Louise Salazar in the studio as KSQD goes live. | Joe Livernois
By Joe Livernois
It wasn’t long after KUSP radio station went silent that Rachel Goodman was off creating its replacement. And the result is KSQD 90.7 FM, which launched formally on Friday with a celebration of happy radioheads. You can call it K-Squid.
KUSP was a fabled community radio operation founded more than 45 years ago. It ran out of steam for a variety of reasons and with blame enough to make everyone feel sort of bad, finally shutting down in August 2016.
At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, KSQD filled that void left by KUSP’s failure with a live broadcast of the speeches and the ribbon cutting that commemorated the opening, followed by music from the nearby studio. The office and studio is located on Encinal Street in Santa Cruz, in the Santa Cruz County Office of Education building. It occupies a small area of the building; Goodman calls it the “cute little squiddy studio.”
And, in fact, the place is already starting to fill up with squid — artwork, photographs and bigger-than-life-sized replicas of squid.
The station replaces a Christian station that had occupied the frequency, ironic because KUSP eventually was purchased by a Christian broadcast company. KUSP famously ran NPR content, which may or may not have been a part of the problem depending on who’s explaining its demise) but KSQD is steering clear of that, Goodman said.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Goodman said. She and others had hoped to purchase KUSP, but when that failed the group set their sites on a brand new operation. They had to set up a nonprofit (called Natural Bridges Media), find and secure an open spot on the bandwidth, and raise $300,000 to get up and running. “Relentless is my middle name,” Goodman said.
The station has a reach that includes all of Santa Cruz County and the northern half of Monterey County. The signal starts to fizzle in Monterey, and Goodman said the plan is to extend its reach south. In the meantime, KSQD streams its live shows on KSQD.com.
Content will include a full slate of music in shows with volunteer hosts, as well as regular talk shows and news programming from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
“When KUSP shuttered, there was a shudder in the community,” Goodman said. She and others took it upon themselves to replace it. “People put their lives on hold for the last two years and worked double time to make this happen,” she said.
They were all driven by the idea that radio is not dead — even in this time of podcasting and instant music and the endless drumbeat of messages from dozens of different platforms. The ideal of maintaining a grassroots and community-based voice for citizens compelled them, Goodman said.
“Building the studio is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” said Sandy Stone, a board member and a radio veteran.
With its emergence in the Central Coast radio scene, KSQD joins several other non-commercial radio stations with strong community purposes, including KZSC 88.1 FM, the college station out of UC Santa Cruz. KZSC has been broadcasting continuously from campus since 1967, when it was known as KRUZ. Also, the NPR-centric station in the region, KUSP 90.3 FM, broadcasts from the CSU Monterey Bay campus. And KHDC 90.9 FM broadcasts Spanish-language community information and programs from Salinas.
About 50 people jammed into a tiny conference room adjacent to the KSQD studio on Friday to celebrate the opening, including Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz Mayor Martine Watkins. Many in the crowd were the volunteer radio talent — deejays and talk-show hosts — that will fill the airwaves from 90.7 FM.
“Everyone here has a strong commitment to community radio,” said Nikki Silva, who was involved with KUSP for many years and is one of the Kitchen Sisters, an innovative Peabody Award-winning radio program. “This is about local media, local media, local journalism and local voices.”
Editor’s note: Since this story was first published, a paragraph was added to include information about other non-commercial community radio stations on the Central Coast.
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