Luke Jones enjoying a coffee outside.

Luke Jones, a 2017 Department of Media graduate from Ball State University, is back as a part-time Producer for “Pop of Culture” at Indiana Public Radio. Jones said he has enjoyed being back on campus and seeing all the friendly faces that helped shape him and his skillset throughout his journey.

“Pop of Culture” will debut Friday, Feb. 2. The program will feature an hour-long segment on arts and culture with a focus on East Central Indiana. However, Jones and the team will be interviewing and speaking with people from all over the midwest.

Jones said he is excited about the opportunity to work both in public media and on a new project because of the seemingly endless possibilities they present.

How did you end up here at Ball State?  

I studied at Ball State — I was a TCOMM major in audio production — and then after I graduated, I worked for a group of stations in Indianapolis. 

While I was at Ball State, I worked on an immersive learning project covering Indiana’s Bicentennial Torch Relay. So, the state of Indiana itself turned 200 years old, they had a torch relay that went through all 92 counties, I think it is, and we had a team that covered it. The team did day-to-day coverage, and they also did a documentary about it. And as an audio student, I was just following along, but I ended up working with Indiana Public Radio, so when they reached out and said, “Would someone want to file stories from the road?” And as an NPR listener and a lifelong IPR listener, I was like, “Yes, absolutely, please!” So that was actually my first taste of IPR — filing stories from the back of a panel van.

Then, a couple months ago, I was listening — as I normally do — on my way to work, and nd they aired an ad, essentially, that they were hiring a new producer. I applied, and I was like, “Yeah, this sounds exactly like what I want the next step in my career to be on.” So, I interviewed, and that’s how I got back here!  

What made you decide to come to Ball State?

I was looking at the TCOMM program. I wanted to go far away, but I mean, Ball State’s TCOMM program is second to none anywhere on this side of the Mississippi — there wasn’t another option for what I wanted to do. The compromise was that I stayed on campus instead of at home.

How did you discover your passion for the field you’re in today?  

I have always been a radio listener, and I’ve always loved how songs sound better on the radio, in my opinion. When you get in the car, you turn on the radio and you hear that one song that you were gonna put on Spotify anyway, you’re like, “Yes!” and you turn it up really loud — that’s a unique experience. I also have been what we call a backseat listener to Indiana Public Radio for my entire life. That’s what my parents played on the way to school.

I would say going into college I knew I was interested in radio. I did not think it would be a career. I thought it would be something fun that I would do probably at a student-run station and that would augment whatever audio production work I did. But as I spent more time at WCRD, and as I was filing a few stories for Indiana Public Radio, I started to realize, like, “Oh, this is something people do for a living.”

What are some things you’re most proud of from your career so far?

When I was here at Ball State, I started out as a weekend DJ at WCRD, and then eventually, I was the program director for a year, which is the customary amount of time to let someone run the station.

I was always really proud of the work that we did there because it was students. As a student, you have class, you have other things going on in your life, you would like to pretend to have a social life, and you’re also doing this job that other people do full time, that’s their job, and you’re doing it as a student.

Professionally, I worked on several morning shows in Indianapolis, but I worked on one with one other DJ, and we were the only two people who worked on the show. That was a very rewarding experience in that it was the first time outside of Ball State where someone had taken my professional work and been like, “This is good, we’re going to put this on the air.” I was like “You don’t want to, like, edit this at all?” And he said, “No, this sounds great.” So that’s always really rewarding.

What’s also been rewarding in terms of recognition is on days when I was not working, we would have folks call in and ask, “Hey, where is Luke?” which is really nice to be that integral of a part of someone’s morning experience that they notice when you’re not there. 

What all does your new job with IPR entail?  

I’m producing a brand-new program (Pop of Culture). I’m still learning every day what my job is, but essentially my job is to work with the hosts of the program to record interviews or stories, edit those down for the show, mix them to make them airable, and then putting that into the large file that we deliver for the show.

My job is to take the stories that people bring me and make sure that they go out on the air correctly. That’s the short version.  

What is it like now that you’re settling back in here at Ball State?

It’s nice to be back on campus. Especially in the communications complex, I feel very comfortable around here. Walking back through it, I’m like, “Oh, I know this stairwell,” and “That’s where I tripped,” but the thing that surprised me most is probably just what the team at IPR accomplishes with the number of people that they have. With Ball State Public Media as the umbrella, we also run WIPB, the public broadcasting station, of which there are several sub stations, and then the TV side of it all. But radio-wise, I mean, it’s a 24-hour news station and there are about seven regular-time employees making it happen.  

What is something that you want colleagues at Ball State to know about you? 

Well, just today I connected with someone from the Jay County Public Library. She’s the only other Swifty that I’ve met in my time here. No one at Indiana Public Radio is a Swifty, and I’m not like a mega-Swifty, but I need one other person who listens to upbeat pop music. So, I don’t know if that’s necessarily “fun,” but if there’s a Swifty that professionally exists within the college, that would be nice. 

What’s something you want your IPR listeners to know about you?  

That we’re available and we want feedback from all IPR listeners. We do get feedback, but it’s often folks who feel strongly one way or another about programming, and what we want is to hear from all of our listeners. And we’re readily available — there’s a phone number you can call and an email you can reach us at, and someone will get back to you within a reasonable amount of time. 

Looking forward, do you have any goals or hopes for your time here at Ball State? 

My goal is to be on air every week with a product that I’m proud of, and then long term, we’ve done audience research at Indiana Public Radio that has revealed that what people want is local arts and culture coverage. And so, this (Pop of Culture) at least, is the start of that at Ball State Public Media, and the goal is to expand that eventually.

What are you most looking forward to with the launch of “Pop of Culture”?

Public radio is done very differently from commercial radio. We have underwriters, people who believe in our product and are supporting us to continue our work, as opposed to commercial radio where you have advertisers who pay for time on your station. Depending on the station, there could be 15-20 minutes of ads every hour, whereas on public radio, there’s none of that. So, it’s an entirely different style from an audio perspective, from a storytelling perspective, and how it all comes together, and that’s been a really exciting challenge.

And part of the fun of doing a new show like this is that we have the opportunity to not say no. If someone says, “Hey, what do you think of this?” I can be like “Yeah, absolutely.” The person that I just reached out to at the Jay County Public Library, we’re looking at doing a monthly book club segment for the show. But who knows? we may talk to her about other things, too — it can be whatever we want it to be. The possibilities are endless.