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Editor's Blog: The end of an era

Original post made by Jessica Lipsky, Danville, on Jan 18, 2011

My heart is breaking.

As of 10 this morning, KUSF 90.3 FM was unexpectedly taken off the air. Broadcasting new music, cultural programs and news out of the University of San Francisco (USF) since 1977, KUSF has been a free-form beacon for a community that desperately wants an alternative to mainstream media saturation.

Without any notice to the dozens of volunteers (many of whom have been on air for decades), underwriters and supporters, [Web Link USF announced this morning] that KUSF is moving to an online only format, effective immediately. The university agreed to assign the FCC license for radio frequency 90.3 FM to Classical Public Radio Network, which is launching a non-commercial classical music station in the Bay Area. CPRN is owned by University of Southern California.

I've been DJing at KUSF under the handle Terry Dactyl for four years and couldn't be more dismayed. While I'm definitely not one of the Dinosaur DJs (which I consider to be those who have been on air since before I was born), I consider my work at KUSF to be an integral part of who I am and am crushed as another traditional medium's plug is pulled.

I'm sure readers can identify with this sinking feeling as the surprise, shock and sadness of losing a great terrestrial station are similar to losing the Danville Weekly. Both KUSF and the Weekly were community pillars which provided a little something for everyone involved -- whether that be hometown news and views or vinyl re-issues. Regardless, the loss of a great community radio station is indicative of what a fragile state traditional media is in.

Growing up in the internet age, I've always had a fascination with media "past" -- specifically newspapers, magazines and radio -- and have been incredibly fortunate to work in two fields that are slowly dying. Maybe I was naive in thinking that listener-supported radio could go on forever and not succumb to the allure of the web, but I'm not the only one.

Facebook has erupted with anger and amazement over the loss of KUSF from both DJs and listeners. People are upset and understand the need for free-form terrestrial radio as a primary means of alternative information, but what can we do?

KUSF will hold a meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on the USF campus to discuss the next step, but I imagine it's already out of their hands. As expected, it comes down to money and the fact that the university doesn't make much from KUSF and is [Web Link reported to make $3.75 million] from the sale. There's also the matter of a valuable classical library hidden somewhere in the KUSF studios, but that's esoteric nonsense/DJ lore you're probably not interested in.

I don't have the answers and, really, I'm just upset. But I want to know how one can sustain an important media outlet in a crumby economy when it's already completely staffed by volunteers. How do we keep small businesses, alternative information sources and tangible media out there when the internet beckons? While the web is a wonderful tool, without which I would be jobless, I stand firmly in the line of Luddites who know that this change is a serious disservice to the Bay Area.

Jessica Lipsky


Comments (4)

Posted by Judy Knight
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 19, 2011 at 8:40 am

I so agree with you!! As an alum of USF way before the time of the internet, I remember listening to the station while on and off campus. I am really sorry to see it go, since it provided such a quality and fun service to the community.

Posted by Gary
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 19, 2011 at 9:10 am

After reading your glowing description of this radio station I'm sad to say that I never heard of it before now. I would like to have had the opportunity to listen in. It is sad that there are so many momentous changes occurring in our culture. We are told it is all in the interest of "progress" but sometimes the supposedy upward direction is not at all clear. I sympathize with you for your loss.

Posted by Jessica Lipsky
a resident of Danville
on Jan 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this isn't a done deal. But I won't hold my breath.

Gary, cruise on over to and you can listen to hundreds of shows including foreign language programs, musical spotlights, and all things in between.

Jessica Lipsky

Posted by dbrower
a resident of Alamo
on Jan 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Sad, but hardly surprising. Old-line "college radio" has been in the sights of bland-media interests for years. My college station (WAER) got the students thrown out and turned into an NPR outlet; the one near my home (WFMU) went internet-only; when I moved here KUSF was one of the greats, even with the switch to Vietnamese News at 6:00pm. Money talks.

In the area, what seems to remain are KFJC 89.7, KZSU 90.1, KALX 90.7 and KVHS 90.5. Only KVHS has reasonable reception in the San Ramon Valley, being transmitted from Concord.


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