|Broadcast area||Akron metro area|
|Slogan||Feed your curiosity|
|Frequency||89.7 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|Translator(s)||W239AZ Ashland 95.7 MHz|
W234CX Mansfield 94.7 MHz
|Repeater(s)||WKRJ New Philadelphia 91.5 MHz|
WKRW Wooster 89.3 MHz
WKSV Thompson 89.1 MHz
WNRK Norwalk 90.7 MHz
|First air date||October 2, 1950|
HD2: Folk music
|Callsign meaning||Kent State University|
|Former callsigns||WKSU-FM (1950–2016)|
|Affiliations||American Public Media|
Public Radio International
|Owner||Kent State University |
(Kent State University)
Listen Live (HD2)
Listen Live (HD3)
Listen Live (HD4)
WKSU (89.7 FM) – branded 89.7 WKSU – is a non-commercial educational radio station licensed to Kent, Ohio, primarily serving the Akron metropolitan area. WKSU also reaches much of Greater Cleveland, and extends throughout Northeast Ohio with two low-power broadcast relay stations and four full-power repeaters. Owned by Kent State University, WKSU broadcasts a mix of public radio and classical music, and serves as the local affiliate for NPR, American Public Media, and Public Radio International. Besides a standard analog transmission, WKSU broadcasts over four HD Radio channels, and is available online. The WKSU studios are located on the campus of Kent State University, while the station transmitter is in Copley.
The origins of WKSU started in 1941 with the Kent State University Radio Workshop, which presented 40 different programs over several local commercial stations. In 1949, The Kent State University Board of Trustees began to take notice of the station’s modest broadcasts, and soon gave KSU President George Bowman the go-ahead to apply for a 10-watt educational station. In April 1950, the FCC gave the station permission to build a small transmitter attached to the roof of Kent Hall, and on October 2, 1950, WKSU-FM was born. The signal was transmitted only within the confines of the campus. By November of that year, WKSU-FM was broadcasting five hours a day, five days a week.
The 1960s brought about slow but steady growth for the fledgling station. The station’s music library was built up from private collections and the collections of its student employees, and its airtime expanded to 40 hours a week. WKSU-FM began to produce reports covering everything from election returns to football games.
The tragedy of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 was an opportunity for WKSU-FM to prove it was a vital part of the University.
By 1973, according to a former general manager, WKSU-FM had only 7,500 watts of power, and was not yet broadcasting in stereo. The station was only on the air for 85 hours a week, and programming was created by students, and scheduled around their class and vacation times. The entire operating budget was $42,000, reaching an audience of about 1,200 listeners. The station had a full-time staff of three.
The remainder of the decade saw changes for WKSU-FM. The station began transitioning from a student to professional staff, thus the need for the station’s first fund drive. The drive raised $5,000. In April 1974, the station became a member of the then three-year-old National Public Radio. For the better part of a decade, it doubled as Cleveland's NPR station as well until WCPN signed on in 1984. Although WKSU-FM operates at relatively modest power for a full NPR member, its 908-foot tower allows it to provide at least grade B coverage to most of Greater Cleveland to the north, with Cleveland itself getting a city-grade signal. It currently operates a newsroom in Cleveland.
On January 22, 1980, the station reached a milestone when it linked up with the satellite Westar 1. This not only greatly improved WKSU-FM's signal, but also allowed it to record NPR programs. This triggered a period of growth that still continues today. In July 1980, the station expanded its signal to reach over a million potential listeners in Northeast Ohio thanks to a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration increasing its power to 12,000 watts.
Shortly after, the station bought a remote truck, enabling it to record more than 1,000 programs in Summit, Stark, Portage, Cuyahoga, Wayne and Trumbull counties. The station’s web site was launched in 1994, and began offering on-demand streaming starting in 1995. The station added its third repeater tower in 1997, broadcasting in Thompson from WKSV 89.1. WKSU-FM's fourth repeater tower was erected in Norwalk near Sandusky in 2004 (broadcasting from WNRK at 90.7), boosting the station's reach to 22 Ohio counties and part of Western Pennsylvania. A low-power translator was established in Ashland in 2006, broadcasting from 95.7 W239AZ, and another translator was established in Mansfield in 2017, 94.7 W234CX.
To expand WKSU-FM's broadcast reach beyond terrestrial towers, the station added three distinct programming line-ups online, along with the primary broadcast stream, in 2005. These steams - on-air, Folk Alley, all classical and 24-hour news - later were repurposed as the station's four HD Radio digital sidestreams. Mobile apps for WKSU-FM and Folk Alley were developed in 2010.
