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KGNU Article in The Daily Camera
The Daily Camera featured KGNU in a recent article.

It started as a class called "A Desperate (or Last Ditch) Attempt to Start a Radio Station."

Apparently, such desperation drives survival -- and longevity. Not to mention the ability to leave a footprint on the community.

It's been 30 years. And that "last-ditch" class, offered by the Boulder Free School, an alternative school that published its own course catalog, has since morphed into a staple in the Boulder community: KGNU.

Today, the Boulder-based community radio station boasts multiple frequencies and about 40,000 listeners per week. About 6,000 donation-paying members and more than 300 active volunteers drive the independent station.

On June 7, KGNU will celebrate its milestone at the Boulder Theater. The birthday concert will feature three musicians who have been a voice of KGNU from almost the beginning: siblings Tim and Mollie O'Brien and Mollie's husband, Rich Moore. They used to regularly play live on the station. This is the trio's first show in the area in a decade.

A lot has changed since a group of students began raising money and filling out the paperwork to buy a radio frequency, according to David McIntosh, a historian who helps with the station's volunteer orientation and publicity.

McIntosh has been around since the station's inception, as well. He first got involved with the station when he was a student at CU.

KGNU's first general manager, Glen Gerberg, died Monday after a battle with colon cancer.

The station, which aims to give a platform to underrepresented voices and music, is volunteer-run and audience-funded. While many other media are shrinking, the number of KGNU's members and volunteers, as well as the station's geographical reach, continue to grow, McIntosh says.

"We've got the pledge drives down to a science," he says.

Other benefits have ranged from a lecture by former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter to an electronic dance party to a garden party, selling plants, seeds and gardening info.

Last week, the station organized a fundraiser, "Dining on Air," where listeners were invited to hold dinner parties at their homes while listening to the station. For dessert, everyone was invited to the Denver and Boulder studios.

In the early days, KGNU regularly gave away food as a gift for pledges. There are stories of volunteers riding around Boulder with giant vats of chocolate mousse or pies. Another year, donors got pumpkins.

In 2004, KGNU purchased 1390 AM, a frequency that could broadcast into Denver and expand the station's range. Last year, KGNU opened a station in Denver, at Seventh Avenue and Kalamath Street.

Now, McIntosh says, "We've got regular outreach across the Denver-metro area, a thick program guide and music service from thousands of labels."

KGNU's music shows include Americana, classical, free-form, international, blues and jazz. Saturday nights are dedicated to electronic music. And four hours of airtime starting at 3 a.m. every day are set aside for new talent: "Anything goes," as the Web site says.

The unique mix of music is what Bob Greenlee thinks helped KGNU stay on the air. Greenlee, former owner of commercial Boulder radio station KBCO, 97.3 FM, says his station and community-run KGNU had different roles and missions.

"The community embraced the (KGNU) concept from the very beginning, and 30 years later it seems to be going strong," says Greenlee, who also is a columnist For the Camera

Not that KGNU hasn't had its battles... [Full Article]
KGNU article

Created:06/01/08, Modified:06/23/08, expires:06/30/08, priority:3