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KRUI at 25: still growing

BY HANNAH JONES LAWRENCE | APRIL 02, 2009 7:52 AM

The traditional gift for a 25th wedding anniversary is silver. But what kind of gift is appropriate to commemorate a radio station’s 25th anniversary? For KRUI, one of the UI’s homes on the airwaves, it means celebrating 25 years of providing Iowa City with music, news, and sports.

Beginning Tuesday, KRUI partnered with several other student organizations — including the Campus Activities Board, SCOPE, and the UI Student Government — to host events in honor of the milestone. Today, the Campus Activities Board and KRUI will present laughs from comedian Lachlan Patterson in the IMU River Room at 9 p.m.. KRUI and Shorts Burgers will host a meet-and-greet Friday from 5-7 p.m., with Iowa alumnus and San Diego Charger kicker Nate Kaeding.

Ending the week with a bang is the Cool Kids — Antoine “Mikey Rocks” Reed and Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersol — who will perform a free concert in the IMU second-floor ballroom courtesy of KRUI, the UI Museum of Art, and SCOPE. The Chicago-based duo was named one of the top-10 artists to watch out for in 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine, and it was the opening act for M.I.A. on her recent tour. The Cool Kids’ song “Mikey Rocks” was even featured on an episode of “Entourage.”

Much like most college students, KRUI went through an awkward phase before blossoming into its distinct image. In 1968, KRUI was actually KCIR. Located in the basement of Quadrangle Residence Hall, the station aired the alternative music many other outlets didn’t. Its audience was small — only around 5,000 people, most of whom were students — but they were avid listeners.

In 1976, the station became KRUI and continued to target students primarily living in the residence halls. But just a few years later, a shortage of funding from the Associated Residence Halls and faulty equipment brought the station to its knees and eventually, into the ground.

The UISG acquired KRUI in 1980, and that fall, Pete Koenig became the general manager. His goal was to broadcast the station on the FM frequency. In 1983, the Federal Communications Commission gave KRUI a noncommercial license to air programs on 89.7 FM. And on March 28, 1984, at 7:18 p.m., KRUI’s first show débuted.

Today, KRUI is the UI’s second-largest student organization. Listeners can tune in on campus, in the greater Iowa City area, and in Coralville. Nathan Gould, KRUI’s current general manager, attributes the station’s vitality to the 220 students who make up its staff.

“We are a radio station run by students,” he said. “While we are similar to other college radio stations, we are different because students are the staff here, and I don’t think many other colleges can say that.”

Gould believes people listen to KRUI specifically because it is run by students.

“We provide something worthy of attention because our programs can’t be found anywhere else in eastern Iowa,” he said. “People tune in to hear local music and the music their friends are making. They want to show their support.”

UI alumnus and former KRUI DJ Paul Asjes continues to enjoy the station’s various music programs, and he applauds how the outlet has developed since he graduated.

“I think Nathan is doing a great job getting people excited about the music,” he said. “KRUI has become more involved with other student organizations, such as SCOPE.”

As was the case in the late 70s, KRUI is still dedicated to playing local artists’ music instead of more mainstream groups.

“Our big thing is non-top-40 music,” said senior Erica Barnes, KRUI’s programming director since the spring of 2007. “We want people in the community to be able to hear themselves on the air. When you have that happen for the first time, it is a lot of fun for a band.”

Because KRUI is on the air 24 hours a day, its programming schedule is expansive. In addition to having news and sports broadcasts, the station also has jazz, jam, Japanese, new age, metal, world, punk, ’70s, and ’80s music shows.

“You can’t forget the literature-based shows, such as ‘The Lit Show,’ hosted by Brian Dau [also a DI Arts reporter],” Barnes said. “After all, this is Iowa City.”

Another of KRUI’s goals is to introduce students to the business of radio by letting them participate in live broadcasts. Students get firsthand experience when they use the same tools and technology they would find in any radio station in the country.

“The students here are using the same equipment as the big-name stations, and they leave feeling confident they have the skills to make a career in broadcasting,” Barnes said. “They get a big confidence boost.”

Biomedical engineering graduate student Erik Nylen’s KRUI talk show “Only Science” keeps listeners up to date with the latest developments in scientific research from around the world. He has hosted both biologist E.O. Wilson and, more recently, UI President Sally Mason. Though he’s become a pro behind the microphone, he remembers the days where he wasn’t so comfortable.

“There was a time when I didn’t think I could sit in front of a mike and talk for an hour, and now, I don’t think twice about it,” he said. “KRUI gives students the opportunity to get comfortable with their own voices, and that’s important.”

In the future, the station plans on expanding its listener base in the Iowa City community.

“We’re becoming more involved with student groups and collaborating with new people,” Barnes said. “We want to be the best source for new music, and I only see us expanding.”


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