|Broadcast area||Akron metro area|
|Slogan||Feed your curiosity|
|Frequency||89.7 MHz (HD Radio)|
|Translator(s)||95.7 W239AZ (Ashland)|
94.7 W234CX (Mansfield)
|Repeater(s)||91.5 WKRJ (New Philadelphia)|
89.3 WKRW (Wooster)
89.1 WKSV (Thompson)
90.7 WNRK (Norwalk)
|First air date||October 2, 1950|
HD2: Folk music
|HAAT||277 meters (909 ft)|
|Call sign meaning||Kent State University|
|Former call signs||WKSU-FM (1950–2016)|
|Former frequencies||88.1 MHz (1950–61)|
|Affiliations||American Public Media|
Public Radio International
|Owner||Kent State University |
(Kent State University)
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WKSU (89.7 FM) – branded 89.7 WKSU – is a non-commercial educational radio station licensed to serve Kent, Ohio, and primarily serving the Akron metropolitan area. WKSU also reaches much of Greater Cleveland, and extends throughout Northeast Ohio with two low-power broadcast relay stations and four full-power repeaters. Owned by Kent State University, WKSU broadcasts a mix of public radio and classical music, and serves as the local affiliate for NPR, American Public Media, and Public Radio International. Besides a standard analog transmission, WKSU broadcasts over four HD Radio channels, and is available online. The WKSU studios are located on the campus of Kent State University, while the station transmitter is in Copley.
Radio operations within Kent State University can be traced back to 1940 with the establishment of the Kent State Radio Workshop, a division of the university's School of Speech. The Radio Workshop entered into a partnership with WADC to air a series of 15-minute long radio dramas produced by the Workshop on Tuesday afternoons; this began on March 3, 1940 with the program Lunch Room Nocturne, performed at the WADC studios in Tallmadge. Studios were eventually constructed on the university campus for the Radio Workshop that were comparable to that of a licensed radio station; the Radio Workshop also assumed production of a weekly radio program by Kent State faculty members from WTAM in Cleveland, that program was also moved to WADC. One of the last programs offered on WADC was an adaptation of the play Arsenic and Old Lace by the university's theater department on November 31, 1942.
Programs did not air on terrestrial radio between 1943 and 1945 due to World War II, but the Radio Workshop remained in operation to assist in war effort purposes; this included a listening hour of classical music selections played for military personnel stationed on the campus. When the Radio Workshop was able to resume regular operations, WAKR began airing the workshop-produced programs on January 13, 1945, and would continue to do so through 1950, airing on Saturday mornings. The Radio Workshop also signed on an unlicensed carrier current AM station that serviced the immediate university campus, bearing the unofficial call sign "WKSU".
With the guidance of School of Speech director E. Turner Stump and speech professor Walton Clarke, the university and Radio Workshop filed paperwork in 1949 for a licensed 10-watt educational FM station. On April 1950, the FCC gave the station permission to build a small transmitter attached to the roof of Kent Hall, and after testing that began on July 19, WKSU-FM (88.1) was born on October 2, 1950. The signal was transmitted only within the confines of the campus, but the station encouraged people to report reception outside of the campus while they were in testing mode. By November of that year, WKSU-FM was broadcasting five hours a day, five days a week.
The station suspended operations in June 1960 following the completion of Kent State's Music and Speech Center; Walton Clarke and WKSU operations director John Weiser had been involved with the center's planning and construction process as early as 1954. A closed-circuit television station—also bearing the unofficial "WKSU" calls—remained in operation. On January 13, 1961, the university announced that WKSU-FM would soon return to the air following a $27,000 investment, with hopes of establishing a full-time operation daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., but the initial choice of 91.9 MHz was challenged by a Cleveland FM station over potential interference. The FCC approved a frequency change to 89.7 MHz, and a power increase to 7,500 watts, on December 20, 1961. WKSU-FM resumed operations in mid-March 1962, de-emphasizing rock and roll in favor of additional classical music programming, show tunes and jazz; the station also affiliated with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
The 1960s brought about slow but steady growth for the fledgling station. The station’s music library was built up from private collections and the collections of its student employees, and its airtime expanded to 40 hours a week. WKSU-FM began to produce reports covering everything from election returns to football games. WKSU-FM broadcast news updates informing the student body during the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, and the state of emergency in Kent that directly preceded it, as part of an initiative to alleviate rumors.
