In the October 2021 newsletter, NFCB’s Executive Director interviewed Mark Moran of KBRP-LP in Bisbee, Arizona. Read the interview below.
Sally Kane: How did you get into community radio?
Mark Moran: I was in graduate school at Iowa State University, and I was working on my Master’s in Sociology. And I had a full intention of getting my Ph.D. in sociology and being a social scientist and being, you know, a publishing social scientist and author and all this stuff. And I was about a half a year into it, I thought, “This is awful. I don’t want to do this.” I mean, the people are great and I still have good friends in the field, but I didn’t want to be that, you know, I didn’t want to do that.
I was always into radio – ever since I was a little little kid, probably eight or nine years old, I had a shortwave radio that I used to tune around with. And so, in graduate school I was working part-time as an announcer at a public radio station in Ames, Iowa. And I thought, “I really want to do this radio thing. I like being on the radio.” So I just blanketed the country with resumes. And I got a call back from this little tiny station in Wrangell, Alaska called KSDK. I started there as a news reporter and that’s where I got my start in community radio. I absolutely fell in love with it. It was the best decision I ever made in my life, just being part of a small knit community like that.
SK: That segues beautifully into the next question. What are you really proud of about KBRP, in Bisbee?
MM: Being part of the fabric of a small community is paramount to any community radio station. I mean, the word “community” is right in the name “community radio.” So we’re working on really reflecting the fabric of our community. We’re broadcasting the high school football games. What parent doesn’t want to hear their athlete’s name on the radio? What parent doesn’t get into their high school football team, especially when they’re good and they’re winning? So I think what I’m really proud of is the investment in the community. We’re also really investing in doing local news. And as you know, doing local news and doing it well, that’s not an inexpensive proposition. So we are focusing very heavily on reflecting the fabric of the community through local news. And we’re doing quite a bit of it. I’m really, really proud to be able to bring that to the station.
SK: So have you been able to hire someone just to do news?
MM: There’s one full-time paid staff member and it’s me. The rest of us are volunteers. There’s a part-time office manager who is wonderful and helps a lot. But right now, I’m really trying to lead the journalism charge by example. I’ve been a journalist for 30 years, and people are interested in learning. So right now doing some produced feature stories for air and trying to teach people by example how we do this thing called journalism and that we’re accurate, credible, and we tell a story that people can really relate to because they’re part of the community. So I’d say I’m leading this by example, with the hope that at some point, we will be able to find some money to hire a full time journalist.
SK: Do you have any pet peeves that we can all sort of relate to or laugh about?
MM: Public radio often has a habit of taking itself so incredibly seriously, that we sometimes don’t stop to ask ourselves, “what’s the listener gaining out of this?” There is a precious connection with the reporter to their art, when in fact, the story is supposed to be for the audience and not the reporter. Public radio is in my heart, it runs in my blood. Radio has never left my blood since I was eight years old. I think what we miss is sometimes being a little bit too serious with ourselves but we make up for it in the public service that we do for our communities, especially in small towns where we might be the only daily news outlet for our town. We are the old fashioned community broadcaster. We’re the only ones in town. We are the voice for that town. And it’s easy to forget that sometimes. It is important to take that seriously, but not so seriously that we forget that we’re supposed to be serving our audience.
SK: What keeps you inspired to do this work?
MM: I know this sounds really trite. But I absolutely love radio. I still love to be on the radio. And I like to inform our audience about something they either didn’t know before, or are hearing in a new way. That really inspires me, to be able to create good radio with this magical tool we have that sends people’s voices through the air. And I’ve never lost the wonder of that. I’ve never lost the wonder of someone’s voice being able to travel through the air here in this microphone and then come out on the other side. I just think it’s really cool. It’s kind of like a jet flight, like I can’t quite get my hands around how that airplane can get off the ground. I can’t quite get my arms around this radio thing – the magic of it. And I hope I never do.