Thirty-Three Years and What do you Get – A Very Loud Voice of the People!

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sign and doors are part of KNON “museum” they are building with old sign, doors, and console

Dallas

I knew KNON/89.3 FM, 60,000 watts of people power was moving from our old offices on Maple Street in Dallas when station manager Dave Chaos (and, yes, there are only one or two of us who remember his “real” name after 27 years with KNON!) reached out and asked if I wanted the old KNON broadcast console for the low power FM we’re in the process of building in New Orleans. Following up, it turned out the console was way too big for us, but KNON had been donated a super fancy, high-end console by Cumulus Broadcasting, one of the mega-casters of the US, as they relocated from Dallas to Denver. I hadn’t been by for some time, so hit Dave with a message to say I’d love to come take a look at the new setup and talk shop, and he immediately sent back a welcome – ahoy, come aboard.

DJ/s with new broadcast studio and new console

DJ/s with new broadcast studio and new console

KABF at 100,000 watts was another community radio station build by ACORN and just celebrated its 31st year at the end of August. ACORN took KNON on the air two years earlier around 1982, so the station ticked off its 33rd year recently. The first of the ACORN-organized and built non-commercial radio stations was in Tampa at WMNF, which must be 35 years at least at this point. New Orleans at WAMF, with the AMF standing for Affiliated Media Foundation Movement, the nonprofit that helped build and support all of these efforts, will be the foundling child of these pathbreakers when it finally manages to go on the air sometime before October 2016. None of this is easy, and KABF continues to struggle even as it builds more and more community support and popularity throughout central Arkansas, but walking through the new studios with Dave, it was exciting to see the benchmark KNON has set and to get a sense of its continued ambitions for the future. All of this is more and more proof that this is set of mountains worth the climb.

Offices are offices though but there were two things that stood out most dramatically at KNON in my tour, and one was a recognition of the future and the other a recognition of the past.

 

DSCN0927The two DJs on the air when Brother Dave and I walked in could hardly restrain themselves from telling me how much better the KNON sound came through the air from the second they had turned on the new console. The engineer’s verdict had been that the console had probably originally cost $100 grand, which is way outside of the reach of virtually any noncommercial! Almost as sweet as the sound was the sense of “what goes around, comes around,” because the console had been used by far right wing radio host, Michael Savage! Rumor at the station put a cherry on that icing of justice because supposedly Savage was livid when he heard the console had found a future home. No problem, Mike, justice is now being done!

plaque recognizing long time KNON engineer Mike Doyle recently passed away

plaque recognizing long time KNON engineer Mike Doyle recently passed away

Equally, as nice were some grace notes to the past prominently displayed in the studio. One was a nice plaque commemorating the services of Mike Doyle, who was our faithful engineer from the beginning until very recently when he passed away. The other was what Dave called the “KNON Museum” area in the hallway right after anyone would enter the station from the front door. The centerpiece that catches the eye first was the old KNON sign that stood for years in front of ACORN’s building on San Jacinto. Below that, nostalgia and sentiment had taken over, and the console that had triggered Dave’s call to me, was now propped up and on display as a memorial to its fine years of service. To one side of the console was the old studio door from San Jacinto that the station had taken to salvage and, on the other side, a door from the Maple Street location recently abandoned.

There’s wheeling and dealing and huge things happened in Dallas with KNON right in the middle of the mix as one of the flag bearers of our honorable tradition of “voice of the people” stations soon to be picked up in New Orleans and recently embraced in Flagstaff as well.

Big things are happening in big-D with community radio! I’ll have to remember to drop by an ACORN flag next time I’m in Dallas for the hallway museum!

 

station manager, Dave Chaos (on the left) with a former Super Bowl Dallas Cowboy player who came by the studio

station manager, Dave Chaos (on the left) with a former Super Bowl Dallas Cowboy player who came by the studio

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Ghostbusters in Radio World

Ghostbusters-PS_612x380New Orleans       Over the last couple of years as I’ve acted as station manager of KABF 88.3/FM, the “voice of the people” broadcasting at 100,000 watts from Little Rock, Arkansas and live streaming, I’m sometimes asked by various associates “if this is the best use of my time,” to which I reply heartily with various justifications, all of which I totally embrace and believe. These include the power of the medium, the opportunity, still untapped to use the internet internationally to broadcast, the value of providing a unique voice to often powerless and voiceless people, and so on and so forth.

But, there’s another part of the answer that is equally real. I view my three or four days up there at the station every four to six weeks almost as a fun-filled change of pace. For the most part, the problems are so different from the normal work of community and labor organizing, that it’s often just hilarious, and other times just satisfying because sometimes it’s little things that can be done that make a difference in simply making the “trains run on time,” by coming in from time to time.

The best story of my recent trip was a doozy. KABF and the Local 100 office in Little Rock occupy perhaps a bit more than half of the space on the second floor of the 1950’s era building on the far southern part of Main Street in the city. The property was – and is – owned by a nonprofit building corporation similar to many created by ACORN for this purpose and in fact is named after the first building we bought to house our offices many years ago on 15th Street. It’s a collective enterprise and as such when things go well for all of us, it’s good times, and when there are hard times, the apples don’t fall far from that tree either. The good news on my last trip had been that a tenant had finally been found for the space the union had occupied formerly on the second floor. There was some downside fallout of course. Two of the rooms we had cleaned and cleared of mountains of junk were now repopulated with the detritus that had been in the space now rented, so we were once again going to have to push those rocks back up the hill, but renting the space was all to the good.

Turned out there was some excitement in this tale though. When the new tenant began to move to occupy the space and opened the door to get on with the task, they were totally stymied and stopped cold until they could figure out what the heck was happening. In the middle of the now vacant space they found a tower of recording equipment, taping away as if they had unearthed an old Stasi spy operation in East Germany or an Edward Snowden operation right in Little Rock. Was the whole building and its work now under surveillance?

The search for an explanation was on! It ended quickly though when various parties asked John Cain, the longtime program manager of KABF, if he had any clue about what might be going on in the space. Turns out that indeed he did. One of the volunteers had approached him and asked if he could set up some recording equipment in the building to catch the sounds of ghosts (yes, ghosts!) operating in the space. They had been recording for days. John saw no harm in the project, and in his long experience with the thousands of different volunteers over the 30-year history of the station, didn’t even seem to find the request or the project that unusual.

We’ll have to await the final report from this name-unknown volunteer on what he did or didn’t hear when he tediously listens to the recordings. In the meantime,  the space is now fearlessly occupied, and the ghost-busting volunteer is now more infamous for having parked his car and blocked the dumpster from being emptied, costing an extra fee for a return pickup, and perhaps inadvertently solving the long time parking disputes of the building once and for all, than for his efforts to catch Casper the friendly ghost in his hideaway on South Main with the rest of the special people and crazy antics that make every one of my visits such a hoot.

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