Stay Tuned: KNOM in Alaska Is Good for the Soul
CINCINNATIFrom the air, Nome, Alaska, in winter looks like a beautiful but barren
landscape of never-ending white. In some cases, visiting your next-door neighbor means a 40-mile
trek through the harsh wilderness. So how do you nourish the faith of such dispersed people, especially
in a land so brutal? Erect a 230-foot antenna tower along the Bering Sea, start up a radio station
and let the message of God flow through the airwaves.
The story of the radio station KNOM, part of the Diocese of Fairbanks, is featured in the
January issue of St. Anthony Messenger as "KNOM: Award-winning Catholic Radio Station." Author
John Roscoe, editor of the Catholic Anchor in Anchorage, writes of America's oldest Catholic
radio station, from its official start in 1971 to its present-day success. After December 19, the
article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
In a land with few priests and a lot of country to cover, ministering to
Alaskans in the 1950s was a near-impossible undertaking. For Father Jim Poole, S.J., pastor of three
Yup'ik villages, radio could cover more ground than he could. Father Poole wired the homes in the
village of St. Marys with a public address system, but he soon set his sights on a larger audience
and a more sophisticated method of communication. Thus, KNOM was born.
Over the years, KNOM's audience has grown, but its message remains unchanged. Combining popular
and native music, weather reports, news and religious programming, KNOM has ridden the Alaskan airwaves
to success. Tom Busch, KNOM's general manager since 1975, follows the same recipe: "Play a lot of
music, be interesting, be a strong positive companion, and bring inspiration and education in short
bursts that people aren't going to tune away from," he says.
The recipe works. KNOM consistently wins both secular and religious awards. It has won
the National Association of Broadcaster's top honor, the Crystal Radio Award, three times. KNOM
has also won 11 Gabriel Awards for "Radio Station of the Year," from the Catholic Academy of Communications
Arts Professionals, eight of those consecutively.
Laurels aside, KNOM has its work cut out for it. Alaska is plagued with unemployment that
ranges from 17 to 26 percent throughout the station's listening area. Crime, poverty and a clash
between older Alaskans and their younger, less tradition-oriented kin are just a few of the problems.
KNOM's staffvolunteers and paid professionalsis working to improve those situations. By being
a source of companionship, hope and stability for Alaska's listening audience, KNOM spreads the
message of God to those who tune in.
Once, a caller who identified himself as "George" phoned in to voice
his appreciation. "Thank you, KNOM, for being there for me," he said. "Whenever I turned on the radio
and nobody else was there with me, you were there for me."
Anyone can hear some of KNOM's offerings by going to their Web site at: http://www.knom.org.
granted to reprint this release.