Saying goodbye to KFKX: HC Media alumni react

Hastings College recently announced that 90.1 KFKX, the student-run radio station, would be shut down this summer as a part of upcoming departmental changes. The following sections are the written reactions and farewells of past Hastings College Media members. The expressed opinions do not reflect the views of the department, the staff or the college.

by Ross Struss, HC Alumnus ’13

Ross Struss is a marketing assistant for the Nebraska State Fair.

The long, rich history of KFKX is unknown to most people. From starting out as Westinghouse Station in the early 20th century, whose sole purpose was to rebroadcast the signal from KDKA in Pittsburgh to the West Coast, to when President Ronald Reagan stood at the front door of the Gray Center in September of 1988 and boldly announced that “Radio station KFKX is on the air,” its history has been long and fruitful.

I came to Hastings College in the spring of 2011 and was made sports director. I did that for three semesters and then had the privilege to become station manager in what I really believe was the last hurrah for KFKX during the 2012-2013 school year. What made that so? I had managed to put together a team from across all kinds of majors at HC that allowed us to flourish. The biggest accomplishment we managed that year was ushering KFKX into the digital era by streaming the radio station online for everyone to hear around the world. There are too many people to thank for what we were able to achieve, but the most important thing is that I could not have done it alone.

Ross Struss (middle) sits among fellow radio staff members in the KFKX live booth.

Fast forward three years to 2016 and end of the road for The X has come. When I first heard this, a range of emotions, from disbelief, to anger, to sadness, rushed through me. At that time, I had not heard the full story and probably drew many conclusions from half-truths that were floating around. Nonetheless, I couldn’t believe that KFKX was signing off. Of all the mediums out there that are waning and are facing major changes or extinction, radio is one that has had to change very little compared to the other traditional media outlets.

After all that though, I have come to terms with what is about to happen. Do I agree with the decision to close the station that was the cornerstone of the Gray Center when it opened in 1988? No. However, working at the Nebraska State Fair and having the privilege to work with media across the state and the nation, I know that change is always occurring in the world of mass media. When change happens there are two possible outcomes: you either hold firm in your ways and get left behind or you roll with the changes and hope you come out on the cutting edge. History will judge if Hastings College’s decision was the right one.

For now though friends, let us celebrate what The X was for each of us. Be thankful that we were a small part of its history and continue to support our alma mater that allowed us to have such experiences. For future students who may wish they had a radio station to be a part of, don’t be afraid to voice your opinions. If you want a radio station, say so. The Collegian and the Bronco yearbook both exist because the student body want them to exist; a radio station is no different.

That’s it for me. Signing off for the last time, this is Ross Struss for 90.1 The X. Go Broncos!

by McKenzie Wedel, HC Alumna ’16

McKenzie Wedel is currently interning at a newspaper in Texas.

When deciding which college to attend just four short years ago, one of the main factors was finding a place where I could cover whatever stories I wanted and participate in all aspects of the program. Hastings College fit that bill.

Much like Austin Druse and Sam Bennett, I was first introduced to KFKX at the organizational fair. As I walked into Lynn Farrell Arena, there were two guys standing with headsets talking, motioning me to come towards them. Ross Struss and Dan Stinman gave me a headset and started asking about myself. I told them I was going to be studying broadcasting, and their faces lit up as they just realized they gained a new friend. This was the first moment where I knew I was in the right place.

McKenzie Wedel (right) and Allen Hamil (left) directing a home broadcast.

While I wasn’t an avid staff member of KFKX, I have always loved listening to it in the car, as it provided music that was different and played songs out of the top 40. I remember taking Audio Fundamentals with Sharon Brooks and being assigned with two other students to cut up an hour lecture about zombies. At the time, it was the worst possible assignment. Later, I heard it on the radio, and it was all worth it.

When I heard the news of KFKX I was sad. So many of my closest friends found their voices on the radio. They broke out of their shells. They created something for not just the campus to hear, but for Hastings to hear.

A few days following the announcement, I spent the evening outside with friends and alumni listening to KFKX. It was one of those moments of peace. I was enjoying something that my friends put together, something that we all cared about, whether we were directly a part of it or not. I am excited for the future of the college, but I know that something will always be missing from that well-rounded experience.

I’m McKenzie Wedel from Colorado Springs, Colo. So long, KFKX.

by Allen Hamil, HC Alumnus ’16

Allen Hamil is currently announcing baseball games for his high school in Hinton, Iowa.

As a young boy growing up, radio was something that was always around me. Whether it was falling asleep on a warm, summer evening listening to Minnesota Twins games, waking up getting ready for school and hearing the morning news or driving from place to place listening to music, radio has always been there for me. It really shaped me and directed me towards looking at broadcasting as a career.

Allen Hamil (left) and Russell Heitmann (right) calling a game on KFKX at the NAIA DII Women’s National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa.

