Joseph Cooper retires from 40-year WLRN career

Thursday, September 14, 2017 0 Comments

Joseph Cooper retires from 40-year WLRN career

For more than 40 years, Joseph Cooper’s voice could be heard over the airwaves as a talk show radio host for WLRN.

For 18 years, his creation, Tropical Currents, featured a sub-tropical blend of regional issues and politics, local profiles and author interviews, which made him a popular figure in South Florida. 
After 4,700 editions, Cooper is calling it a career which started at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and will be  ending at Miami-Dade County Public Schools-owned radio station he has called home since 1974.

His last day on the air is September 28, a day that will be filled with emotions, on air tributes and a love fest from his colleagues, past guests and callers.

“It’s going to be emotional,” said the longtime Miami Lakes resident. “I’m already planning it.”
Cooper, also the executive producer of Tropical Currents, said back surgery and chronic pain led up to his decision to retire.

“I felt it was time,” he said. “I want to start enjoying my life traveling and spending some time to myself. But I will miss doing the show.”

Cooper, a Missouri native, said the show started off with a small production team, which included producer Richard Ives and technical director Bonnie Berman, in January 1999.

The segments of the show included syndicated food and dining columnist Linda Gassenheimer; a handful of expert regular contributors and regional reporters; “At Your Service” where listeners call into the show asking advice on medical, health, law, pets, wage theft and discrimination issues; and among his favorites, “South Florida History” with prominent historian Dr. Paul George.

Cooper said he requested a theme of concern and thoughtfulness for his show.

“I pretty much did it by myself and hiring the people,” he said. “Richard Ives saw my plan for the interview program with different components and the call-in segment. Fortunately, I never had to dump any callers. They were professional and well educated and never used profanity.”
Cooper said the call-in portion of the show was popular because people were getting advice and knowledge for free.

“Who can beat that,” he quipped.

Cooper’s career at WLRN commenced in 1974, following graduation at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the first such school in the nation.

WLRN had been recently renamed from WTHS and then operated from the old Lindsey-Hopkins Education Center, which stood at the corner of N.W. 2 Avenue and 14 Street.

Cooper was the first producer and host of Florida Public Radio Legislative coverage in 1976, and became the voice and face of Friends of WLRN and produced the first generation of pledge drives for the program.

As a jazz fan, Cooper created the music genre radio format on WLRN and produced three 13-week seasons of live concert broadcasts from Hialeah Racetrack.

Cooper’s other contributions include the original WLRN program guide; served as a station consultant at NPR during the creation of Morning Edition; wrote the initial federal grant to create the WLRN Radio Reading Service; and produced numerous radio documentaries, specializing in Florida water history (the Everglades), issues and homelessness.

“In the early days of radio, you had to be the Jack of All Trades,” he said.

As WLRN radio program manager, Cooper instituted a 24-hour operation, including the late-night reggae format; and in 1992, produced and hosted “Care Force Radio” program in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, which accepted calls and provided information for residents who were left devastated by the Category 5 storm. 

Although he’s retiring, Cooper said he wants to freelance write for a watchdog-type of news services.

“That should be exciting,” he said.

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