Story by Donna Schill, Photos Courtesy KRUU
Three years ago station manager James Moore turned on the microphones in the bunkerlike recording studio at the back of 100.1 KRUU-FM, where he spent most of his waking hours. Across from him sat former BBC correspondent Stuart Tanner, a new professor at the university in Fairfield. Moore, along with listeners, learned that day of Tanner’s trips to Ghana, Iraq, and China and of documenting the Palestinian and Israeli conflict in the Middle East. At the end of the hour, the interview ended.
Their conversation did not.
“Inevitably we started talking about world affairs,” recalls Tanner. “We’d sit and yabber, and we thought, ‘Why not turn on the mics?’”
This was the beginning of KRUU’s popular radio relationship, Tanner & Moore, a weekly news talk show. The hosts soon learned that they had more in common than a love of journalism and current affairs — they shared a deep concern about the environment.
“We are heading into a massive resource strain and a hugely significant environmental strain on the world,” says Tanner. “If we know this, why not plan for it?”
Sustainability experts were posing similar questions, and Moore had featured many of them in KRUU programming. During an on-location interview featuring the Iowa Office of Energy Independence (OEI), Moore and his listeners learned about funding opportunities for projects designed to educate Iowans about energy best practices. “It felt like such a natural fit for KRUU,” he remembers. “It was in our wheelhouse.”
On his drive home from Des Moines, Moore hatched the idea for a radio series devoted to energy. He and Tanner consulted with Fairfield Sustainability Coordinator Scott Timm, along with Maharishi University of Management’s Lonnie Gamble, assistant professor of sustainable living. Together they mapped destinations across the state, highlighting key cities, projects, and people to visit.
By the time they applied for a grant, Tanner and Moore had a proposed timeline, list of shows, and 70 pledges from the community for matching funds. With support from OEI, Tanner and Moore launched in May of 2011 an ambitious radio project — Dream Green.
They spent the summer producing 20 hours of programming, each week visiting a new Iowa location — a methane digester in the Amana Colonies, an intercollegiate solar boat race in Cedar Falls, solar manufacturerPowerFilm in Ames, and others. Tanner photographed while Moore carried a portable microphone, the two exchanging roles fluidly throughout their interviews. Editing often began in Tanner’s RAV4 on the way home.
The series played weekly on 100.1 KRUU-FM, reaching Fairfield’s population of 10,000, and streamed live on KRUU’s website, receiving more than a million visits per month. A new website, greeniowa.org, became a permanent hub to share the series’ content with other radio stations, libraries, businesses, and schools. Iowa colleges such as Simpson in Indianola and Luther in Decorah began downloading and airing programs on their own radio stations. Tanner and Moore also created a half-hour program for the Pacifica Radio network showSprouts, which plays on up to 50 radio shows nationally.
“Anytime you are changing behavior, it takes hearing something more than once,” says Brenda Easter, former manager of OEI’s Community Grant Program, about encouraging Iowans to reduce energy consumption. “At some key time, the listener is saying, ‘I need to pay attention to this. I need to implement this at home or in my business.’ What’s unique about this project is it has that capability.”
One Dream Green program took listeners to Dubuque, Iowa’s oldest city, nestled on the Mississippi River. Against the background noise of drilling in the city’s old millwork district, Mayor Roy Buol shared with Tanner and Moore a story of transformation.
The city revamped its downtown, explained Buol, preserving old architecture while retrofitting buildings to meet LEED standards, a rating system for energy efficiency. The city was the first in the state to employ a full-time sustainability coordinator. IBM chose Dubuque as a pilot town for its Smarter Planet campaign, helping residents to track water and energy use through a Web portal.
“It was a grassroots effort,” said Buol, describing the citizen committee that established the city’s sustainability goals. “I knew that there was that core of support around sustainability in the city of Dubuque.”
The strength of place became a repeated theme in the Dream Green programs, and Tanner and Moore say they witnessed numerous examples of locally driven sustainability. “Success all over the state happened because of community involvement,” says Tanner.