By 1973, according to former general manager John Perry, WKSU-FM had only 7,500 watts of power, and was not yet broadcasting in stereo. The station was only on the air for 85 hours a week, and programming was created by students, and scheduled around their class and vacation times. The entire operating budget was $42,000, reaching an audience of about 1,200 listeners. The station had a full-time staff of three.
WKSU-FM received for the first time money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1973, and also established an affiliation with National Public Radio (NPR) that same year, although it had carried the NPR program All Things Considered as early as March of 1972. By February 1974, WKSU-FM debuted a local morning program titled Morning Show, created by Cleveland broadcasting veteran Dr. Bill Randle, then a professor of communications at Kent State. The program also featured Paul Warfield delivering sports reports, as Warfield was continuing his graduate studies at the university. WKSU-FM hosted their first fundraising drive over the weekend of April 19-21, 1974, offering in advance to give half of the money raised to relief efforts in Xenia, Ohio following the 1974 Super Outbreak. WKSU met their goal of $10,000, with the relief efforts receiving $5,000. The NPR affiliation would prove useful as WKSU-FM carried the network's coverage of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment process against President Richard Nixon gavel-to-gavel throughout the spring and early summer of 1974, one of the few stations in the region to have done so.
For the better part of a decade, it doubled as Cleveland's NPR station as well until WCPN signed on in 1984. Although WKSU-FM operates at relatively modest power for a full NPR member, its 908-foot tower allows it to provide at least grade B coverage to most of Greater Cleveland to the north, with Cleveland itself getting a city-grade signal. It currently operates a newsroom in Cleveland.
On January 22, 1980, the station reached a milestone when it linked up with the satellite Westar 1. This not only greatly improved WKSU-FM's signal, but also allowed it to record NPR programs. This triggered a period of growth that still continues today. In July 1980, the station expanded its signal to reach over a million potential listeners in Northeast Ohio thanks to a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration increasing its power to 12,000 watts.
Shortly after, the station bought a remote truck, enabling it to record more than 1,000 programs in Summit, Stark, Portage, Cuyahoga, Wayne and Trumbull counties. The station’s web site was launched in 1994, and began offering on-demand streaming starting in 1995. The station added its third repeater tower in 1997, broadcasting in Thompson from WKSV 89.1. WKSU-FM's fourth repeater tower was erected in Norwalk near Sandusky in 2004 (broadcasting from WNRK at 90.7), boosting the station's reach to 22 Ohio counties and part of Western Pennsylvania. A low-power translator was established in Ashland in 2006, broadcasting from 95.7 W239AZ, and another translator was established in Mansfield in 2017, 94.7 W234CX.
To expand WKSU-FM's broadcast reach beyond terrestrial towers, the station added three distinct programming line-ups online, along with the primary broadcast stream, in 2005. These steams - on-air, Folk Alley, all classical and 24-hour news - later were repurposed as the station's four HD Radio digital sidestreams. Mobile apps for WKSU-FM and Folk Alley were developed in 2010.
In August 2013, WKSU-FM made a major format shift, moving all classical music to evenings and focusing on public radio news and information programming during the day. The change added many new programs to the daily schedule and prompted introduction of a new logo and the major renovation of the newsroom in the Kent broadcast facility. With the shift, WKSU-FM also created several regular news segments, including weekly interviews with sports writer Terry Pluto, Quick Bites stories on food and eating, and Exploradio reports on research and innovation.
The station changed its call sign on June 23, 2016 from WKSU-FM to the current WKSU.
