Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Radio station KRUU falls silent

Station hopes other nonprofit will assume its license
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Mar 09, 2018
Courtesy of: PHOTOS COURTESY OF JAMES MOORE KRUU station manager James Moore addresses Fairfield during the station’s first broadcast on Sept. 30, 2006. The station ceased broadcasting March 1.

Fairfield’s nonprofit radio station KRUU 100.1 FM broadcast its final show March 1.

Station manager James Moore said its board of directors and a team of show hosts decided in January to close due to lack of funding. The radio station had a non-commercial license, so its means for generating revenue were limited to donations and underwriting. Businesses could sponsor programs but couldn’t advertise their products on-air.

“There were a few times when the electricity went off from us not being able to pay,” Moore said. “We’re going to see if any other nonprofits are interested in taking on the license and perhaps the building. We want this to remain a local community element.”

KRUU was ahead of its time in using solar power to carry its message throughout town. The solar panels were installed in 2009, making it the only solar-powered radio station in the Midwest.

The building that housed KRUU on North Second Street was previously occupied by The Beat Box, a youth hangout featuring disc jockeys, bands and a dance floor. The Beat Box opened in 1999 and closed four years later due to lack of funds, but in the meantime the organization had secured a license to transmit a low-powered radio signal of 100 watts.

“Some lightbulbs use more watts than that,” Moore joked.

Moore had gotten to know Beat Box co-director Roland Wells, and suggested turning the building into a radio station.

“One year he came to me and said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and after that, my life went by in a blur,” Moore said.

That was in 2006. A team consisting of Wells, Moore, Stephen Fry, Steve Cooperman and Bill Jaxtheimer spearheaded the project. By July, they had erected a 60-foot radio tower, and later that year raised the $25,000 necessary to open. The tower was able to send a signal about 5 miles. Using much of the equipment left over from the Beat Box, the radio station broadcast its first program on Sept. 30, 2006.

“I felt I was probably working about 20 hours per day for the first five years,” Moore said. “We decided we would have 70-75 shows. We wanted to be the voice of Fairfield without an agenda. We said, ‘If we’re going to do a station, we wanted one to encourage dialog and participation in the community. We don’t want to be a syndication station.’”

In a documentary about KRUU from 2013, Moore said that 300 people had hosted a show at one time or another on the radio station.

“That is a huge percentage of the town’s population,” he said.

In the same documentary, show host Donald Revolinski spoke about how KRUU reflected the diversity of interests in Fairfield, from cooking shows to movie reviews to reggae music. Wells said that it’s not just the content that attracts people but the fact that it’s being produced by a local person. Moore hosted shows on city business with Michael Halley, which were recorded by Fairfield Media Center and shown on its public access channel.

The station interviewed many celebrities over the years including Tony Bennett, Neil Young and Dave Matthews.

“Those people told me how much they loved that we’re a solar-powered channel,” Moore said.

KRUU was a major player in organizing the first three years of FAIRfest from 2013-15. The station ceased its involvement in 2016 when the music festival switched from being free to a paid event.

“We were proud of our involvement with FAIRfest,” Moore said. “The first three years, FAIRfest generated a couple hundred thousand dollars. It was a crazy amount of work year-round.”

Even though he’s sad the station has come to an end, Moore said the emotion he feels most of all is pride in what it accomplished.

- - -

Additional questions and answers with James Moore:

1) About Chet Culver's visit to KRUU in 2009:
That visit was part of the governor's whistle stop railroad tour in Fairfield at Howard Park Station.
I believe it was September 23, 2009. What I wrote at the time:

* * *
While promoting a greener approach to train rail traffic, a new line from Chicago to Iowa City, and more infrastructure jobs, Governor Chet Culver expressed appreciation for Fairfield's 40-point sustainability plan and the city's innovative leadership on many fronts.
KRUU station manager James Moore thanked the Governor for his letter of commendation for KRUU's solar launch on September 9th which made Fairfield's grassroots community radio station the first solar-powered radio station in Iowa.
"KRUU-LP is contributing to a safer, greener Iowa," wrote the Governor. "We believe businesses on the forefront of sustainability, such as yours, will contribute to Iowa's progress."
James presented Governor Culver with a JOIN THE KRUU T-shirt. (Former Governor Tom Vilsack was KRUU-FM's first T-shirt recipient in spring of 2006 at the convention center construction site. Future president, then Senator Barack Obama also held up a KRUU T-shirt after a 2007 interview with KRUU in Fairfield during the Iowa Primaries.)
* * *

"A symbol for Iowa's vision of renewable energy," wrote then Governor Chet Culver in a congratulatory letter for KRUU's solar power launch on Sept 9, 2009 at 9am, "contributing to a greener, safer Iowa." Culver went on to point out that solar power allows the station to remain on air in the event of power outages - a critical link for keeping the community informed during emergencies.
* * *
2) About KRUU's host meeting in 2009:
That was our annual host gathering at Revelations Upstairs. It was always a riot when everybody sat in a room together. With 60-75 shows, quite a few with 2 or more hosts (some with as many as 5), it was a big collection of people. This was still only a fraction of the total. Filing through individual weekly slots, in the early years with 10-12 hours of live broadcasting a day, it would be that gathering that really gave a sense of the size of the volunteer team.

3) About a van marked "KRUUzer." Where did it come from and how was it used?

It was a part of one of ArtWalk weekends we sponsored. Bringing in ten bands on two stages, even got Access to bring a crane to take people up in the sky during the event. [That night would inspire the folks to approach us several years later to spearhead FAIRfest.]

The idea of the bus, which had taken kids around town as part of the Beatbox Youth Center, was to be able to do remote broadcasts. We even had a solar panel donated to be able to operate off the grid. But lack of staffing and budget, limited its use unfortunately.

* * *

A main thing I'd love to convey is the people-powered aspect of this endeavor. How many people showed up for so long, 250-plus volunteer hosts over a decade, from all walks of life and age groups, giving so much of themselves to create this kaleidoscopic juggernaut. A real tribute to what's possible when people pitch in and put their hearts and minds, hands and feet, and blood, sweat, tears and humor together into something bigger than themselves.



Comments (2)
Posted by: Glen Joseph Peiffer | Mar 09, 2018 14:24


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Posted by: Glen Joseph Peiffer | Mar 31, 2018 07:28
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