Stories of community commitment mirror the radio station’s own story. Fairfield residents and businesses donated dollars and students donated time to make KRUU the first solar-powered radio station in the Midwest in 2009. The glittering blue panels outside the station send a message about not only energy but also the power of community.
Moore’s use of the term “open radio” caught my attention. What, I wondered, did he mean?
Amongst other things, it seems, he meant that KRUU has made a commitment to use only Open Source software. As KRUU founder Roland Wells explained on Open Views, all KRUU’s PCs run on the GNU/Linux operating system, and the audio editing tools (Ardour and Audacity) used by DJs at the station are also Open Source. Likewise, the office suite used by Moore to administer the station (OpenOffice) is Open Source, and the station’s web site was built using Free BSD UNIX, and is hosted on the Open Source web server Apache.
By using Open Source solutions rather than proprietary software, Wells told KRUU listeners, the station has saved “tens of thousands of dollars”.
KRUU’s software philosophy seems to come from Open Views producer Sundar Raman and founder Roland Wells, as explained in the first broadcast of Open Views (which also features a short interview with me on Creative Commons; the program’s third broadcast features an hour on Creative Commons).
Sundar Raman has since interviewed a number of people involved in Open Source, Open Culture, and Open Science, including most recently John Wilbanks of Science Commons (not yet archived). You can also see Raman’s influence showing up in music programming, e.g., Dance Show Friday Night playing CC-licensed music from Jamendo.
Station manager James Moore adds:
Just thought you might like to know that since we began broadcasting last September, KRUU has offered a one-hour program seven days a week called The Open Source Radio Hour (5am-6am) featuring Creative Commons licensed material, primarily from jamendo.com or magnatune.com. so far.
As disenchantment with today's increasingly outdated economic and political system grows, so more and more people are turning to a proliferating number of free and open movements — in pursuit of alternative ways of doing things. Is Open Radio about to become the next trend?
By MIKE KILEN REGISTER STAFF WRITER November 4, 2006 Fairfield, Ia.
In Fairfield, any breathing resident may be stopped on the street and asked to host a radio show. The person asking is usually James Moore, 52, a long-haired musician and a firm member of a why-not generation of dreamers.
He hit up Laszlo Papp one day. It was a "maybe" conversation. The next time Moore saw Papp, he told him, "Your spot is Sunday."
So, Papp showed up at the new Fairfield community radio station carting music from Hungary, his native country. His show is called "Magyar Mix," which is a far cry from Tim McGraw and Toby Keith.
It's part of a new wave of community radio, wedged into a market dominated by commercial stations that typically air sports or political commentary or some kind of rock. The Federal Communications Commission authorized the establishment of low-powered radio in 2000, and 764 stations across the country have sprung up as a result.
There are 23 licensed low-powered stations in Iowa, and a new station is preparing to launch later this year in Des Moines. Nearly all of the licenses are held by schools, churches and other government agencies such as the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Papp's show is on a station that airs seven days a week, all day and night, and includes all manner of music from chamber to techno, blues to TV theme songs. Hosts range from a 15-year-old who collects rocks to a seasoned marketing consultant. One man who lives off the grid talks on the air about sustainable living; another has a program on news that doesn't usually make the news.
If you're trying to put the kids to bed, a local wine shop owner reads bedtime stories. Perhaps you want to have "Coffee with Monica & Caroline," a mother-daughter team in the early afternoon. At 4 a.m you can listen to Brother Joel's "Rasta Roots." There's a Spanish-speaking show from Brazil and a drum show from Brooklyn, N.Y., hosted by former Fairfield residents.
Moore calls the station a slice of freedom. "C'mon," he asks Fairfield residents, "what have you got to say?"
KRUU-FM at 100.1-FM is a nonprofit radio station that airs no commercials and operates entirely by volunteers, the solid majority with no radio experience. The station calls itself "the voice of Fairfield." The idea for it was cooked up by Moore and Roland Wells and powered by 100 watts, "or basically a light bulb," Wells said. It can be heard a dozen miles in every direction from its concrete block home in the center of Fairfield and online worldwide (kruufm.com). It flipped the switch last month with only a half-hour syndicated world news show and 23 hours of local programming.
