Kansas Up and Down the Dial

Because I began my professional career behind a microphone, I have a soft spot in my heart for radio. Back then, the business plan was basic: Put a stick in the air, offer appealing programming and sell commercials.

Today, we have satellite radio in each car and our bedroom. Lately, instead of Jim Bohannon on 1350 KMAN at bedtime, I tune into John Miller calling Giants games on KNBR, San Francisco. I listen to west coast commercials and wonder about the business plan. The chances of me buying a car from “your Bay Area Ford dealers” are nonexistent. But because of technology and my choices, I’m not even hearing the ads that air during Bohannon on my local radio station.

So it was with a sense of guilt amelioration that I slipped into a rental car last week equipped with AM and FM, but no satellite radio. During a 2-day road trip that would take me to within a stone’s throw of Missouri and Colorado, I would return to my radio roots.

The rental car agency (where they’ll pick me up) asks me where to tune the radio.

“K-Rock, 1-oh-1-five. Manhattan.”  

It’s K-Rock’s “old school lunch” programmed locally. Target demographic: Me. Former long hair world conquerers. Now hairline receding, middle age precipice-approachers who hear Blue Öyster Cult and travel back in time over our cobb salads (dressing on the side, please), burnin’ for you and days gone by.   

Home in the darkness, home on the highway...

K-Rock’s signal fades as I dip into a Flint valley somewhere in Wabaunsee County. Switch to 580-AM. When I worked there, WIBW was the Voice of Kansas (Stauffer Communications’ caps).

It’s a talk show. Local? The host is fawning over some guy screaming about the failed gun background check proposal in the U.S. Senate. It’s the Mike Huckabee show. Sorry, but I have little patience for people who run for president and parlay their 15 minutes into a radio talk show.

I exercise my rights as a consumer.


Topeka meeting done, now Pittsburg-bound by way of Kansas City.

810 SportsTalk (WHB) all the way to Crawford County. Kevin Kietzman railing on the Chiefs draft strategy. I don’t always agree with him, but Kietz is a pro and understands sports talk radio in a big league market needs a bit of a jagged edge if it’s to succeed.

It’s dark when I leave Pittsburg and head west for Wichita. The Royals are off tonight, so I catch the last few innings of the Cardinals game in Philadelphia on KMOX 1120, St. Louis, one of the biggest AM sticks in the land. I find myself pulling for the Phillies. My Cardinals ambivalence can be traced to the ’85 World Series.

(Denkinger was wrong, btw and the Royals have not been to the post-season since. Karma?)

Right before my head hits the pillow in Wichita, I punch the sleep button on the bedside radio. It’s tuned to KNSS-AM 1330. During the 11 o’clock top of the hour national newscast, something about an MIT cop shot in Boston.

Up before the dawn, on the road for Scott City. KMUW, 89.1 FM. Public radio hosts juggle breaking news and a pledge drive on Morning Edition as events in Boston unfold.

Broadcast journalism at its finest, summed up in three words: Dina Temple-Raston. OK, I guess that may technically be two words. Regardless, in a garden of dandelions and thistle, she’s a tulip.  

A subject matter expert with a 21st century beat. As NPR’s Counterterrorism Correspondent, the woman is plugged in to systems/networks. When short on facts, her speculation and supposition is grounded in experience and a thorough understanding of her subject matter.

“Al-Qaeda’s become much more arms-length recently, in terms of the way radicalization is happening. They just have sort of an Internet presence...”

When I get west of U.S. 81, for reasons obvious to anyone familiar 21st century Kansas demographics, the radio frequency spectrum tends to fall into three broad format categories: country, classic rock and Spanish-speaking.

“Dave FM” is KKDT licensed to Post Rock Radio in Burdett.

“We couldn’t be more country if we sold live bait...”

KSSA-FM 105.9, Ingalls. La Kebeuna. Not sure what it means. I need/want/intend to learn more Spanish than muy bueno and la isla bonita.

Check the smart phone and notice a new icon has appeared on the top line. It’s Tune In, an app I downloaded to listen to K-State sports on the road. I apparently programmed it to clue me in on “breaking news” and am now treated to live manhunt coverage from WBZ-1030 AM in Boston.

As I drive through Lane County, Kansas.

Going home, my plan was to listen to Denny Matthews, hopping affiliate to affiliate on the Royals Radio Network (Ulysses, Dodge, Hays, Larned, Great Bend, Salina, Junction City and Manhattan.) Except the game’s postponed since most of Boston was locked down all day. Back to surfing.
The sun’s setting as I cruising through the Ellsworth County Smoky Hills. It’s apropos that KSAL-FM 104.9 is playing Head East.

There’s never been any reason for you to think about me.

There’s never been any reason why broadcast journalism needs to dumb down. Consumers drive the decisions. If you don’t like what you hear/see...


There’s never been any reason not to write a new business plan, when technology trumps the old one.

Bring a good feelin’ ain’t had in such a long time...