Dordt College News

KDCR celebrates 40th anniversary

August 19, 2008


Written by Kirbee Nykamp for the Sioux  Center News

They’ve been providing Sioux Center with radio for 40 years, but that doesn’t mean KDCR has settled into a routine.

According to station manager Denny De Waard, KDCR has always worked hard to grow and adapt to both new technology and a changing community. That motivation has made KDCR, despite its relatively small size, a leader in Christian radio and radio in the region.

This month, KDCR celebrates its 40th anniversary of broadcasting to the area community. Throughout the upcoming year, the station has a number of events planned to highlight the 40 years of service and growth the station has seen since it first began in 1968.

A lot has changed in those 40 years, De Waard notes. When the station first started, it broadcast at 48,000 watts, providing radio to a 50-60 mile radius. Initially, the station broadcast radio on the air waves from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every hour of which someone needed to be in the station.

Back then, KDCR was considered quite progressive for adding newfangled technology-stereo sound. In 1968, most area stations, even big stations in Sioux City, were still broadcasting in mono.

Now, KDCR provides radio to an 80-100 mile radius, and offers 24-hour broadcasting, including live streaming audio on the Internet. The entire station can now be run automatically, or remotely. Sports director Mike Byker can now run the station’s control board, audio and promotions via a laptop while he provides coverage for sporting events.

As technology continued to grow, KDCR has been well ahead of the game. KDCR first started providing Internet radio 10 years ago, which, according to De Waard, made the station the first in Iowa to provide live web-stream of radio. That online access has provided new and better ways for the station to give information to the community, as well as broadened the KDCR community.

“We can broadcast about a 90- to 100-mile radius, but with the web, we have international listeners,” De Waard said.

On a board in the station, a world map marks out international listeners with pins. Many of those listeners have connections with Dordt College, and appreciate the coverage of Dordt and high school sporting events, as well as local news and weather.

The station had also worked early on to add this type of programming, which is not typically seen in the world of Christian radio. Even now, De Waard says, in the world of Christian radio, covering sports is almost unheard of.
“All through our history, we’ve never fit the mold of Christian radio,” De Waard said.

The ability to adapt to community needs is what has made KDCR distinct, De Waard explains. After all, he notes, how many Christian stations give the farm market reports?

For De Waard what makes KDCR a Christian station goes beyond just Christian music or programing. What makes KDCR distinct from secular stations isn’t the music, but the commitment of the people involved and the mission behind the station.

“Playing Christian music is not what makes us a Christian station. We feel pretty strongly that it’s more holistic than that,” De Waard said.
That holistic view led the station to reorganize much of its programing over the past several years. The new slogan, “Rock Solid Radio,” shows where the station is truly rooted.

“Everything we do is based on the rock solid truths of God’s word,” De Waard explained.

Music director Jim Bolkema said the station learned since it provided local as well as Christian programing, it filled a unique need in the area.

“We had an assumption that we had a very narrow constituency-that we had only Dordt, Christian Reformed listeners. What we found is that we bridge a gap in the area out to a broader community,” Bolkema said.
The station changed its daily schedule, adding a number of short devotional programs and taking out some of its longer ones to better fit the needs of the area.

“It’s given us a whole new visibility in the community,” De Waard noted.
KDCR also revamped its web site two year ago, so people can now listen to the station, view weather conditions, forecasts, monthly reports, real-time song playlists of what the radio is playing and an extensive community calendar of events.

The changes to the web site have also helped broaden KDCR’s listeners. Because the station is affiliated with Dordt College, parents of students use the site to listen to their children’s games, or listen to their kids on the air.
KDCR is unique as a college station that also serves the community, employing students to help staff the station.

“As a learning station, we have about eight students we employ during the school year and about two during the summer,” De Waard said.
The station offers students a chance to learn valuable hands-on experience, which De Waard says makes them highly employable after graduation.
“We have stations that call us in the spring asking for recommendations. These kids have up to four years of radio experience when the graduate. We have almost 100 percent placement,” De Waard said.

“We’ve had several people comment that they like the Dutch work ethic,” he explained. With that work ethic also comes loyalty. Many of the staff at KDCR are former students themselves. De Waard, Bolkema, Byker and news director John Slegers all worked as students for the station, and later returned as staff.

The loyalty of both those who work at KDCR and those who listen to the station has made the small station an integral part of the community.
As a not-for-profit station, KDCR has always been limited in how it can generate funding. The station has used unique events to raise financial support, including live on-air auctions of donated items and travelogues throughout the year in the B.J. Haan Auditorium.

These events, in addition to the under-riding sponsorship of a number of area businesses, has allowed KDCR to grow and continue to provide quality radio programing.

As a thanks to the community for its longstanding support and as a celebration of its 40th anniversary, the radio station is hosting a tailgate party, along with American State Bank, at the opening Dordt/Northwestern football game on September 6.

“We want people to know that we’re a community station. We know we have listeners beyond just the Dordt crowd, and we want to show that,” De Waard said.

Later in the month, on September 26, KDCR will sponsor a soup supper before its travelogue, and throughout the year the station will host half-time activities at various sporting events.

As advances continue in satellite radio and online listening, Bolkema says that, regardless of the changes in the KDCR radio broadcasts, the station will continue to give quality content for the area community.

“We’re going to continue to do what we do best, local services. Our content is number one,” Bolkema said. Through all the years of growth for the radio station, De Waard says the mission of KDCR has stayed the same.

“The focus hasn’t changed. We’re still committed to serving the community,” De Waard said.

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