In August 2013, WKSU-FM made a major format shift, moving all classical music to evenings and focusing on public radio news and information programming during the day. The change added many new programs to the daily schedule and prompted introduction of a new logo and the major renovation of the newsroom in the Kent broadcast facility. With the shift, WKSU-FM also created several regular news segments, including weekly interviews with sports writer Terry Pluto, Quick Bites stories on food and eating, and Exploradio reports on research and innovation.
The station changed its call sign on June 23, 2016 from WKSU-FM to the current WKSU.
- HD1 simulcasts the analog feed;
- HD2 airs folk music from FolkAlley.com;
- HD3 broadcasts classical music exclusively; and
- HD4 airs an extended schedule of news and talk programming from NPR and the BBC World Service. All three subchannels also stream live on the Internet and through the WKSU mobile app.
WKSU also extends its signal via full-power satellites WKSV Thompson (89.1 FM), WKRW Wooster (89.3 FM), WNRK Norwalk (90.7 FM), and WKRJ New Philadelphia (91.5 FM), as well as low-power translators W239AZ Ashland (95.7 FM) and W234CX Mansfield (94.7 FM). All four of the station's full-power repeaters also broadcast four HD Radio signals.
WKSU operates out of a broadcast facility at the northeast corner of Loop Road and Summit Street on the Kent State campus. The facility was built in 1992, and brought together production and administrative offices for the first time in 18 years. The building cost $2.1 million and was funded entirely from private sources.
The station's offices were located everywhere from the cramped confines of Kent Hall to a restaurant on State Route 59 before moving to its present facility. WKSU-FM also had its offices in Wright Hall, part of the Tri-Towers residence complex at the university. Around 1977, six floors of the residential building were turned into office space. In 1987, they were converted back to dormitories and WKSU-FM had to move to another campus building.
WKSU's maintains news bureaus in Cleveland and Canton. WKSU previously established a news bureau in downtown Akron, sharing space with public television station WNEO/WEAO 45/49 (of which Kent State is part-owner), and Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC. The space is now being converted to a boutique hotel.
Kent State Folk Festival
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The Kent State Folk Festival was started in the 1967/1968 by a group of Kent State University students. It was produced by student groups until the Kent State Student Senate voted to defund the activity and WKSU-FM assumed control of the event in 2000. Throughout its history, the make up of festival programming changed from local musicians and groups representing ethnic heritage to national touring acts. The theme was consistently tied to folk and roots music and the festival included workshops on folk music and dance along with concert performances.
The Kent State Festival typically featured several performances by both legendary and up-and-coming folk artists. Later line-ups included Bob Dylan, Donovan, Avett Brothers, Doc Watson, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dawes, Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie.
With WKSU-FM's involvement in the Kent State Folk Festival, a day of free concerts throughout the city of Kent was created. 'Round Town (later Folk Alley 'Round Town) drew thousands of people to downtown Kent each year. In 2013, the entire festival was renamed the 'Round Town Music Festival to expand the programming scope. The next year, in 2014, WKSU-FM ended its association with the festival.
FolkAlley.com offers live streaming folk music 24 hours a day and is produced by WKSU. Created in September 2003, Folk Alley's web site is built and produced by the station. The Folk Alley playlist is created by Folk Alley Senior Director of Content Linda Fahey. Folk Alley features singer/songwriter, Celtic, acoustic, Americana, traditional, World and roots artists.
Since July 10, 2008, Folk Alley's programming stream has been aired as a subchannel on WKSU's HD Radio over-air feed. Folk Alley's weekly two-hour program, the Folk Alley Radio Show, is syndicated to radio stations nationwide by PRX.
Until June 2019, Folk Alley featured Open Mic, a place for developing and under-exposed singers, songwriters and musicians to post their music to share with Folk Alley listeners. Folk Alley's Open Mic opened the stage to up-and-coming artists - presenting new music to thousands of folk music lovers. Musicians were encouraged to choose their best work and upload it on the Folk Alley Open Mic website (www.folkalley.com/openmic/). All songs must be original works or a traditional song that is part of the public domain.
University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN has streamed the Folk Alley feed on its website since 2007. The stream is also on the NPR Music page. Folk Alley has often collaborated with NPR, offering original content for the web and producing audio from the Newport Folk Festival.
- Zaidan, Abe. "WKSU: 1950-2000, A Golden Celebration" 2000.
- WKSU-FM coverage map via WKSU.org Archived 2010-05-26 at the Wayback Machine
- WKSU-FM coverage map via Radio-Locator.com
- http://hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=73 HD Radio Guide for Akron, Ohio
- Dyer, Bob. "Five Stations in Area are Making Their Moves." Akron Beacon Journal. 31 May 1987: D2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to WKSU-FM.|
- Official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WKSU
- Radio-Locator information on WKSU
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WKSU