KRUU also uses all "open source" software, meaning the computer programming that runs the station was downloaded for free, a democratization of technology that fits in neatly with its fight-the-power message. "There is a philosophical aspect," said Sundar Raman, the computer guru behind the station. "This is for the community, not for building up someone else's pocketbook." Raman helps gather music that doesn't hold a copyright for an open source music show at 5 a.m. He hosts another show called "Open Views" for computer users.
Community radio lets people do what they wanted to do since they were kids. In the studio on a recent midday, Rich Sims, 58, was hosting a jazz show. He also does a show called "Ultra Lounge," which plays compositions from movies and television shows from his vast collection. In his San Francisco childhood, he set up a little transmitter in his basement that sent out a signal for six blocks. Decades later, he's still playing. "It's just a fun, creative outlet," he said. It's like inviting fellow residents down to the basement to spin records.
Fairfield residents tell the radio hosts they are listening. After all, they know most of them, even if some of their shows are a little choppy. "It's the realness that people are responding to," Moore said.
Wells had secured the FCC license in 2000 while running a nonprofit teen center called the Beat Box. When funding dried up for the center and it closed, so did the idea of running a little radio station. Wells, 26, works for an insurance company in Fairfield and knows the community well.
The town is widely known as the home of Maharishi University of Management and its cadre of residents who come from all over the world to practice transcendental meditation, eat at vegetarian restaurants and start new companies. He knew about their hunger for a creative outlet. So when Moore asked Wells if he still had the radio station license, the pair swung into action.
The license was set to expire. They raised just enough money to get the station going and enlisted volunteers, a handful that quickly grew to 150 or more. They slapped up drywall and hooked up makeshift equipment around the clock in the two months before launch in a building near the railroad tracks that had been a restaurant, American Legion and teen center. A community garden was planted outside, so anyone could stop by and eat a berry or snap off a carrot.
The diversity of the shows surprises even the founders. Dennis Raimondi, a Fairfield marketing consultant and New Jersey native, does an interview show. In the first month, he chatted on the air with U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, with Leach calling the Iraq war "the greatest foreign policy blunder in the history of our country." "I love it," Raimondi said. "I've been waiting to do something like this all my life." He and a few others have college radio station experience. They are called "experts" by the others.
With a small bandwidth that restricts the number of people who can listen at the same time online, the station is exploring other creative, community-minded solutions. They are setting up "mirrors" to other computers to expand the bandwidth for free. The station plans more fund-raising and grant applications to add paid employees. A recording studio for live shows with local bands is under construction.
"It's an exercise in democracy," Moore said. "The revolution is right here. A revolution is about making your community better."
There have been magical moments already. Mike Phelps walked in one day because he once worked for a radio station in Washington, Ia. A few minutes later he committed to a local news show.
Dick DeAngelis is a gregarious, heavyset Italian American who runs a couple of businesses, including a local wine shop. He has a soft spot for soft, sleepy music and a deep concern for children who need to be in bed on time. He and a son in junior high decided to play soft music and read bedtime stories to kids on a show, "Sleepy Time With Grandpa D." He's not old enough to be a grandpa, he said, but uncle sounded too creepy. "I tell them to put their jammies on before we start," he said. "Then I tell them night-night."
The spirit of KRUU continues to snowball. When the host of the heavy metal show didn't show up for his program, Tony DeFreitas stayed on air with his "techno and hard house" music show until 3:05 a.m. At one point, nearly a half dozen people joined him in the booth. Asked what they talked about in the wee hours of the morning, DeFreitas gave a truly community-radio response. "Anything that came to mind," he said.
When Roger Farmer of Washington sent an email a few weeks ago asking what happened to me, I realized my life had undergone a major shift. Not a U-turn or an about-face really, more like an ascended declension, something with a little bounce, marshmallow root, Marconi, and planet Mercury mixed in.
