Louisiana Radio Network
Louisiana Radio Network (LRN) is a state radio network based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that produces news, sports, business and agricultural news programming distributed via satellite to 62 affiliates throughout Louisiana and parts of Mississippi. Louisiana Radio Network is a sponsor of the annual Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction and publishes Tiger Rag Magazine, which focuses on Louisiana State University sports.
Launched in 1974, the network was acquired in 2010 by Jim Engster, who has been involved with LRN since 1983.
In August 2012, LRN merged its agrinews programming with the Louisiana Farm Bureau Radio Network to create the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agrinews Network, one of the South’s largest agrinews programming networks.
In 2013, LRN launched a new interactive website at www.louisianaradionetwork.com. The site offers audio from the most recent LRN newscast and a continuous RSS feed with the latest details on breaking news. In addition, it includes: live weather conditions across the state; affiliate stations; Twitter feeds for LRN and Tiger Rag Magazine; online opinion polls; and updated quotes on stocks of Louisiana interest. Like LRN on Facebook and follow on Twitter for breaking news @laradionetwork.
LRN's daily broadcast schedule is a mix of live and prerecorded programs that air throughout the day.
LRN airs a live, 3½-minute newscast at 30 minutes past the hour that is rebroadcast at 55 minutes past the hour from 6:30 a.m. to 9:55 p.m. CST Monday-Friday and 6:30 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. CST on Saturday.
LRN provides two news-call programs, each consisting of up to 20 actualities by newsmakers of the day. Affiliates are free to integrate the cuts into locally-produced newscasts. LRN news scripts are transmitted to affiliates similar to wire services. The network also offers various news features, as well as a daily stock market report, which includes the latest business and financial news. The program airs at 4:20 p.m. CST Monday-Friday.
When a hurricane watch is posted on the Louisiana coastline, LRN operates 24/7. Hurricane updates are provided at 30 minutes and 55 minutes past the hour until all Louisiana residents are safe. LRN received awards for coverage of the following storms: Hurricane Andrew, 1992; Hurricane Katrina, 2005; Hurricane Gustav, 2008.
With many affiliates in rural areas, LRN is one of the few sources of agricultural news for Louisiana farmers and ranchers — the state's top industry.
LRN had a cooperative relationship for several years with the Louisiana Farm Bureau Radio Network, which also provides agrinews programming. In 2012, LRN merged its agrinews division with the Farm Bureau network to form the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agrinews Radio Network. With more than 40 affiliates in Louisiana and Mississippi, LFBARN is one of the largest farm radio networks in the South, delivering farm news and commodity prices to listeners daily. LFBARN also hosts a companion website with podcasts of daily radio reports.
LRN, in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the LSU Ag Center, sponsors the annual Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction to honor agriculture practitioners. Inductees are recognized in the spring during a banquet in Baton Rouge.
LRN offers three original sportscasts throughout the day Monday-Saturday. Coverage focuses on Louisiana State University athletics, New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Pelicans and other collegiate sports.
One of the country's earliest state radio networks, LRN was launched in 1974 as the Louisiana Network by five investors — Tim Patton, Rhett and Ann McMahon, John Brewer and John Keogh. The network offered live, hourly newscasts via leased broadcast circuits, or dedicated long-distance telephone lines, to 12 charter affiliates. Stations in Ferriday, Oak Grove and Farmerville were among the first affiliates, several of which remain with the network.
After assembling the broadcast and electronic equipment, the McMahons and Brewer constructed a studio and small office. Once the studio was linked to the broadcast circuits leased from South Central Bell, the first LRN newscast aired in October 1974.
Brewer and Ann McMahon wrote and announced 13 daily newscasts Monday-Friday for the first year. Though the newscasts originally were timed by hand, the network used a control clock synchronized with Greenwich Mean Time to maintain accurate broadcast schedules.
The LRN staff began expanding in 1975 with the hiring of a full-time sales manager and a farm director in 1976.
Gulf Coast expansion
In 1978, LRN and the Georgia Network formed Interstate Communications Inc. and launched the Florida Network. Separately, LRN bought the fledgling Mississippi Network (MN) in 1980 and moved its operations from the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi, to a new downtown office and studio space closer to the Mississippi State Capitol, where MN reporters conducted a majority of newsgathering.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, LRN has at various times offered radio play-by-play broadcasts rights for several Louisiana universities. With the Mississippi Network, LRN was among the country’s first regional radio networks to acquire university sports broadcasting rights. LRN also pioneered the combination of game-day broadcasts with advertising and stadium sales of game-day programs, now common for the industry. LRN held the network rights for LSU sports from 1994-2006.
