Radio Station Restarts Under New Management

Radio Station Restarts Under New Management

Station Manager Mike Agee explains the workings of the on-air studio to Southwestern students.

For five months there has been only the whispers of distant broadcast signals, fading in and out of a frequency that for decades has been called ours. Then there was the familiar hiss of a local transmitter, testing its power. And finally on Nov. 1, 2010, there was a voice and the encouraging sound of Christian music.

88.3 The Journey is on the air.

“My first words that morning were simply, ‘good morning,’” quips Mike Agee, general manager of the new station. “I then followed it with prayer seeking God’s blessing for this new broadcast ministry.”

And the station is new, completely new; with totally new equipment, manager, call letters and name, staff, even transmitter. The Journey is a new radio station dedicated to ministering to the needs of listeners in the southwest Metroplex. At the same time, it is a continuation of a radio station tradition at Southwestern that stretches back to 1974.

Radio Station History

In that year, Communication Professor Bob Mendenhall had the foresight to apply for a FM radio frequency with the Federal Communications Commission, which became radio station KSUC. Operating out of the old Heritage Hall, the station served as the training ground for hundreds of Southwestern students who not only learned how to speak into a microphone and run reel-to-reel tape recorders, cart machines and phonographs, but represent Southwestern to a curious public. From 1974 on, it followed a three-fold mandate: to train Christian broadcasters, to represent Southwestern to its community, and the share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.

KSUC became KJCR in 1984, moving into its new building beside Maran Hall in 1987. Mendenhall, now the department chair, stepped down as general manager in 1998, replaced by Glen Robinson for six years. In 2004, Randy Yates began his term as general manager.

Then in September, 2009, lightning struck the radio station studios and a fire quickly spread through the attic space. Smoke and heat caused irreparable damage to all the equipment in the studios. While Yates and his staff waited for insurance to help replace the equipment, volunteers helped get the station back on the air. Within 24 hours, using cobbled-together equipment, KJCR was temporarily housed and operating in the offices of KGSW, the campus TV station.

A “Significant Investment”

But the Southwestern Adventist University Board of Trustees realized that the temporary fix was just that: temporary. The station had been limping along financially for years, hindered by outdated equipment and the lack of professional staffing. Having already turned down a purchase offer for the frequency, the Board committed to a “significant investment” in the radio station. Mike Agee was invited to come and manage the new station.

A 1984 graduate of Southwestern, Agee had spent 30 years in professional radio, 20 of those managing Christian radio station KTSY in Idaho. KTSY is known as one of the top Christian stations in the United States, winning three Dove Awards, a top-10 station in its market, and consistently running #1 or #2 in the demographic of women ages 25-52.

With Agee hired, radio station KJCR officially went off the air in May, 2010. For the next five months, the station was completely rebuilt from top to bottom. In addition to new paint and carpeting, the station invested in all new computer and editing equipment. A second lightning strike during construction required that the school invest in a new transmitter as well. After more than five months of preparation, 88.3 The Journey was ready for its launch on Monday, Nov. 1.

Agee uses one word to describe his feeling on the day of the launch. “Relief,” he says, smiling. “I’m just glad we’re finally doing it.” Agee says that the construction and launch has been a “long and interesting process.”

“The devil’s been fighting us all along the way, but that makes me feel good, because I know he’s scared about what we’re doing,” Agee says.

Something More

While the old KJCR did some good, especially in the area of training students, Agee sees the ministry of 88.3 The Journey as something more.

“Before we were primarily focused on ourselves,” he says. “Now we are focused on the listeners first. Thirty years’ experience in real radio stations taught me a few things about how stations work. I expect professionalism from my student workers. They won’t be able to make the same mistakes twice like they do in class. But I expect them to live up to the challenge.”

Senior PR and advertising major Christina Osborn now serves as the program director for 88.3 The Journey. She’s the only student who worked at the old station who now is on the new station’s staff.  Agee hired her even before KJCR went off the air, and she started work as soon as construction was completed. Her new job is gathering programs for airing, as well as helping with on-air personnel and support staff. In addition, Agee has given her the shift on-air every Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I’ve learned a lot of new things from Mike,” she says. “I’m learning how to structure the hour so that we play our best music when Arbitron is running our numbers. I’ve learned a lot of technical information.

“I love that the updated equipment will translate into a new job. Before when I would visit other stations I would realize that I wasn’t familiar with their equipment, but now I know I could leave here and step right into another station and know what I was doing.”

Now Osborn is considering radio work after graduation as a “definite possibility.”

“I love the work that I do,” she says. “I’ve had many jobs on campus, but this is my favorite one.”

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