You see, I’ve been sifting through the seismic-pocked political landscapes for years now. The senselessness of the Iraq adventure sucked me into politics like a dust bunny up the wazoo of an expensive vacuum.
Well, now that snowballs have regained control of both the House and Senate, and the winter of neocon discontent has fallen like an albatross across the war president’s brow, I find myself managing an all-volunteer non-profit community radio station that went from a seed thought to a 24/7 reality in four turbocharged months. I used to spend some four hours a day reading the New York Times and other political sources, keeping my pulse on Washington, DC, and international events. Now I’m lucky if I get four hours of sleep. Thanks, Roland.
Roland Wells is the stuff community treasures are made of—a man of action, giving, a doer, a manager’s manager, a builder, inspired, driven, the bomb. Equal parts wherewithal, charisma, and moxy, the Australian-born visionary is to bottlenecks what hair straightener is to curls. I knew Roland from his successful efforts with the Beat Box, a youth center he directed for five years in Fairfield. Kids love him because he treats them the same way he treats everyone else—with respect, humor, open eyes, and purpose. The Beat Box provided shelter and engagement for as many as 125 visitors a day by the end of his tenure with the center.
It folded a few years back when funding sources dried up, misunderstood by some who saw the place as simply a hangout. Those who actually bothered to check in were amazed at what they saw: a safe haven for all manner of teens and tweens, a place with computer stations, break dancing, a boxing gym, a dedicated staff providing a variety of outlets, an inclusive space for kids of all stripes.
Currently operational manager of the Walker Insurance Group, Roland was a whopping 20 years old when he applied for and received a construction permit from the FCC to start a radio station, handling the engineering specs himself. Low power means the transmitter is limited to a maximum of 100 watts output. The government offered these licenses in each region only once, for a week. The bulk of these stations are church, college, or government afilliated.
Knowing this, when I’d bump into Roland from time to time on the street, I’d bug him about the radio station.
One day he told me to set up a town hall meeting. That was over six months ago. You have to be careful what you say to men of action. . . .
It’s 9 a.m. on an overcast Wednesday morning.
Steve Cooperman has just completed an installment of Around Town, a topical half-hour talk show, and is exiting out of the station’s studio booth known as “Mission Control” with this week’s guest, 1st Fridays Art Walk board member and gingerbread-contest promoter Holly Moore.
In front of a Mackie mixing board, headphones slightly ajar, Rodney Franz cues CDs for his upcoming hour-long music program. Best known in town as the director of countless plays over the past 20 years, he pushes up a lever on the board and begins talking into a microphone: “Hi. My name is Rodney Franz and you’re listening to The Show without a Name Looking for a Theme without a Title on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, The Voice of Fairfield.”
Strands of Marianne Faithful seep into the room, slide over to the 100-watt transmitter, through the live web-streaming unit, up the 60-foot antenna behind the building at 405 N. 2nd Street in Fairfield painted with a large 100.1 and KRUU in orange and blue, and out across the airwaves in a 12-mile throw in all directions.
Next up is uillean pipe legend Tim Britton with two hours of Celtica and Other Musical Destinations, a sumptuous blend of Celtic, folk, and related musicalities, followed by a half-hour of Free Speech Radio News, the only non-locally produced programming in the entire schedule, and then local and state news with KRUU news director Mike Phelps. Mike showed up the day after the large call letters were painted on the outside of the building, asking if a news director was needed. He said he was never “hired” so fast.
Welcome to grassroots community radio.
When Fairfield was recently awarded Great Places status, KRUU radio was noted by the state selecting commission as one of the key elements that helped seal the deal. (Six Iowa cities will divide a total of $6 million among them.) Local Great Places’ liaison David Dubois was quoted in the Ottumwa Courier as calling the citizen initiative an example of “spontaneous creative eruptions,” something completely off the radar six months before that fully flowered into reality. The Des Moines Register referred to me in an Iowa Life feature as a “firm member of a why not generation of dreamers.” Nice words, but it took a lot more than dreaming and seemed anything but spontaneous in the day after night into the wee hours of month after month of hard work to get this puppy up and running.