In 2000, LRN acquired Tiger Rag Magazine, which bills itself as “the Bible of LSU sports." The magazine offers game previews and recaps, in-depth interviews and photos. It's known for its extensive LSU football recruiting coverage and insider information. Tiger Rag also has an online presence with its website, TigerRag.com, and free email newsletter, Tiger Rag Daily.
LRN Sports Director Jeff Palermo and Tiger Rag Magazine Editor Robert Stewart host the "Tiger Rag Radio Show," a live call-in talk show focused on LSU sports, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. CST on Tuesdays. The show airs statewide on affiliates in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Ferriday, Mansfield, Shreveport, Springhill, Thibodaux, Slidell and Liberty, Miss.
In 2005, the magazine's operations were moved into LRN's offices. The two companies are based in the Court Plaza Building, located south of downtown Baton Rouge and LSU.
In 1983, LRN became one of the first regional radio networks to move from leased broadcast circuits to satellite transmission. The network refined a system that used a much smaller portion of a single satellite transponder. The new method lowered costs and allowed LRN to sublease its satellite equipment to other companies that still use it for their own communications. Uplink facilities were built in Jackson, Miss., and in Baton Rouge to transmit programming from both networks. By 1985, LRN installed more than 150 downlinks to affiliates in both states.
Consolidation, ownership change
LRN began consolidating operations in the mid-1980s, selling its stake in the Florida Network to the Georgia Network. It also sold the Mississippi Network and the associated college-sports contracts. The company name was returned to Louisiana Network Inc.
In April 2010, Jim Engster, a long-time Baton Rouge journalist and radio talk-show host, bought a controlling interest in the network after getting final approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Engster is now owner and president of LRN.
Engster worked for the network as a reporter, news director and talk-show host from 1983-1998. He returned in 2006 as general manager. He now hosts "The Jim Engster Show," which is produced in LRN studios and airs Monday-Friday at 9 a.m.-10 a.m. CST on National Public Radio affiliate WRKF-FM.
Louisiana Radio Network Executive Staff
The executive staff members of the Louisiana Radio Network are:
- Jim Engster, President
- Neal Gladner, Vice President of Sales
- Jeff Palermo, News and Sports Director
- Don Molino, Agrinews Director and Affiliate Relations Director
- Robert Stewart, Editor, Tiger Rag magazine
- Carolyn Roche, Louisiana Radio Network Controller
- Dawn Dicharry, Tiger Rag Operations Manager
Louisiana Radio Network Alumni
Over the years, many prominent local and regional reporters have worked in the LRN newsroom, including:
- Amy David, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Insurance
- Amy Primeaux-Delaney
- Barry Green
- Beverly Lauren-Joachim
- Bill Barnes
- Chris Gautreau, senior PR writer for Zehnder Communications and former business writer for The Advocate (Louisiana)
- Chris Macaluso
- Darin Mann
- David Austin
- Debra Holden
- Gina Logue
- Greg LaRose, editor of New Orleans CityBusiness
- J.C. Politz
- John Brooks
- John Filostrat, Commander, United States Navy
- Josh Lee
- Jules d’Hemecourt, journalist, LSU professor (1943–2008)
- Julie Baxter, attorney, former reporter and anchor for WAFB
- Karen Henderson
- Kevin Gallagher
- Kym Carter, executive director of the Carl Lewis Foundation
- Larry Davis, manager of WBRH, former news anchor for WVLA-TV
- Lisa Dimond, PR professional, former radio and TV reporter
- Kip Holden, Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish
- Mike Doyle
- Pat Simon, news anchor for KSLA-TV
- Patrick Wilmot
- Richard Hunter
- Robyn Eckings, former news anchor for Louisiana Public Broadcasting
- Rod Starns
- Scott Charton
- Sue Lincoln
- Susan Brown
- Sylvia Weatherspoon, anchor for WBRZ-TV
- Teisha Van de Kop, senior vice president of Weber Shandwick
- Terry Hickman
- Todd Delaney, manager of KSLU-FM, Hammond, La.
- Todd Dunne, Westwood One, Seattle, Wa.
- Michelle Southern