A radio in celebration — KTAL observes 5 good years

KTAL-LP is 5 years old!

More than seven years ago, Kevin Bixby learned that the FCC would grant a “low power” radio license to Las Cruces. In the meantime, Nan Rubin, an experienced journalist and community radio guru, had moved here. A small group of us applied for the license, spread the word, found and trained people who wanted to do radio shows, studied the rules, purchased equipment, and rented a studio and radio tower space – all of this to become a real radio station.

I had hosted a daily radio show for six months on commercial radio here; in Taiwan in 1986-88, I chatted (in English) on the radio; and in the mid-1970s, I hosted a weekly talk show on KRWG-TV.

I thought we could fill an important need that would soon become more important: to help Las Cruces talk to each other. Politically, culturally, socially, musically, artistically and more. As other media died or their local programming dried up like puddles in the desert, we needed an independent, non-partisan community radio station.

So we broke our asses. Not to compete with KRWG Radio, which most of us listen to regularly, but to complement KRWG’s local programming. With award-winning national NPR shows, great classical music, and a few local shows, KRWG had limited resources for local news, not to mention an eclectic mix of music programming hosted by radio rookies.

Five years ago, we finally seemed ready to go on the air. Some thought we should raise more money, to make sure that once we got on the air, we could survive; others thought we should step in directly and that new listeners would contribute enough to keep us going. (I was in the “Jump right in” camp.) We jumped.

“Speak, Las Cruces! was the first regular program we aired and the only two-hour news program. Walt Rubel soon joined me as a co-host; Minerva Rivera volunteered as an engineer so I didn’t have to try to get the board to work while talking to guests and callers. Every week she saves us from madness and idiocy. Most recently, Shirley Baca became the third co-host, bringing her unique perspective and local knowledge.

How do I feel about “Que Tal!” be 5 years old? Delighted — and determined to make us better! We quickly developed a set of shows that were generally pretty good, each with their own style and purpose. Some facilitators were experienced and skillful; others had always wanted to try radio and soon took the opportunity to do so. People listened. Some brought money. We continued, all volunteers, until we finally hired a part-time station manager earlier this year.

We survived COVID, although mask arguments cost us a great show, and COVID precautions kept us from gathering in person for a long time, let alone hosting another spectacular Rio Grande Theater fundraiser. People joined us, others left. Space does not allow me to rave about the many wonderful people at KTAL who have impressed me, on air and behind the scenes.

We are a community resource. If you have a program idea or something to ask or tell us, you can visit our website, http://www.lccommunityradio.org/. Or, better yet, join us on Sunday (that is, today, since this column appears in Sunday’s Sun-News), between 5 and 8 p.m. at 121 Wyatt Drive, Space #9, for KTAL’s 5th anniversary, with live music, food and drinks. Visit the studio, let us know how we’re doing, make suggestions, or just hang in there.

Thanks for joining us on this exciting journey, and here’s to many “Que Tal” celebrations!

More from Peter Goodman:

Las Cruces resident Peter Goodman writes, takes pictures and occasionally practices law. His blog at http://soledadcanyon.blogspot.com/ has more information on this column.

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