talk shows, including about my involvement in film festivals here in town. Then, about two and half years ago, a fellow ACC professor who was on KOOP’s Board of Directors at the time recruited me to run for a position on the Board. I did and was elected and have been serving on the Board ever since.

MAB: What is the present relationship like between ACC’s communication department and students and KOOP … and what do you envision going forward?

JAL: We had a partnership last year between the ACC Honors Program and some of the volunteers on KOOP’s Community Council about bringing on ACC students to learn how the station works and volunteer and earn some Honors credits that way. Going forward, there are two areas I’d like to cultivate further. First, we have a number of Radio and TV classes at ACC, teaching things such as writing and producing including for audio. We can introduce the students to opportunities at KOOP so they can experience working at a real radio station. The second possible link-up might be between KOOP and ACC’s Service Learning program, where professors ask their students to volunteer at local non-profits like KOOP as part of their course grade. It would be a great way for the students to learn radio, to experience a little behind the scenes at a local non-profit, and to serve the community.

MAB: What would you say are the biggest challenges for KOOP?

JAL: The biggest challenges are financial. One might think that because most of us are volunteers, KOOP’s operating expenses are low, but they are not. For example, rent and infrastructure are expensive. We know we need to upgrade equipment and make sure that when it IS upgraded, we can rely on it for a long time. That takes money. Listener memberships, of course, are among the primary sources of revenue and they have been stable, but more stable than growing. So the Board really has an eye on maintaining the income stream from partnerships, underwriting, and grant-writing to augment what we hope and trust will be a growing listener and sustaining member base.

MAB: Talk about the key initiatives and opportunities the Board is undertaking in 2024, and the implications.

JAL: A couple exciting ones! We’re entering into a community partnership with Eastside Cinema for a program called the “Nightbeat Film Series” at Millenium Youth Center Complex in East Austin. It begins this very month. That series brings together my own interest in film with community participation that shows the station’s commitment. Plus, in-person initiatives like Nightbeat make KOOP special because listeners can discover that almost all of us are volunteers and we do radio and community service as labors of love. A shout-out too to the Community Council for their monthly content themes and outreach … those initiatives augment our on-air programming and are very valuable.

MAB: If you were to become a programmer, what sort of show would you like to do and how come?

JAL: I would do a mixed format with both music and guests on the air … an issue-oriented news / information program. I’d want to focus on arts and community in Austin because KOOP is a place where creative artists and people who support the creative arts have a space and each other. So with my history working with film and arts organizations in the city, it would be natural to produce a show around the cultural happenings

MAB: The Spring Membership Drive is fast approaching. What guidance and encouragement do you want to share with KOOPers and the community?

JAL: The membership drive is when listeners and KOOPers alike can experience all the ways in which everyone is involved in the station and the community. It’s truly a collaborative effort that showcases the organization and allows us to say, “here we are … please support us.” And individual sustaining memberships are key to keeping us on the air. It really means a lot when someone says, “not only am I a listener, I’m also a sustaining member”… so please ask listeners to become sustaining members! Thank you!

Interview by Michael A. Brown