Ross Struss brought me on to his staff just a few months into my freshman year as sports director for KFKX, a role that I truly enjoyed with all the sports broadcasts and sports updates I produced. As HC Media converged and knocked down the walls between television, newspaper and radio, the role of sports director morphed into one that was responsible for all mediums of distribution without the distinction of each platform having their own designated sports director. I maintained the title of sports director of KFKX, knowing it was now largely ceremonial, but still aware of the importance it held. Never did I think that I would be the last person to hold the title of sports director in KFKX’s history.

The absence of KFKX creates a void for Hastings College, the surrounding community and the region in general. The listenership of sporting events on KFKX included not only those within the local broadcast vicinity, but those of parents, relatives and friends living far away, still able to listen online to hear how their favorite Bronco was playing. Audiences stretched to include those from opposing GPAC schools, as well.

KFKX consistently earned recognition and awards at the state and national levels for sports coverage and broadcasts, a tradition that was developed long before my arrival on campus. While HC Media will continue its award-winning coverage of Hastings College athletics, the radio aspect of this will be sorely missed by those who worked so hard to bring this coverage, as well as by those listening at home.

by Nikki Sherrill, HC Alumna ’16

Nikki Sherill is currently in a post-graduation internship with the NAIA.

Radio had never been an interest of mine, and any station that did not play the latest country jams was not a station on my dial. However, when I started college at HC, I began to realize how important a campus radio station was. Through my audio fundamentals class, I was able to bring my favorite country tunes to KFKX for one hour while I hosted my show, “Boots and Basketball,” where I mixed the latest college basketball news with songs of the south.

Nikki Sherrill (left) and Russell Heitmann (right) in between broadcasting games at the NAIA DII Women’s National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa.

It was not until this hour that I realized how incredible it was that HC gives students the opportunity to let their voice shine through the microphone and their creativity take place in that small radio booth. Throughout my four years, I have listened to many of my friends’ voices stream through KFKX and out to the rest of campus. While us media students may not have gotten the support and respect from the rest of campus that we deserve, that never stopped HC Media from believing that what we were putting on KFKX was important and needed.

With the news of KFKX going dark, my heart broke. I had spent so many days in that exact room with my best friends making some of my best memories at HC. And now, here we all were sitting there seeing the radio station that we love crumble into nothing. I was not sad for myself. I was sad for my friends, current, future and past HC Media students. I was sad for my boyfriend [Russell Heitmann], who found his true calling through broadcasting HC athletic events on KFKX. I was sad for the professors who we look up to, because they never want to let their students down.

The announcement of shutting off KFKX brought the HC Media family even closer together. While we understand that sometimes programs need to evolve, we wish it would not evolve in this direction.

KFKX, you mean so much to so many, and you will not be forgotten.

by Joe Brown, based off of an interview with Graig Kinzie, HC Alumnus ’02

Graig Kinzie
Graig Kinzie is the owner of KBRB and serves on the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Board of Directors.

Graig Kinzie, an alumnus of the Hastings College media department, went through the program and moved on into owning his own station, KBRB in Ainsworth, Neb. after graduation. He also is on the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Board of Directors.

When he was a student, Kinzie worked as a sports editor for the Collegian under Kathy Stofer. He then was recruited by Ron Davis into broadcasting sports games. When they broadcasted, they overlaid a three camera shoot with his play-by-play commentary from the radio.

Like many alumni, he was disappointed to hear about KFKX going dark. As a station owner, he said that the focus on a journalism background has never been more important, and that it’s more than sitting at a radio booth and playing songs. Kinzie was involved in calling play-by-play in his college years, so he knows how much time goes in to preparing for a broadcast and calling a game.

When it comes to producing a story, training in the traditional media areas is pivotal to Kinzie.

Kinzie describes his years spent as part of the Hastings College Media Department as “impactful.”

“I had a phenomenal experience,” Kinzie said. “You don’t get the experience we had in many other places.”

However, Kinzie also said that he is disappointed that KFKX will be going dark, and that as a business owner, he needs people with a background in traditional media to hire.

What’s the impact?

The Nebraska Broadcasters Association (NBA) offers $30,000 in scholarships annually to students in the broadcasting field for both television and radio.

This August, Kinzie and the NBA will vote on whether or not Hastings College is training their students in the traditional fields of journalism. If the NBA decides they are not, the chances for students to receive scholarships would be lost.

The college also loses out on a $500 per-diem scholarship that Kinzie was planning to offer to students involved in calling play-by-play for HC sports broadcasts. After miscommunication between Kinzie and the college, as well as the closing of KFKX, the scholarship is no longer available.

However, Kinzie assures that no matter the decision, the NBA would not turn their back on the students.

“We would never turn a student away,” Kinzie said. “We have an intern program that is meant to connect students to broadcasting outlets. We have incentives for the outlets to hire these students.”



One thought

  1. Whether it’s a campus-limited broadcast or a licensed, full power radio station, it’s sad to see students lose the opportunity to learn broadcasting and the media arts. Students are exposed to many disciplines through broadcasting including language skills, media production, equipment operation, FCC law and much more. It’s sad to see such a valuable resource no longer benefiting the student population of any school or university.

    At least the students who were fortunate enough to take part during its operation hopefully have had not only their lives but their education and perhaps future for employment enriched by their experience through KFKX

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