FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Christopher Heffron
800-488-0488, ext. 209
CHeffron@franciscanmedia.org

December 15, 2003     516 Words

Stay Tuned: KNOM in Alaska Is Good for the Soul

CINCINNATI—From 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 staff—volunteers and paid professionals—is 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.

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