The Heartland Spirit: Community radio comes to Fairfield on September 30

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By: 
Virginia Hancock

Welcome to the KRUU!

Community radio comes to Fairfield on September 30

by Virginia Hancock | Staff Writer

Work is becoming play at 405 N. 2nd Street, broadcast site for 100.1 KRUU FM, Fairfield’s new community radio station. Roland Wells, James Moore, Steve Cooperman, and Stephen Fry, the station’s Programming Committee, are on the fast track to give Fairfield’s collective voice a chance to be publicly heard. Going on air September 30, the 100-watt, low power, non-commercial, non-profit station vows to “put the unity in community,” welcoming all shows, help, ideas and people.

Emphasizing local programming, KRUU (pronounced “crew”) leaders aim to provide “an open, inclusive, diverse forum for music, creative expression, information and entertainment that encourages dialogue and community involvement.”   

James Moore, Roland Wells and Steve Cooperman (l to r) get ready for KRUU’s debut at the end of the month. Photo credit: Virginia Hancock.
 

Though the mission and faces behind the building’s door are familiar, the martial arts studio and former Beat Box location is being transformed. Extra foam wall insulation and double-paned windows will block train noise, allowing 168 smooth hours of programming per week via a new high-tech control room and recording studio. Anticipated are interviews with artists, youth programming, political news, and commentary, and deejays playing eclectic mixes from around the world, across broad musical spectrums.  

Wells also looks forward to going on remote, eyeing an old bus currently dwelling in the soon-to-be resurfaced KRUU parking lot. “It just may become the magic KRUU bus for on-site coverage,” he grins.  Spanish-speaking shows, international, national and local news, along with weather and emergency services, community happenings, sustainability and permaculture shows, movie reviews, call-in shows, and comedy will jazz up the mix.  Also proposed are shows on writers, the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, Ayurvedic health, and one led by Kevin Hosbond of Fairfield High School featuring work by his theater students.

“What’s fun about community radio,” says Wells, “is it can be anything we want.” By we, he means anyone of any age either from, or interested in, Fairfield. “We have had huge, consistent interest,” Cooperman says.  “Eighty to one hundred volunteers have stepped forward so far,” Moore specifies. Slots range from half an hour to three hours, “and we’re still looking for people,” the three agree.  “We want anything related to community, music, issues, talk, news – the only requirement is it must be of interest to this community.”

Moore, Wells, and Cooperman acknowledge that most people who want to host shows have little or no prior experience, something they deem unnecessary, “as long as you bring your enthusiasm.” First-timers will have a two-hour orientation session to become familiar with the station and to observe more experienced broadcasters in action before going on air themselves. “Then, assuming you want a regular show, you will have a production every week, which is practice. Learning is an ongoing process that involves self-teaching, which comes from doing,” Wells explains. “We’re all self-taught, and we’ll be learning as we go, too.”  

His colleagues point out that Wells has quite a wealth of experience to draw from, working with audio equipment, computers, and the recording studio he owned before and during his Beat Box days. Attending the recent three-day Grassroots Radio Conference 11 in Madison, WI, Moore reports that “in some ways, [KRUU is] perhaps even ahead of some older school stations. More than once, [Wells] ended up leading the discussion in terms of the latest digital applications and formats possible.” In Madison, Moore and Wells say they “networked, work-shopped and shop-talked with 150…generous and experienced …radioactive grassroots aficionados from across the country,” who, Moore adds, “were intrigued by Fairfield’s designation by Mother Earth News as one of the ‘12 Great Places in the US that You’ve Never Heard Of’.”

So far, about 10 out of more than 90 people expressing interest in deejaying music or hosting other programs have experience on air. This includes Moore himself, who will do an instrumental music show, to include live music.  Some are sending in shows, prerecorded from outside of Fairfield, such as Shawn O’Sullivan, a young yet experienced, former Fairfielder now living in New York City.

“It’s a fun way to stay connected with people who’ve left, who are out in the world doing music and media,” Wells comments.

100.1FM will span a five-mile radius, thanks to Dwight Harris who donated and helped install a $2000, 60-foot radio tower plus antenna. With Quinn Shanahan’s expertise, KRUU will also stream over the Internet from the station’s website, making it available to anyone anywhere.  

Once the station reaches its $25,000 fundraising goal – it’s already halfway there – to get KRUU up and running, the fundraising focus will shift to sustaining and enhancing operation through “ongoing budget pledges,” of $10-$15/month per supporter, or more from business sponsorships.  

The Programming Committee says that logistics, like the building and equipment, are also halfway there. “Programming-wise, we’re right on track,” says Wells.  “Nothing is going to prevent us,” he shines, highlighting his confidence in the wide talent base he feels Fairfield is lucky to have.  “And we anticipate another influx of [programming] interest as the station hits airwaves,” says Moore.  

The station’s all-inviting philosophy and roots can be traced to Wells’ previous projects. Back in 2001, Wells applied for a broadcast license for the Beat Box. The opportunity to apply is only offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about every ten years, and getting accepted is tricky.  After about a year of application processing time, the Beat Box beat the odds and received the license, just as the former youth center had to close operation. “After the license lay dormant for two years, we looked into and were granted an extension by the FCC to begin broadcasting by October 16 of this year,” says Wells.

For those curious, Wells clarifies that, “the KRUU letters are our call sign, assigned by the FCC.  We didn’t make it up.” What they do make up are “a lot of creative and crazy ideas, some of which will make it on the air.” One of these ideas “to have everyone in Fairfield say ‘Fairfield,’ or do station identification to create a symphony,” began being recorded at a recent Art Walk, he says.

This spring, Cooperman and Fry sparked town hall meetings regarding a media arts center for Fairfield, which will again become a priority project once KRUU is off the ground and running. The four men made a group decision to focus on the radio station as the highly feasible first step. Both projects are for fun, but, say Moore and Wells, also meet a town and state-wide need of providing an opportunity and creative venue that, though for all ages, may be particularly vital to youth. “We feel [both projects] can play a valuable role in providing young people…a reason to stay and grow here – or even return and grow here…. Our wider mission is to do our fair share to make Fairfield an irresistible place to live.”       

Spying Iowa’s Governor at a recent press conference for the new Civic Center, Wells and Moore presented a charmed Vilsack with a “Join the KRUU” T-shirt. Vilsack told them that when he thinks of Fairfield, he thinks of “creative energy,” and is eager to hear what the united voice of such a community will sound like and accomplish.

Raring to go, Cooperman announces, “We already have interviews recorded for shows, and will have a big program schedule up in the next week or two.” A community advisory board will review ideas submitted and give the Programming Committee feedback for the imminent showcasing of Fairfield’s top-notch voice. “We have an inclusive vision. No one will be turned away,” the Committee reminds. Not skipping a beat, Fairfield’s whole heart will play and be heard.  

Those with interest, time, resources or ideas may go to www.kruufm.com or call James Moore at (641) 233-1617.  The KRUU building is now open for drop-in visits weekdays from 10:00 am-noon and 1:00 – 3:00 pm. 

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Reprinted by permission of The Heartland Spirit. All rights reserved.