Susan Carpenter

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Susan "Sue" Carpenter
Born Susan Carpenter
Occupation Writer, pirate radio personality
Language English
Nationality US
Genre Non-fiction
Notable works 40 Watts from Nowhere, A Journey into Pirate Radio, New York: Scribner, 2004

Susan Carpenter is co-host of The Ride, a series about modern mobility on the Southern California Public Radio Station, KPCC-FM. In broadcast radio segments and a weekly podcast, she reports on everything from autonomous cars and ride sharing to motorcycles, bicycles and public transit.

Before joining KPCC, she was the car and motorcycle critic for the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. She is also known for operating two illegal pirate radio stations and writing about unconventional adventures for the women's magazine, Jane, that she undertook in order to experience them firsthand.

A University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate,[1] Carpenter was working as a legal secretary in San Francisco, California in 1995 when she began pseudonymously running an illegal all-music pirate radio station, which she named "KPBJ" after the sandwich.[2][3][4][5] The station operated for three and a half years before the FCC shut it down. During those years, KPBJ grew from interviewing relatively unknown guests to hosting live performances by such bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction.[4]

In 1998, Carpenter took a job as editor of the niche culture magazine UHF and moved to Los Angeles, where, under the alias "Paige Jarrett",[6] she founded a new pirate station, "KBLT", also named after the sandwich, in the hipster Los Angeles community of Silver Lake.[2][3][7] KBLT's DJs included Bob Forrest, Mike Watt and Keith Morris.,[8] performers included Mazzy Star, who played a benefit to help pay her legal fees, and the station featured bootleg world premieres of songs by Beck, Madonna, and Jesus and Mary Chain.[2]

A former feature writer for The Los Angeles Times and senior contributor to Jane magazine, Carpenter's writing has also appeared in George, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.[4][9] She has written about topics as diverse as working as a Hooters girl, posing nude for Playboy magazine, joining the Army, working on a chain gang, competing in a Hawaiian Tropic tanning contest, and trying out for the LA Lakers dance squad, the Laker Girls, and has provided insider commentary about pirate radio happenings.[5] In October 2012, Carpenter moved to the Orange County Register as automobile and motorcycle columnist.[10][11][12]

In 2004, Carpenter wrote a book about her experiences as a pirate radio operator[2][4][5][13] which has been described as "sine qua non for anyone who aspires to run any kind of community-style radio station" due to the details it provides about the college/community/pirate scene.[14][15]


  1. ^ Moore:, Judith (March 25, 2004), "40 Watts from Nowhere", San Diego Reader, pp. 95–96 
  2. ^ a b c d Sicha, Choire (February 29, 2004), "The Pirate Queen, 40 Watts from Nowhere, A Journey into Pirate Radio, By Sue Carpenter, 225 pp., New York: Scribner", New York Times 
  3. ^ a b Epstein, Dan (November 11, 1998), "A Change in the Air", LA Weekly 
  4. ^ a b c d "40 Watts from Nowhere: A Journey into Pirate Radio", Publishers Weekly, ISBN 0743229886 
  5. ^ a b c Strout, Justin (June 17, 2010), "Killing the messenger: The takedown of an Orlando radio pirate", Orlando Weekly 
  6. ^ Cox, Jim (2013), Radio After the Golden Age: The Evolution of American Broadcasting Since 1960, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company 
  7. ^ Dunn, Sara (March 10, 1999), "High Seas for Pirate Radio", LA Weekly 
  8. ^ "Radio Free L.A.", LA Weekly, November 11, 1998 
  9. ^ Hoffberg, Kevin (February 27, 2008), Conversation with Susan Carpenter; LA Times Motorcycle Writer and Rider 
  10. ^ Morgan, Eric (October 25, 2012), "Susan Carpenter joins the Register as auto critic", Orange County Register 
  11. ^ Roderick, Kevin (October 17, 2012), LAT's Sue Carpenter goes back to motorcycles... for the Register 
  12. ^ "Staff Profile, Latest articles by Susan Carpenter", Orange County Register, retrieved October 15, 2013 
  13. ^ Elder, Robert K. (April 9, 2004), "'40 Watts' sends out a signal to all would-be pirates", Chicago Tribune 
  14. ^ Lasar, Matthew (August 28, 2009), The education of a radio pirate 
  15. ^ Anderson, John Nathan (2004), A Can of Worms, Pirate Radio as Public Intransigence on the Public Airwaves, a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (Journalism and Mass Communication) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PDF), retrieved November 6, 2013 

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