Though some 150 people contributed time and talent to transform the former Beat Box building from a martial arts studio into the home of the KRUU, a hard corps of superheroes provided the major grist for the treadmill. Caleb Flynn, Sundar Raman, Steve Cooperman, Steve Fry, Tom O’Neil, Barb Fix, and Devin Wadsworth, to name a few. It was a scramble ballet I only wish we had videotaped. Did you ever see the old movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? When the community advisory board came to look at the broadcast studio prior to our Saturday, September 30th, launch, all they saw was an empty room without a carpet and a few folding tables. This was Thursday. (The board includes Mayor Ed Malloy, David Neff, Lee Gobble, Connie Boyer, Jeffrey Hedquist, Monica Hadley, Sonia Vera, Julie Stephens, Andy Bargerstock, Celio Mandjane, Caleb Flynn, and Tony DeFreitas.)
After months of reconstruction, painting, building nine-inch-thick foam walls, and installing double sets of double windows to mitigate train rumble and whine, setting up Linux-based open-source applications on computer stations (a direct continuation of the Beat Box legacy), raising the 60-foot tower on the 4th of July under Dwight Harris’s purview, setting up the live real-time worldwide streamer, and purchasing a transmitter and Emergency Broadcast System, it was literally show time. Over 50 deejays signed on to do music and talk shows and were shepherded through a fluid continually-evolving system. There are now 70 show hosts.
On September 30th, with the flip of a switch and a tune by Steve McLain and the Jefferson County Green Band, KRUU became a 168-hour a week non-stop reality (“feeding the beast,” as they called it at the 11th Annual Grassroots Radio Conference Roland and I attended this summer in Madison, WI).
Sure, there have been a few glitches (when that happens, we plead “community” radio) but the buzz on the street has been good. People have been amazed at the variety and depth of the musical programming. An aural mosaic has emerged that is a far cry from the corporatized amalgamation so prevalent in so much of syndicated radio nowadays. As I write this, Clear Channel radio is talking about a buy-out priced at $18.7 billion. By contrast, KRUU is hoping to get a new ink cartridge for its printer. (Actually, the focus has been on getting up and running; fundraising efforts are just getting underway. One suggestion has been that appreciative listeners might consider contributing the cost of one meal a month to the station—$5, $10, or $15, depending upon one’s budget and appetite. Businesses can underwrite programming and banner space will eventually be available on the website.)
People from over 40 countries have tuned into the live stream available on the website www.kruufm.com. We are getting over a thousand hits a day on average, with as many as 4,000. Not bad for barely two months old. LISCO has promised to hook us up to their new fiber-optic system in a few months, which will greatly expand our operating capacity.
Dennis James and his wife recently relocated from out west because they heard good things about Fairfield. It was the quality of life, affordability, and art scene that convinced them to move. They comprise the musical duo Truckstop Souvenir. Dennis hosts Gravel Road Radio Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m., showcasing Americana and Roots music.
Sonia Vera, hailing from Colombia via California, hosts a Spanish-speaking program called La Hora Latina Monday nights at 7 p.m. Dennis Raimondi’s Speaking Freely airs Tuesdays at 1 p.m. His interviews with Nation contributing writer Ari Berman and former Kansas City Royals and World Series star Buddy Biancalana have been highlights.
In Depth with Erika Richards, which airs at 8 a.m. Fridays, has featured election debates between supervisor candidates Dick Reed and Debra Williamson, and Iowa Senate candidates David Miller and Becky Schmitz, as well as conversations with Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy and Ottumwa Courier editor Jeff Hutton. Recent additions include the rollicking 7 a.m. Tuesday morning show Off the Subject with Diana Flynn and Therese Cummiskey, and Josh Young’s thrill music program Getting the Kinks Out Saturdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Then there’s Dick DeAngelis and his son Mickey’s Sleepytime with Grandpa D Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m., a bedtime program for the wee ones, which follows Sundar Raman’s Open Views show on the free culture movement. Clayton Miller’s Metal Health is midnight on Tuesdays and Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. (Cue the Clay People: “Wake up!! It’s time to die...”) followed by Bruce Miller’s soothing ambient Pirate Satellite show. God bless the contrasts. Steve McLain & the JCGB’s Friday Happy Hour show from 5 to 8 p.m. is always a hoot. The Drum Show by Ian Fry is sent in from Brooklyn every Sunday at 7 p.m. Matt Ahearn contributes three hours of original music 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays.
