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UA Little Rock Public Radio GM takes part in meet-and-greet

UA Little Rock Public Radio General Manager Jonathan Seaborn speaks with Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the UA Little Rock College of Humanities, Arts, Social Science and Education on Thursday.
Daniel Breen
UA Little Rock Public Radio General Manager Jonathan Seaborn speaks with Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the UA Little Rock College of Humanities, Arts, Social Science and Education on Thursday.

Supporters of KUAR/KLRE UA Little Rock Public Radio got a chance to pose questions to general manager Jonathan Seaborn Thursday.

The meet-and-greet, held at the UA Little Rock Bailey Alumni Center, was led by the station’s membership director, Grace Zafasi, and Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the university’s College of Humanities, Arts, Social Science and Education (CHASSE).

Seaborn began the evening with remarks thanking the community for their support.

“Your unwavering support and engagement are what make this station thrive. I encourage you to share your ideas, feedback, and suggestions as we embark on this exciting journey together,” Seaborn said. “I am incredibly excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, and I am confident that, together, we will continue to elevate the importance of public radio in our community and beyond.”

Audience members posed questions to Seaborn about a number of topics, ranging from the station’s fundraising goals to some of its greatest infrastructure needs; chief among those, Seaborn said, are upgrades to the aging KLRE transmitter site.

“The transmitter is somewhere between 35 and 40 years old… The reason that is so concerning is, if that goes away, we’re off the air. And they’re also big-ticket items.”

Seaborn also spoke about his background in journalism and documentary filmmaking. Before his current role, Seaborn served as Chief Content Officer of Texas Tech Public Media in Lubbock, Texas, and produced and directed a number of documentaries distributed nationally by PBS.

Seaborn says he plans to draw on his experience in the content sphere in his current role, leading efforts to re-brand the station.

“I think everybody here is probably in agreement that it’s time for a new look for the station,” Seaborn said. “We want to make sure that we come out with a new, fresh identity that represents who we are both as a station and as a community.”

He also shared his goals for more long-form podcasts and statewide news coverage, as well as to begin a strategic planning process. Another priority, he says, is to hire two newsroom staffers and a new operations coordinator.

“For budgetary constraints and other issues, it’s really just been one person doing the job of two for a long time, so I think that you will also see, pretty quickly once that position’s filled, an increase in quality of what you’re hearing on air,” he said, referring to the operations position.

When asked about how the station sets its fundraising goals, Seaborn said he and Zafasi are working to re-evaluate the way donations are classified and how fund drive goals are set.

“We have our renewal campaigns, our fund drive campaigns, our events, there’s all these different buckets. Once we’re able to accurately see what campaigns are successful, then Grace and I can come up with strategies about how we want to invest further in that type of campaign,” he said.

“We are currently, from a budgetary standpoint, sound. We are on steady footing, but there’s not a lot of room for growth,” he said. “We are able to operate as-is currently, but in order for us to get to where we want to go, we’re going to need to look into not only increasing membership and underwriting support, but what grant opportunities and foundation support is available.”

After roughly five months on the job, Seaborn says Little Rock, and the station, are beginning to feel more like home.

“It’s exciting to be in a place where the station means that much to the community. To be honest, it’s a little anxiety-inducing as well knowing that I’m handling something that so many people consider so precious.”

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.