Back in February 1982, a newly formed community radio station entered the airwaves, broadcasting KCAW’s programming to Sitka, Angoon, Elfin Cove, Kake, Pelican, Port Alexander, Tenakee Springs, Yakutat and a wide swath of coastal fishing grounds.
|Raven volunteers Burgess Bauder [TOP] and Kari Lundgren join volunteer Dave Vastola (at the mike), trolling the airwaves for new members during semi-annual fundraising. As for most Alaska public radio stations, listener support is very strong. Musicians Dave Galanin (on guitar) and Gary Gouker (at mike) [BOTTOM] spend some time in the air room communing with listeners. The station also has a small audience studio to broadcast live concerts.|
Raven Radio’s volunteer DJs have, since then, blended long-form news and public affairs with a varied musical buffet.
“All these Alaska stations have that going for them–that is, local sound and opportunities and intimacy,” said Marika Partridge, the Sitka public-radio station’s founder and original program director. “You speak only to your community. Everybody wants to be national. The idea of local is so seriously subversive.”
Partridge went on to direct NPR’s “All Things Considered” and is now starting a low-power community radio station in Washington, D.C. She said she’d be there for KCAW’s 30th-anniversary celebration, which runs from June 30-July 4.
Rich McClear, the station’s first general manager and the person many credit as the brains behind Raven’s success, continues his international work setting up radio stations and training reporters in newly liberated lands, like South Sudan. But his presence is expected at Raven Radio’s 30th, too.
“Rich understudied with (radio and
TV pioneer) Jean Shepherd,” Partridge said. “There was a personal touch that
got imbued in the way the DJs spoke at Raven Radio. I feel like Rich taught us—Jean Shepherd-style—to connect with one listener.”
Partridge and McClear are just two of Raven’s distinguished alumni. Others who worked at the station have gone on to gigs at NPR, Public Radio International, National Native News and the BBC. Raven volunteer producer Sean Barlow launched the popular PRI show “Afropop Worldwide,” and CBS TV’s “60 Minutes” once featured Raven.
One of the 26 stations that make up the Alaska Public Radio Network, Raven Radio was fortunate in starting when pipeline revenues allowed the state to be especially generous doling out funds for public interest projects, said Bill Legere, a past APRN president who is now general manager of KTOO radio and TV in Juneau.
Stations that started earlier had to make do with much less before the oil—and money—flowed; auditorium. Raven was well-funded from the outset.
You can tune in to Raven online at http://kcaw.org June 30 at 4 p.m.