Other highlights include Lonnie Gambles’s Abundant Planet Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m.; Andy MacKenzie’s Beatles Undercover 11 a.m. Sundays; Theo Bowen’s The Short List Sundays at 8 p.m.; Tom LeMay’s Vox Populi Mondays at 10 a.m. followed by David Hawthorne’s Acoustic Stars at 11 a.m.; Scott Puffer’s pop culture musical living history program Lo-Fi at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays; Fringe Toast with Andy Bargerstock 8 p.m. Wednesdays; Rodney Franz’s Adult Content Friday mornings at 9 a.m.; Ed Murphy’s The Whole Funk Saturdays at 1 p.m.; Doug Daller’s 10 p.m. Saturday evening show Fistful of Dallers—and that’s not even the half of it. (For a complete schedule go to the website.)
I remember the day Sundar Raman burst into the station and declared, “Look it, I’ve been working with open source applications for two years and this station has to go open source.” I smiled and said, “Dude, you’re in the right place.” The station was already committed to this cutting-edge business model, one that incorporates only free downloadable software, Linux-based, neither Mac nor PC.
Sundar sums up the “free culture” movement this way: In the 50s, the very first community radio station in the U.S. started off with the objective being the “full distribution of public information,” amongst other things. In the 80s a similar ideology, called the Free Software Movement, was started by MIT graduate student Richard Stallman, in order to combat the rising control of computer “source code” by corporate interests. In 2000, Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School, created an alternative to restrictive copyright licensing called Creative Commons.
The above philosophies form what is collectively termed the Free Software and Free Culture movements. We at KRUU are using the freeculture movement as the foundation for our work. The reasons have nothing to do with the oft-repeated “anti-corporate” stance. There are far more pragmatic reasons—we’re responsible for creating something that works reliably, can be customized, and has no legal baggage, all while adding to the culture of the listening audience. This is what the “community” part of community radio is all about. We are adding to the cultural commons by using the products of the intellectual and software commons, and by deriving from the musical and artistic commons.
What an incredible thing to be a part of. It’s amazing what a shared vision and a dedicated core of volunteer activists can accomplish. I realized that this is where the revolution is for me—not dissecting, correcting, or second-guessing political leaders, expecting them to somehow make our lives better. No, the revolution is right here, right now—it’s how we treat each other, how we listen, dialogue, deal with differences, come up with viable solutions in our own neighborhoods, give voice to our own community. Why not? We can be the change—or stay the same, if that’s our choice.
So to answer your question, Roger, I’ve been putting in 100- to 120-hour weeks for months now without a day off. Even missed my regular music column for the Source last month for the first time in five years. My political weblist and even the twice-monthly Film for Thought Series have been put on mothballs. If I were better rested, I probably would have had two nervous breakdowns by now. Mind you, Roland has facilitated this project in his “spare” time. What a privilege it’s been serving the community this way. Imagine starting an all-volunteer, non-profit radio station from scratch with a group of people who’ve never done anything like this before except for a couple of ex-college deejays and one walk-in news director.
Well, you know what they say: To Air is Human, To Broadcast Divine. All I know is with the creativity and global reach of this community, the sky’s the limit. To paraphrase the immortal words of John Paul Jones—or was it Karen Carpenter?—we’ve only just begun. All metaphors aside—stay tuned.
Oh yeah, if you have an idea for a show, drop us a line.
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.
Reprinted by permission of The Heartland Spirit. All rights reserved.