Connecting the Central Coast to the World

By Tiobe Barron

Radio: since its inception in the early 19th century, it has been a medium that connects, informs, and even comforts during times of upheaval. In the 1930s, families in the United States would gather around “the wireless” to listen to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, gleaning important goings-on of the time. As well, it united and engaged in a way that included those previously disenfranchised by print media, such as those who could not read or were sight-impaired. Important local and national events, everything from boxing matches to elections, were experienced communally in this way, united by radio broadcasts.

Photo by Photo by Brian Stethem

Here on California’s Central Coast, National Public Radio (NPR) programs are brought to us by local radio station KCLU. Based out of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks since 1994, KCLU is public radio at its finest, covering the gamut of local, national, and global news, as well as culture in all its forms, from poetry to television. Tuning into local public radio is a terrific way to keep a finger on the pulse of a community, get important weather and road condition updates, and connect with the arts.

“KCLU is the No. 1 NPR news station in the region delivering its popular mix of NPR news and its award-winning local news to residents up the coast from Westlake Village to Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo and all points in between,” explains KCLU radio general manager Mary Olson. Not only does KCLU bring local news, it also brings the world to listeners with shows like BBC World Service, Morning Edition, On Point, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, The New Yorker Radio Hour, and more. The KCLU team includes news director Lance Orozco, reporter/producer Caroline Feraday, hosts Willa Sandmeyer and Dave Meyer, general manager Olson, director of operations and production Luc Flannery, and director of member services Mia Karnatz-Shifflett, along with other occasional contributors.

For those of us who find ourselves on California’s Central/Southern Coast, whether for a short time or a lifetime, we can rely on that small, local, award-winning staff to bring us independent coverage of top stories in the region. When the Thomas Fire struck Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, evacuated residents relied on national media networks for updates on whether their neighborhood was aflame, but there was often a frustrating delay in how frequently new information was broadcast. But KCLU’s team was on-scene, giving hyper-local updates, in real time, to listeners. From the Montecito landslides in 2018, to the Alisal Fire in summer 2021, to traffic snarls up and down the Central Coast, the KCLU team consistently keeps listeners in the loop.

Not that KCLU is only for emergencies. They’re ready with regional updates — who’s playing next at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center, which animal had babies at the Santa Barbara Zoo, and when the next launch is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Space Force Base. They’re also an excellent source of uplifting, feel-good stories, too.

Photo by Photo by Brian Stethem The KCLU news team. From left are Caroline Feraday, Michelle Loxton, Luc Flannery, Mary Olson, Dave Meyer, Mia Karnatz-Shifflett, and Willa Sandmeyer. Not pictured: Lance Orozco and Andy Vasoyan.

“I got nominated for student of the year with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so a lot of my money goes towards that cause,” said 15 year-old Peyton Viane in a November 2021 KCLU story by Feraday. Oak Park resident and student Viane began baking to combat boredom after the COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020, and now has a flourishing small business creating bespoke baked goods (though she hopes to ultimately land a career in math and science).

Launched Nov. 4, 2021, KCLU’s weekly podcast The One Oh One features rich, in-depth stories on the pressing issues facing San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties – the communities bound together by California Highway 101. Creator and host Michelle Loxton produces content as slick and professional as BBC World News but delivered with the heart of someone personally invested in the communities she reports on. On topics like the proliferation of fentanyl in Ventura County, the affordable housing shortage in Santa Barbara, or the region’s problematic air quality caused by the ever-lengthening fire season, listeners can expect clear, accurate information with an accessible and human rendition.

Other NPR programs tie these hyper-local stories to the nation, and the world. The BBC World Service is a no-nonsense delivery of global news from that esteemed source, along with very human stories from nations all over the world. Want to know how democracy functions in Hong Kong, or hear how different countries are responding to the recent global summit on Climate Chaos? This program has that covered, and then some.

Photo by Photo by Brian Stethem Visitors are toured around the KCLU newsroom.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor David Remnick of The New Yorker teases out the intricacies of modern issues in his weekly, hour-long segment, The New Yorker Radio Hour, which can also be found on KCLU. Remnick’s interviews display his skill for eliciting a refreshingly human and earnest tone from his subjects. Then there’s NPR’s All Things Considered, where hosts Ailsa Chang, Audie Cornish, Mary Louise Kelly, and Ari Shapiro delve into the hot-button news stories around the country, as well as highlighting arts and entertainment both mainstream and eclectic.

Fresh Air, meanwhile, earns its name, offering up conversational pieces that examine prescient bits of pop culture via our reading material. Host Terry Gross and her production team interview authors on every conceivable topic, from dogsledding, to The 1619 Project (an undertaking from The New York Times Magazine that looks squarely at slavery and its historical context in the United States).

No matter the time of year, KCLU offers audio to enrich and educate, comfort and unite, inspire and promote thoughtful discourse. To listen to KCLU, tune into 92.1 FM in San Luis Obispo, 1340 AM and 102.3 FM in Santa Barbara, 88.3 FM in Ventura, or listen anywhere online through the NPR app or at Find KCLU’s The One Oh One on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform.