Saying goodbye to KFKX: present HC Media members 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 present Hastings College Media members. The expressed opinions do not reflect the views of the department, the staff or the college. 

by Joseph Brown

Director of Advertising and Promotions

As you queue your last song, you start to fade your microphone. As the music starts to take over and your microphone is almost off, you say it for the last time: “This is ________, and you’re listening to 90.1 KFKX, Hastings, Neb.”

To the hundreds of people who were involved in building 90.1 KFKX up, to the thousands of people who tuned in to listen, KFKX going dark affects myriads of people in many different places.

For students, it was a place of growth, freedom and inspiration. For listeners, it was a place of information, alternative rock music and tradition. For everyone, it is soon to be history.

Last May, the faculty supervisors of the media department at Hastings College called Super Desk (the student leaders of the different converged platforms) into a classroom. Joining us were the Dean of Academic Affairs and a representative from the Marketing Department.

The first message: KFKX will be going dark on June 29th.


Did that really just happen? A tradition, a cornerstone of the Hastings College media department, was soon to be gone forever.

Do students have the right to be a part of that decision? What role do college students play when it comes to program changes? These questions are just a couple that I have not yet found answers to.

When I look at what Hastings College and the City of Hastings are losing, it’s a large part of history.

See Ross Struss’s section for a history of KFKX.

Bart Jones, who has served as the engineer for the media department since the 1990s, has seen KFKX through multiple tower changes, different blackouts and multiple temporary shutdowns. But never has he been through a permanent shutdown of a radio station that has involved so many students and that has impacted them so strongly.

“I have seen students enjoy the station, and I have seen others terrified by it when they were required to do something on air for Sharon [Brooks]. I have even seen some of those terrified students go on to relax and enjoy it,” Jones said. “I have seen numerous students leave here and go into various aspects of broadcasting, including radio production, audio production, announcing, sports casting and even station ownership.”

KFKX will officially go off air later this summer. PHOTO COURTESY OF NBC Nebraska

When KFKX goes dark, we all lose; as a college, as a media department, as a city.

“Unless another local station decides to change their call sign, Hastings will lose the call sign that holds much history. KFKX was the call sign of the original Hastings radio station in the 1920s and was a famous station, as it was the middle-hop of the very first nationwide radio network,” Jones said. “Hastings College also loses something that many students fought hard to achieve back in 1996 and 1997 when they got that FM license. Once they let it go, it will never be able to be brought back.”

I am not so blinded with sadness that I do not see why the change is being made. Media is a constantly evolving area; when trends change, you either have to join them or get left behind. I do see there being a future for the media department at Hastings College. While I do not agree with the changes and I find no logical reason for the radio station to close immediately, I am hopeful that students will have the same opportunities, if not better that I had, even without KFKX.

I also do not lose trust, respect or appreciation for Chad Power and Brett Erickson, our department sponsors. They constantly fight for what is right for the students, and they sacrifice beyond any level of expected duty just to see us succeed.

For the last time, this is Joe Brown, and I am proud to have been a part of the last year of 90.1 KFKX.

by Austin Druse

Director of Sports Content

I was a freshman in the fall of 2013, and I explored the club expo in the Hazelrigg Student Union. A few students from the KFKX booth got my attention and asked me to state my name and hometown for the radio station. I proceeded with “This is Austin Druse from Fort Collins, Colo., and you’re listening to 90.1, The X!” At that point, I was told that I should try out for a radio show. My father had always told me that I have a face for radio, so I figured maybe it was worth a shot.

Austin Druse (left) and McKenzie Wedel (right) previewing the next game at the NAIA DII Women’s National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa.

From then on, my entire personal brand was born. My show wasn’t very good, but what came from it is what I want to do with my professional life. My show was called “The Sports Caboose with Austin Druse,” and it was an hour every Wednesday that listeners could tune in and hear my thoughts about the sports world. While I didn’t keep up with the show on live radio, I did use the radio station to record and publish it as podcasts.

I am severely disappointed in the decision of the radio station going dark, but I am hopeful that the audio students produce will follow suit with the wave of podcast shows. I foresee a “listen” tab on HC Media Online where there are tons of different podcasts that students can subscribe to. I don’t want audio content to disappear with the darkness of 90.1 FM.

by Briton Rodenborg

Is it time to unplug?
KFKX Station Manager (2016)

The news that KFKX would be brought to a silent halt gave me a bitter feeling inside. As I watched events and social media around campus, I knew I wasn’t alone. It seemed that all of the alumni had risen up in anger, upset that the tradition of a student-run radio station was being shut down. As the last station manager of the radio station, I recognize it as that: a tradition.

Being a station manager taught me a lot of things: how to get organized, how to prepare events, what to do when a station suddenly halts, etc. But it did not teach me one thing, or at least not right away: how to get people interested in working at the radio station. Being station manager, I was suddenly trying to do a lot more tasks than being a simple DJ and making a weekly radio show. I was getting campus updates ready, I was working on specialty programs like X-in-Focus and I was getting other radio shows organized. It was amazing once I had a few staff members to help out in some of these areas. They were lifelines when I needed them.

Unfortunately, there were so few people actually wanting to help. Do not get me wrong, there were people interested in the radio station. But most of these people only wanted to do radio shows, which I loved, but didn’t need. I needed staff members, and I didn’t have a way to inspire people to do technical work or work behind the scenes. Question is, should I have inspired people to work behind the scenes, or should it be self-inspired? If the former, then I wasn’t sure how to do it. If it was the latter, then KFKX as a “tradition” wasn’t enough. Tradition only applies to the alumni and the older students who actually listened to the station.

Some people may ask if I am excusing the closing of KFKX. Certainly not! I love radio. I came to Hastings College specifically for its broadcasting program, excited to work for the campus radio station. When the news was announced, I had to pray a long time and talk to a lot of friends. God is moving my path in a new direction, as well as Hastings College’s.

Private colleges need to constantly have a large body of students each year. If they don’t, they quickly lose money and may even have to shut down. Some colleges get students to attend by lowering costs, but Hastings is certainly in no position to do that, so what can be done? The answer is implementing programs that make Hastings College unique from every other college.

kfkx shirt
T-shirt designed by Anthony May to commemorate the end of the radio station.

The closing of KFKX is the start of a new plan and program for Hastings College, or at least that’s what I’ve come to understand. This merging or unification of the art department and media department is a brilliant move. Students who go into journalism and broadcasting will be able to work with visual elements, a necessity in today’s visual world. And a visual media program is something that hasn’t been done before.

This is a move that is being watched by people throughout the world, according to the media department faculty. What happens here in Hastings could affect colleges everywhere. With the closing of KFKX, I will be seeing the beginning of that. It is exciting to say the least.

My final thought is that this is a bittersweet moment for me. Bitter for the loss of something loved, but sweet because I’m seeing something bigger happening.

by Samuel Bennett

HCTV Executive Producer, former KFKX Station Manager (2014-2015)

I managed KFKX for three semesters. It took over my life, to be honest, so to say that the news of its shutdown hit hard would be an understatement. I thought at least it would stay in the form of online radio, but that wasn’t to be.

When I came to Hastings, I had no real interest in media. I’d written one article for my school newspaper in high school, but aside from that had no prior experience. I was approached, much like Austin Druse was, at the activities fair in the student union. I recorded the same liner he did. From there, I decided to go to the media mixer to find out what this whole radio thing was all about. Honestly, at that point I probably just regarded it as a way to force my music taste on the world.

It was at that media mixer that I really discovered my place at the school. I became a DJ and a sports commentator. I would later declare a broadcasting major. It’s strange to think of how different my college experience — and by extension, my life — would be had I not gone to the radio station’s table at that activities fair.

Sam Bennett (left), Lauren Sawyer (middle) and Allen Hamil (right) pose for a picture at a live remote production on KFKX.

My KFKX career was something of a cycle, starting as a DJ, then becoming a news and music director and then managing the station before returning to just being a DJ.

Managing the station was tough, and it honestly took a toll on me. Being short-staffed is incredibly difficult in media, and KFKX was no exception. Not enough students were being brought in who had an interest in radio. The result was a small and overworked staff providing a service to a campus who, by and large, was ambivalent to its existence. I think that a lot of students liked the idea of having a campus radio station, but not to the point of being involved.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that the community appreciation of the station was greatly underestimated when the decision was made for KFKX to shut down. This is really the only station in the area that plays the music it does. In my opinion, the music selection in Hastings, as far as radio goes, just got 100 percent worse. I have no incentive to listen to radio at school now, and I think a lot of students and Hastings residents feel the same way.

Lamenting aside, I understand the reasoning for turning off KFKX. I get it. Money, etc. It’s the position the college is in. The discussion of what the college can do to improve is another subject entirely, but I think that the combination of the media and arts departments is a step in the right direction, provided that journalism still plays a major part. The idea of visual arts appeals to me personally, as I have interests in things like film and cinematography. The idea that those classes could be available — unfortunately not in my time — is exciting. I’m truly intrigued at all of the possibilities brought about by this fusion of departments.

The change is conflicting. The announcement hit me very deep down. That was how I found out that my last show (on the night following the announcement) would actually be my last show. And that show was incredibly emotional for me. I had trouble keeping it together on air.

This next year will feel strange. It’ll be strange having nothing to do on Thursdays at 9 p.m. It’ll be strange going to the Nebraska Collegiate Media Association Golden Leaf Awards and just sitting quietly during the radio award section. It’ll be strange having a major factor in my life just gone completely.

I’ve been angry, frustrated, melancholy and openly weeping about it. That’s probably not a surprise. Such is life. All good things end, and we openly weep when they do. And KFKX was a good thing in my life.

by Russell Heitmann

Director of Live Sports Productions

When I arrived on Hastings College’s campus in the fall of 2013, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I liked to talk, so my hope was to find a way to put my talkative nature to use. What I found was play-by-play commentary of HC men’s basketball games on 90.1 KFKX. What I found was my passion.

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

When I heard the news of KFKX going dark, I was sad, upset and, truthfully, a little bit angry. I was losing the outlet that allowed me to do the one thing I knew I could do and never grow tired of: commentate basketball. However, I wasn’t just upset for myself, I was saddened for every other student, faculty member and listener who was touched by KFKX in some way.

I immediately thought of my dad, who would drive an hour and a half to Lynn Farrell Arena, pocket radio in hand, and would listen to me call the game as he watched from the stands. I thought of Briton Rodenborg, Sam Bennett and every other station manager who was losing a part of who they were. I thought of Bart Jones and Sharon Brooks, who helped mold KFKX from the day it was born in 1988 until now. I thought of every single student, who proudly proclaimed their name and hometown into a ZOOM, stating they were listening to The X.

KFKX allowed me, and countless others, to in some way or another express themselves, have fun and do what they love. It was, and will forever be, an irreplaceable piece of Hastings College. I am proud to have been able to etch my name into a small portion of KFKX’s great history, and I only wish more individuals were able to do the same.

Thank you, KFKX, for showing me my passion and allowing me to do what I love.

by Carly Cremers

Former KFKX DJ, HC theater major
Former KFKX radio show host, HC theater and elementary education double major

Flashback to the beginning of my freshman year of college: During the New Student Days weekend, I was walking around the arena looking at all of the different clubs to potentially become a part of. I was a blank slate as a new Hastings Bronco and was looking for where I could fit in and be productive. When I noticed the booth for KFKX, I immediately became excited. A student-run radio station? AND IT WAS ALTERNATIVE MUSIC BASED? This literally was the coolest thing I could imagine at college. I was unsure at first about joining because I’m not a broadcasting major, but the people at the booth reassured me that anyone could be a part of it. I signed up at that point, no hesitation.

Going into my first radio show was extremely intimidating. So many questions ran through my mind, and along with the questions came nerves. But overtime, my fear disappeared, and the weekly show became something I loved. It was called “Salty Alternative” and was basically me being a bit sarcastic and playing alternative music.

Freshmen Kenzie Shofner (left) and Carly Spotts-Falzone (right) take a selfie with the radio console. Shofner and Spotts-Falzone hosted a weekly live show called "Dorm Chat".
Kenzie Shofner (left) and Carly Spotts-Falzone (right) take a selfie with the radio console during their weekly radio show “Dorm Chat.” PHOTO COURTESY OF KENZIE SHOFNER.

What was amazing was how each talk show was someone’s personality — the fact that the show could be about anything we wanted gave complete creative freedom to the host. I also learned a lot about broadcasting despite that I was not even a major. I understand phenomenally more about the backstage work of radio and also television, and with this comes more appreciation. I was able to be a part of something bigger at HC and contribute to it.

Flash forward to the end of my freshmen year of college: I received the news along with everyone else that 90.1 KFKX in Hastings, Neb. was closing. You can imagine that I was saddened. I had so many ideas for a show for next year, and I had some friends who were also going to try to get their own shows.

