Longtime Manager of KGOU Public Radio to Retire
University of Oklahoma public radio station KGOU will be getting a new general manager when Karen Holp retires from the university later this fall. Holp is also retiring from her position as adjunct faculty in the Gaylord College of Journalism, for which she teaches a radio news course.
A reception in Karen’s honor is planned for Sept. 29 at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Holp arrived in Norman after managing KRWG in Las Cruces, NM. At that time, KGOU had only one transmitter covering most of Norman and programming for 19 hours a day. Almost immediately after arriving, Holp set to work securing a second broadcast signal to serve the Oklahoma City metro area. KROU at 105.7 FM went on the air in the summer of 1993. An approximation of station listenership in 1988 was 14,500 weekly listeners; audience measurement estimates now show close to 70,000 listeners tuning in weekly.
Other milestones for the station include adding more news/talk programming in 1996, adopting a digital automation system in 1997, launching a website, KGOU.org, in 1998, building new studios in 2005, expanding to 24-hour service in 2006 and applying for additional broadcast signals to reach more areas of the state. From 2007 through 2015, KGOU added signals in Woodward and Ada and four smaller “translator” signals in Seminole, Chickasha, Ada and Shawnee.
“Building and moving the studios was probably the biggest logistical challenge,” said Holp. She was granted permission in 2005 to move the studios to Copeland Hall on OU’s Norman campus, two buildings south of the original location in Kaufman Hall. After a fundraising effort and months of planning and construction, the first KGOU newscast from the new location aired in November 2006. “We tripled the working space, plus upgraded and updated the broadcast equipment,” said Holp. “The new facilities allowed us to create more local content and better serve our audiences.”
Private fundraising efforts have burgeoned under Holp’s leadership, for day-to-day operation of the station as well as for capital needs. The studio project cost nearly $900,000, paid with grants from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Nancy and George Records, the Kerr Foundation and hundreds of individual contributions from listeners. Over the years, KGOU’s operating budget has increased to about $1.6 million annually, with more than 70 percent of funding raised from listener-supporters.
“Raising more money means increasing our service to listeners,” said Holp. “Listeners have supported us even as the cost of purchasing the national shows has increased and as we’ve worked to increase our local news coverage of issues that are important to Oklahomans.”
One such increase in coverage came in 2010 with the launch of StateImpact Oklahoma, a collaboration between NPR and Oklahoma’s news-focused local public media, with two reporters dedicated to state news topics. Holp spearheaded the project, now wholly supported by local stations, their listeners and underwriters.
Holp has served on the governing boards of several community organizations, including the Neighborhood Alliance, Jazz in June and Freedom of Information Oklahoma and on the boards of directors for National Public Radio and Western States Public Radio during her 28 years at KGOU. She has 41 years in public radio stations in Virginia, Illinois, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Holp has been honored with the 2005 Governor’s Arts Award, the 2014 Teacher of the Year Award from the Society of Professional Journalists – Oklahoma Pro Chapter and Freedom of Information Oklahoma’s Marian Opala First Amendment Award in 2016.
“My mission has always been to further the station’s progress to better serve our listeners,” said Holp. “A public radio station manager’s job is never done, and I will continue to work for forward progress even in retirement.” Holp will help launch a fundraising campaign to replace the aging transmitter on KGOU’s 105.7 signal that serves Oklahoma City.
KGOU is accepting donations in Holp’s honor toward the estimated $75,000 cost of a new transmitter. The reception Sept. 29 will include an update on the capital campaign.
OU Outreach, which operates the station, is conducting a nationwide search for a new leader to take the reins.
About KGOU: KGOU is an NPR member station broadcasting at 106.3 FM in Norman, at 105.7 FM in Oklahoma City, at 88.1 FM in Woodward, at 91.9 FM in Ada, at 103.1 FM in Seminole, at 97.9 FM in Ada, at 106.9 FM in Chickasha and at 105.1 FM in Shawnee. The station also offers live audio streaming and its award-winning news content online at www.kgou.org. As a public radio station, KGOU receives voluntary annual support from listeners and businesses. KGOU is a service of OU Outreach.