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Saturday, December 20, 2014

KUNM: Still Community-Powered

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Carrie Jung speaks into a studio microphone at KUNM on Sept. 13. Jung is a news reporter and host of Morning Edition for the public radio station KUNM that broadcasts on 89.9 FM.

culture@dailylobo.com
@fmfeather

The day-to-day scene of the KUNM headquarters is a productive, community-based environment. Any door throughout the maze of hallways that makes up the third floor of Oñate Hall could lead to an office where shots are being called, a recording studio is in the middle of working with a new local band, or a newsroom is bustling to get the next show written up.

“It is a mixture of news, music and public affairs programs and cultural programs; we try to be a lot of things because we serve a really diverse community,” said Richard Towne, the station’s general manager. “We have a gospel music show, we have a show produced by teenagers, cutting-edge music shows, reggae — just everything.”

The local radio station began as a student-run operation in October 1996, when Oñate Hall was still a dorm. Since then, Towne said, KUNM has expanded and now serves 1.1 million listeners at UNM as well as across central and northern New Mexico.

‘One-of-a-Kind’

KUNM’s twice-yearly pledge drive kicks off Saturday morning and runs for one week. Each show throughout the week will include special programming encouraging listeners to call or go online and donate.

This year the volunteer count exceeds 200 and the station has 14 phone lines prepared, Towne said. On average, the two pledge drives together bring in almost one million dollars, he said. The 2013 Fall Pledge Drive has a goal of $300,000.

This year’s theme is “One-of-a-Kind,” chosen to reflect the station’s diverse programming, according to program director Tristan Clum.

“For years, pledge drives at various stations have talked about how ‘you couldn’t get what we provide anywhere else,’” Clum said. “The fact is, so much of what KUNM provides you can get in a lot of different places. So we’re challenging ourselves and our volunteers and everybody on the air to show people how we’re different from all the other stations out there.”

Power to the People

The station’s $2 million budget comes from a combination of listener, student and federal funding. About half of the funding comes from contributing listeners through memberships and pledges, Clum said.

“Fifty-four percent of what it takes to stay on the air comes from individual listeners, and that’s huge,” he said. “We don’t have car ads, we don’t have ads period, and it’s a small price to pay to get that 54 percent.”

The next largest chunk of funding comes from an allocation of student fees. The station receives $2.93 per student per school year, Towne said.

“We use that money to hire and train students,” he said. “We hire 12 to 15 students every semester for music, news, studios and business offices. It is an important part of how we do what we do. Students help us understand digital, online and mobile.”

The final 10 percent of KUNM’s budget comes from Federal funding. The fact that the percentage of federal funding for the statement is an accomplishment and one that Clum said he hopes people understand.

“Most people are just like ‘Oh, you’re government owned and they pay your way’ and it’s just not like that here,” he said.

Death Metal for Breakfast

The station includes 20 paid staff members, 15 student employees, and more than 110 volunteers and work-study members.

Employees at the station aren’t always UNM graduates, though many have worked or volunteered at KUNM before graduating.

“We hire based on experience and qualification but often times what we need for experience and qualification is somewhat rare,” Towne said. “For instance, our production manager was also a student; he was a music student and a work-study employee. He graduated and we hired him to the productions position.”

Every department has at least one paid staff member that can reminisce about their time as a student employee. Clum was a student volunteer in his time at UNM in the early ‘90s. He has left and come back to the station many times and encourages students to come see what KUNM has to offer.

“We are encouraging people to come in and produce podcasts that are related to all sorts of different stuff,” Clum said. “We have the Lobo Growl that’s just churning away. It’s the voice of students for the University. The students and I set it up and it’s an online streaming service that just runs 24/7.”

Each show has an allotted time throughout the week, but if listeners miss their favorite show, KUNM has an online app that stores all of the shows for two weeks.

“If you, for example, love ‘Street Beat’ which starts on Friday night at eleven but you go out on Friday nights, you could go to the archive for last Friday, and there it is,” said Towne. “So if you like death metal, you have two weeks of death metal and you can listen to it for breakfast.”