In tune with communities: Small-town radio connects with very local listeners - Albuquerque Journal

In tune with communities: Small-town radio connects with very local listeners

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

John Shannon, left, interviews Cindy Weehler, right, and Roger Taylor, with 285ALL, for his web-based radio station, Radio Free Galisteo on Nov. 9. Shannon and Denise Lynch run the station from a corner in their studio in Galisteo. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

One operates out of a corner of an art gallery surrounded by paintings and pottery. Another is located in an Airstream trailer with views of Taos Mountain. An old adobe home is headquarters for another. And one broadcasts from a local library.

They are small-town radio stations. And the advent of online technology and low-power FCC licenses has enabled them to engage residents on issues of concern in the communities they serve.

South of Santa Fe, Radio Free Galisteo (radiofreegalisteo.com), is the brainchild of John Shannon and Denise Lynch, who met when both were volunteers at KSFR radio in Santa Fe.

Galisteo, a community of about 250 people, is home to several artists and writers.

Peter Anahl usually plays rhythm and blues, and sometimes jazz, but on Monday he’s playing local artist for listeners of the KMRD Radio Station in Madrid. The locally run radio station is on the property of the Mine Shaft Tavern. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Peter Anahl usually plays rhythm and blues, and sometimes jazz, but on Monday he’s playing local artist for listeners of the KMRD Radio Station in Madrid. The locally run radio station is on the property of the Mine Shaft Tavern. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

After producing radio for several years at KSFR, Shannon knew he was not done and was eager to try something else.

“Due to technology today it’s actually a fairly simple process but it takes a little bit of ambition,” said Shannon, a burly, 26-year infantry and intelligence officer in the Army who served two tours in Afghanistan. He wears a baseball cap from Cornell University, where he earned a degree in human development and family studies.

Web-based broadcast

“It’s a very, small operation, it’s an online radio station, it’s not terrestrial,” Shannon said, describing Radio Free Galisteo.

Shannon, the station manager and news director, and Lynch, launched the station six months ago from the Lynch’s Quartermill Farm studio. Recently, Shannon interviewed Eldorado community activist Cindy Weehler of the 285 Alliance organization and Roger Taylor, president of the Galisteo Community Association, on issues surrounding the proposed expansion of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. (The interview on podcast is on the station’s website.)

“It is web-based and that means it’s available anywhere you can get on the internet, which is why I have listeners in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Great Britain, Spain, Greece, Italy,” said Shannon.

The guests were seated behind sound buffeting screens, with colorful wall hangings also augmenting the acoustics in a corner of the gallery, as the host asked questions.

Taylor, who has lived in Galisteo for 12 years, is an enthusiastic supporter of the operation.

“It adds a whole layer of communication capability that is very important,” said Taylor. “If you think about the fact that people here tend to be very involved in causes, arts, and making sure that the quality of life is something that is protected.”

Weehler listens from her Eldorado home and was glad to get her message out.

“Well, they are essential … something that is local like this is even more important,” said Weehler.

Scott Randolph plays music for listeners from the KNCE 93.5 studio in the back of an Airstream camper trailer near Taos on Nov. 10. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

In Dixon in Rio Arriba County, KLDK-LP, 96.5 FM, has been broadcasting music 24/7 and syndicated programming for about 15 years. The all-volunteer, nonprofit station with live DJs is owned by the Embudo Valley Library and is located in a room in the old library building.

The station has no local interview programs yet. “That would be something we would aspire to … we really don’t have a heck of a lot of manpower,” said Chuck Wright, station manager.

The programming can get hyperlocal. A couple of evenings a week a resident reads short stories on air and Dixon Elementary School has produced “a half-hour program once a month, we hope,” said Wright.

“And they will talk to the teacher and say, ‘Mrs. so and so, what’s it like being a teacher,’ ” said Wright.

In the former mining town of Madrid, population 200, KMRD-LP was launched in 2015 by Stella Linder Byrne and others.

It’s all volunteer, commercial free, nonprofit with more than 60 live, weekly programs, said Linder Byrne.

The Federal Communications Commission opened applications for noncommercial, low Power FM stations on available FM frequencies in 2013, she said. The LP (low power) stations are allowed a maximum of 100 watts in transmitter power and KMRD-LP has 35. The station broadcasts to Madrid, Cerrillos and surrounding communities.

They are “dedicated to providing a platform for diverse local content and cultivating meaningful communication,” she said in an email. “With operating principles rooted in participation and accessibility, KMRD serves the extended community of Madrid … as a grassroots resource for entertainment, information, skill-building and creative social connection,” said Linder Byrne.

On a wish list

For Lynch of Radio Free Galisteo, radio was on a wish list. “I always wanted my own radio station, I always thought it was a really important thing to sound off,” Lynch said.

The station also has several DJs with their own music shows and national and international news.

“Galisteo is this very interesting, small place and my goal initially was to be able to provide Galisteo their own radio station, with their own information about the community but also bring in information from the rest of the world into the community,” said Shannon.

“We are financing it ourselves … but it’s a pay-it-forward kind of a thing,” said Lynch.

Lynch credits “generous friends” for their help. “We had people put up a nice amount to help us get going,” she said.

The bills are being paid but the help is not. Expenses include paying for podcasting software and the cost for the news service that provides the station with national and international news, but music is the biggest cost.

“We had a number of investors at start up but now we have sustaining subscribers that are basically paying us enough to cover all the operation costs for the radio station, and by operation costs, that doesn’t include paying the employees,” Shannon said.

True Taos Radio’s studio is in the back of an Airstream camper trailer near Taos. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

KNCE, 93.5 FM, does pay employees because they are a for-profit station that broadcasts from an Airstream trailer off U.S. 64, next to Taos Mesa Brewing, with views of Taos Mountain. The brewpub and station are not connected, but bands often wander next door for interviews, the owners said.

“We are a pretty open format,” said program director Jerry Schwartz. “Because of the diversity in Taos, we wanted to have a format that reflected the diversity here in town so that included all genres of music, a lot of emphasis on local arts, local goings on to some extent.”

In Dixon, station manager Wright said he knows people are listening for a unique reason.

“It’s very difficult to tell who’s listening. If we go off the air for some reason we find out from people.”


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