WKSU also extends its signal via full-power satellites WKSV/Thompson (89.1 FM), WKRW/Wooster (89.3 FM), WNRK/Norwalk (90.7 FM), and WKRJ/New Philadelphia (91.5 FM), as well as low-power translators W239AZ/Ashland (95.7 FM) and W234CX/Mansfield (94.7 FM). All four of the station's full-power repeaters also broadcast four HD Radio signals.
|Call sign||Frequency (MHz)||City of license||Facility ID||ERP W||Height m (ft)||Class||Transmitter coordinates||FCC info|
|WKRJ||91.5||New Philadelphia, Ohio||34042||2000||73 m (240 ft)||A||FCC|
|WKRW||89.3||Wooster, Ohio||34046||2100||97 m (318 ft)||A||FCC|
|WKSV||91.5||Thompson, Ohio||34040||50,000||144 m (472 ft)||B||FCC|
|WNRK||90.7||Norwalk, Ohio||90728||4000||124 m (407 ft)||A||FCC|
|City of license||Facility
|Class||Transmitter coordinates||FCC info|
|W234CX||94.7||Mansfield, Ohio||146397||38||57 m (187 ft)||D||FCC|
|W239AZ||95.7||Ashland, Ohio||146601||80||22.1 m (73 ft)||D||FCC|
WKSU operates out of a broadcast facility at the northeast corner of Loop Road and Summit Street on the Kent State campus. The facility was built in 1992, and brought together production and administrative offices for the first time in 18 years. The building cost $2.1 million and was funded entirely from private sources.
The station's offices were located everywhere from the cramped confines of Kent Hall to a restaurant on State Route 59 before moving to its present facility. WKSU-FM also had its offices in Wright Hall, part of the Tri-Towers residence complex at the university. Around 1977, six floors of the residential building were turned into office space. In 1987, they were converted back to dormitories and WKSU-FM had to move to another campus building.
WKSU's maintains news bureaus in Cleveland and Canton. WKSU previously established a news bureau in downtown Akron, sharing space with public television station WNEO/WEAO 45/49 (of which Kent State is part-owner), and Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC. The space is now being converted to a boutique hotel.
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The Kent State Folk Festival was started in the 1967/1968 by a group of Kent State University students. It was produced by student groups until the Kent State Student Senate voted to defund the activity and WKSU-FM assumed control of the event in 2000. Throughout its history, the make up of festival programming changed from local musicians and groups representing ethnic heritage to national touring acts. The theme was consistently tied to folk and roots music and the festival included workshops on folk music and dance along with concert performances.
The Kent State Festival typically featured several performances by both legendary and up-and-coming folk artists. Later line-ups included Bob Dylan, Donovan, Avett Brothers, Doc Watson, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dawes, Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie.
With WKSU-FM's involvement in the Kent State Folk Festival, a day of free concerts throughout the city of Kent was created. 'Round Town (later Folk Alley 'Round Town) drew thousands of people to downtown Kent each year. In 2013, the entire festival was renamed the 'Round Town Music Festival to expand the programming scope. The next year, in 2014, WKSU-FM ended its association with the festival.
FolkAlley.com offers live streaming folk, roots, and Americana music 24 hours a day. From September, 2003 - March, 2019 it was produced by WKSU. In April 2019, Folk Alley moved from WKSU to the FreshGrass Foundation. The Folk Alley playlist is created by Folk Alley Executive Director/Producer Linda Fahey. Folk Alley features an eclectic mix of contemporary singer/songwriters, traditional folk, bluegrass, Celtic, acoustic, Americana, World and roots artists.
Since July 10, 2008, Folk Alley's programming stream has been aired as a subchannel on WKSU's HD Radio over-air feed.
Folk Alley's weekly two-hour program, the Folk Alley Radio Show, is syndicated to radio stations nationwide by PRX. It is hosted by Elena See.
Until January 2019, Folk Alley featured Open Mic, a place for developing and under-exposed singers, songwriters and musicians to post their music to share with Folk Alley listeners. Folk Alley's Open Mic opened the stage to up-and-coming artists - presenting new music to thousands of folk music lovers. Musicians were encouraged to choose their best work and upload it on the Folk Alley Open Mic website (www.folkalley.com/openmic/). All songs must be original works or a traditional song that is part of the public domain.
University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN has streamed the Folk Alley feed on its website since 2007. The stream is also on the NPR Music page. Folk Alley has often collaborated with NPR, offering original content for the web and producing audio from the Newport Folk Festival.
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