Radio North State
New KCHO GM sets sights on broadening public station’s influence beyond Chico
Some listeners love them and some hate them, but most understand the necessity of public radio pledge drives for commercial-free stations to stay on the air. From an insider’s perspective they are uniquely challenging, requiring all hands on deck to organize volunteers, keep the production moving forward and spotlight the best the station has to offer while simultaneously asking listeners to open their wallets.
For this reason, it was something of a trial by fire when Beth Lamberson assumed her duties as the new general manager of North State Public Radio on Oct. 5, just two weeks before the beginning of that organization’s latest pledge drive on Chico’s KCHO 91.7 and Redding’s KFPR 88.9 FM. Though she’d learned the staff’s names and found her office during two summertime prehire visits, her initial impressions—of both the community and her new organization—were forged during the busy fundraising effort.
Her initial conclusion, she said during a recent interview at the Chico station, was that she made the right choice in moving from Durango, Colo., to take the job.
“What really struck me was how generous the community is overall to the station, and how talented everyone is in-house,” she said. “And it’s not just that they’re talented, but the station is properly staffed in that people are doing jobs in every department in a way that contributes to the overall strength of the station.”
As an example, Lamberson cited an instance when Shasta County winemaker Roger Matson of Matson Vineyards agreed to come on the air, but admitted he’d be nervous. “I thought, why not sit him down and have him do some storytelling and produce a public radio-style vignette,” Lamberson said.
She said KCHO reporter Marc Albert jumped on researching and conducting the interview, and described the finished product as a series of “very smooth, lyrical storytelling pieces about wine-making in Shasta County” that were broadcast during All Things Considered, a prime listening slot for the station. Similar pieces were produced about harvesting olives and rice.
“It was like every new idea I’d throw out would be caught by one person,” she said, “then two people, then three people, and then everyone would do their part to bring it to fruition. My passion is making good radio, and I’ve landed in a place with people who are very capable of making good radio, so we can blend inspiration with implementation.”
Lamberson explained it wasn’t that easy in her last position at KSUT, which stands for Southern Ute Tribe and serves the Four Corners region, and where the staff was spread so thin she’d have to complete a comparable piece entirely on her own. She was at the station for nearly 18 years, from 1992 to 2010. In addition to off-air duties, she was also the station’s main voice, interviewing musical luminaries like Emmylou Harris and Arlo Guthrie and talking the community through events like 9/11, the Columbine massacre and Jerry Garcia’s death.
“While I was doing that, I was also signing the accounts payables, paying the bills and making sure there was toilet paper in the building,” she half-joked. She also earned a reputation as a capable fundraiser, strategist and organizer at the nonprofit.
In addition to producing more good radio, Lamberson said her primary strategy at NSPR is to focus on the North State as a whole. “The character of the entire region is my focus,” she said. “KCHO has long been a Chico treasure, so I feel my task is to have NSPR really become more relevant in other communities. We want to be as present in Redding and Red Bluff and all the smaller towns around here, at job fairs and health fairs and rodeos and everywhere.”