Was the radio station “necessary?” Well, what is necessary at a college besides the basics needed to get a diploma? But I thought Hastings was about more than only what is “necessary,” providing opportunities that no other college does in order to form its students into successful, well-rounded people with a special knowledge only found at HC. That being said, I will miss the radio station and being able to contribute to a department outside of my major. I will miss saying my college has a student-run radio station that I am a part of. I will miss every aspect of it. Though it is gone, it still has written its part on the blank page of a freshman that stumbled across the booth at New Student Days.

by Kirsten Gilliland

HC Media Business Manager and Community Bureau Chief, former KFKX radio show host
HC Media Business Manager and Community Bureau Chief, former KFKX radio show host

Like so many others before me, I got my first taste of the X at the activities fair during New Student Days my freshman year. I walked up to the media booth and was introduced to Sam Bennett, who had me state my name and hometown into a microphone to play on air for the school’s radio station. It was that moment that inspired me to become a part of 90.1. And it is thanks to the radio station that I became even further involved in media, declaring a journalism and media arts teaching endorsement and minor as a result of my newfound passion.

Although I will not be pursuing a career in radio, hosting my own radio show for KFKX made me passionate for media and introduced me to so many great people. I enjoyed ending each Thursday at the Gray Center hosting “The Mixtape,” and I’m upset that I won’t be able to continue that tradition.

I was shocked to hear the news that KFKX would forever be shut down after so many years on air. 90.1 not only provided the best alternative music, it gave students an outlet to express themselves, a way to practice skills necessary for those going into the field and it allowed students to collectively create something they could be proud of.

The X-In-Focus logo. X-In-Focus was a public affairs program produced by students. The program featured in-depth interviews on items of interest happening on HC campus or in the Hastings community.

Now that the station is closing, students no longer have the same opportunities. For myself and countless others across campus and the community, The X played a major role in the atmosphere and spirit of the college. 90.1 has been a staple of Hastings College and the Gray Center since it went on air for the first time many years ago. Listening to KFKX play from speakers in the Bronco Blend while waiting for a hot chocolate, editing Collegian stories in the Gray Center while hearing alternative rock spill through a nearby booth and getting myself excited to return to campus after a break by listening to 90.1 in my car were among my favorite simple pleasures of freshman year.

Looking back, I wish I would have taken a more active role with KFKX. I hosted my last radio show before receiving the news the station would close. I didn’t know sitting in the booth that it would be my final radio show, and I wish I did. Never again will I have the same opportunity, nor will countless other students who will cross the threshold to the Gray Center in the years to come. I sincerely believe that the choice made by Hastings College to close 90.1 was a mistake, and I only wish there was a way to reverse their decision.

by Tyler Schuster

HC Media Campus Bureau Chief

I remember the first time I got to work with KFKX. As a newbie to both the Gray Center and the journalism major, I had no idea what I was doing. But one thing I did know, I loved to talk and I thought radio was really cool.

Volleyball commentators Austin Penfield and Allen Hamil find innovative ways to broadcast the volleyball game after having technical difficulties.
KFKX commentators Austin Penfield (left) and Allen Hamil (right) find innovative ways to broadcast the volleyball game after having technical difficulties. Operating the radio station challenged students to problem solve in the same manner as a real job in the media industry would.

One of the first classes I took for my journalism major was Audio Fundamentals with Sharon Brooks. That class was a major pain in my bones (sorry, Sharon), but I loved learning about how the radio station worked and especially enjoyed getting to host my own show.

Anyone who knows me will admit I have a wide range of music interests, and for my show, I tried to enlighten the KFKX crowd on my love for reggae music. Although I have no confirmation on this, I’m willing to bet that I’m one of just a few people to ever play reggae music on 90.1. That was a fun hour-long show and a fun semester.

The decision for KFKX to go dark sucks. There’s no way around it. I understand the department is going in a new direction and to an extent, I respect that. But I don’t think this is the way to go. It’s sad hearing from alumni about how big of a role KFKX played in their lives at HC and knowing future students won’t have that same experience.

More than anything, I feel for people like Briton Rodenberg and Sam Bennett. These two individuals poured their heart and souls into KFKX and deserve, more than anything, more time with something they love.

I suppose all good things come to an end, and it appears that it will be no different with KFKX. Here’s to you, KFKX. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *