Guest Editorial, June 30-July 2, 2010 | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial, June 30-July 2, 2010

Blair Feulner

When KPCW signed on the air July 2, 1980, the census population was 2,000, the town ended where Albertsons is today and the place was an absolute mess. Half of Main Street was vacant lots or boarded-up buildings, the roads were crumbling and every week another old-town house burned down while the volunteer fire department stood by helplessly because there was no water pressure in the hydrant.

Had anyone told you then that two decades later, Park City would be a world-class ski resort that would host the Olympics, you would have inquired as to what they were smoking.

KPCW was born just as a grand jury ordered all city planning records be seized while an investigation into the building department was launched. It was not a coincidence that the radio station’s first mission statement was to be "a daily source of news and information that held public officials accountable."

As the only means of daily mass communication in Park City, Summit and Wasatch counties, the radio station offered the opportunity for any resident with a cause to get the public’s attention during the morning news and interview hours. As such, as one public radio consultant noted, it quickly became Park City’s town meeting hall of the airwaves.

It was a time when Park City’s future was being planned and the station’s aggressive news coverage and open-mike policy allowed citizens, not just developers and government officials, to help set the agenda for public discourse. The station organized town meetings asking, "Do we want to be another Aspen?" or "Do we want to be another Sandy?"

It won hundreds of awards for community service, news and public affairs from the National Association of Broadcasters, Utah Broadcaster’s Association, Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist, Utah League of Women Voters, Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association and others.

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KPCW broke the mold for small-town public radio stations.

Its intense dedication to local news and innovative fund-raising caught the attention of the national public radio establishment, then dominated by big-city university stations. In the late 1990s, benchmark studies by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) showed KPCW had more audience per capita and raised more money per capita than any other public radio station in the nation.

CPB was so impressed that it hired a consultant to study the unique fund-raising strategies invented by Susan Feulner, many of which were later adopted by big city radio and TV stations.

Perhaps the biggest service KPCW rendered the town was during the Olympics when it went all news/information for the duration of the Games. A later study showed that 92 percent of all the adults along the back of the Wasatch Front listened to KPCW during the games.

Later the station again gained national attention with the first "Save Our Snow" climate-change town meeting, which packed the Eccles Center and received coverage on The Weather Channel and ABC Nightly News.

On the eve of KPCW’s 30th anniversary, I hope residents reflect on what the station has meant for the town and what a different place it would have been without it.

Paragon Media, nationally known radio consultants, put it this way: "We do research for radio stations all over the nation and Canada and never have we found a town, like Park City, that was more reliant on its public radio station."

Blair Feulner wrote the application to the Federal Communications Commission for KPCW in 1978 and co-managed the station with Susan Feulner for 28 years. They thank the thousands of contributors, volunteers, staff and board of trustees who made KPCW possible.

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