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Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 1995

AFTER 20 YEARS, KJHK STILL ON AIR

October 18, 1995

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One of the biggest changes at KU's student-run radio station in its 20 years is its entry into cyberspace.

Radio stations have a knack for being anecdotal gold mines.

St. Louis' KMOX-AM, for example, was preparing to go on the air in the 1940s, but founders still hadn't decided on a final character for the station's call letters.

Because the station began broadcasting on Christmas Eve, it was only natural that the final letter be an X.

Likewise, Kansas University's student-run radio station, KJHK-FM, has a bit of history to look back on as it marks the station's 20th anniversary.

"There's been a lot of changes over the years," said general manager Gary Hawke.

When it first went on the air in 1952, the station was known as KGDU. It could be found at 630 on the AM dial. Because its power output was extremely limited, the signal would reach only certain parts of the campus. Broadcasts back then came from the basement of Hoch Auditorium, now called Budig Hall.

Later, the station changed its call letters to KUOK, although it remained AM.

Known as "The Sound of Young Moderns" from 1956, the station moved to 90.7 on the FM dial in 1975 and became KJHK, "The Sound Alternative."

Power was increased to nine watts in 1976, and then to its current 100 watts in 1980.

This year, the station changed its nickname to "The Hawk."

From its early days, when the station began playing alternative music, both controversy and commendation have been a part of KJHK.

The station's takeover by the journalism school and change in format in the late-1980s led to a storm of controversy. KJHK also was fined $2,500 by the Federal Communications Commission in 1989 for airing donor announcements that sounded too much like commercials. KJHK is not allowed, under its FCC license, to air commercials.

But the station has won numerous awards, including top honors in 1991 by the National Association of College Broadcasters.

"At times, we've been perceived as kind of a rogue bunch of people who were just doing whatever they wanted," Hawke said. "Now, students are more concerned with employment ... and I think people are starting to feel a little more responsibility."

Many of the major changes in the last 20 years have come on the technological front.

"When I first started, we just had our board, and we played almost everything on vinyl," said Susie Munn, a disc jockey at the station from 1983 to 1986, who returned to school and the station this year.

"Now we have DAT (digital audio tape) and CDs," she said.

But one of the biggest changes for the station came last year, when it became the first radio station to go live on the Internet.

"We took a big leap in responsibility when the whole world can listen to you," Hawke said. "We're not just a local college radio station anymore."

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