May 14, 2004

KKSM, Palomar’s student run radio station, reaches a broader audience

SAN MARCOS — Changes are happening so fast at Palomar’s student-run radio station, KKSM, AM 1320, that it’s hard to keep up with the tempo! As of April 26, people across the globe can tune in to the station’s new “adult alternative” mix of music now that the station is streamed live through the KKSM website. Listeners also have the option of tuning in to the station by television through Cox Communications.

Student Disc Jockey Kim Crittenden sets up the next song at Palomar College radio station KKSM, AM 1320. Photo by Melinda Finn

The added accessibility due to streaming live has generated an immediate response from listeners, including former Palomar radio & television student Andrea Tarzo, who is currently stationed as a soldier in Iraq. Tarzo emailed KKSM the same day the live streaming began, saying that she came across the Palomar/KKSM website while working in an office in Baghdad. She said she was “blown away” by how far the radio station has progressed since she was a Palomar student in 1998. “Now I’m listening here in Iraq to all the cool sounds,” she said. “I heard AC/DC (which made my co-workers stop what we were doing and rock out), Norah Jones, Natalie Merchant, Duncan Sheik, and a whole bunch of artists I use to hear back in the states,” she said.

For listeners a little closer to home than Tarzo, cable access has also provided a big boost for the radio station. Cox Communications began broadcasting KKSM digitally last December on channel 958 on their cable radio line-up. Erin Burgar, Cox programming specialist, explained that this makes KKSM accessible to “over 200,000 customers.”

“We are honored to be one of the few college radio stations selected by Cox for this service” said Kevin Pillow, KKSM’s former promotions director, who currently announces national sports updates for the station. The increased accessibility is just one of several changes taking place at KKSM, all of which are helping “keep the station on the cutting edge of technology,” Pillow said.

According to KKSM Disc Jockey and Co-Music Director David Queen, in an attempt to reach a wider audience, the station also made dramatic changes last year to the type of music it plays. The new music format, which began the first day of the fall 2003 semester, includes music “that covers approximately five decades,” Queen said. While the majority of music is still geared more toward “young” listeners, the music is now referred to as “adult alternative,” and targets the 25-to-55 age range rather than the 17-to-25 age range formerly targeted. While some loyal listeners were nervous about the change, the music now more closely reflects Palomar’s population.

New technology also has the station moving away from the use of compact discs and tapes. The station is in the process of recording music from compact discs directly onto the computer in digital format. The on-air disc jockey can either touch the screen or use a mouse to select the next song. “Eventually everything except for special programming will be on the computer,” Queen said. “We are working on creating a digital library of almost 4,000 songs” he added.

KKSM’s general manager and Palomar alumna Meg Banta, who also teaches at Palomar, said that the station has secured their first corporate sponsor, The San Diego Sports Arena, “which has opened up a whole new world of support for Palomar College radio.” Banta, who is also a well-know disc jockey with San Diego’s KPRI, FM 102.1, said “I am very pleased about the progress we have made in the last year and look forward to even more exciting times ahead.”

Banta also said that two KKSM students have recently been hired at professional radio stations in San Diego: Adam Martinez is Promotions Director at KOGO, AM 600; and Ted Mendenhall is a board operator at “The Mighty 1090 AM.”

Other significant changes at KKSM include cable installation in the studio, giving station personnel television access and the ability to more quickly report breaking news stories, and an overhaul of the KKSM website. According to Soldier Tarzo, the results are impressive. She ended her email letter to the station with, “Keep up the good work with the website, you don’t know how homesick Iraq can make you.”

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