Opinion: Welcome home KXRN, Laguna’s community radio

Billy Fried

Back during the holidays, I wrote a Christmas column saying I only wanted our beloved little radio station to survive. It was struggling due to unexpected market forces. But I knew the underlying asset was golden, and I didn’t want to risk losing a cherished and virtually impossible to get FCC broadcast license. Well, Christmas came late this year, and I’m happy to report I’ve been showered with a humongous gift.

Beginning in May, I will be taking over active management of the station, as well as Cindy Obrand and Jonathan Tufano, two DJs who have been with the station from the git-go and are as passionate about community radio as I am. I will serve as Chairman of the Board. Our founder, Tyler McCusker, is graciously handing us the reins as he pursues other ventures, and I want to thank him and his family for the decade of work they put in to enable our small community to have its very own low-powered FM radio station. That’s just so cool.

Some think radio is an anachronism, made redundant and irrelevant by the internet and its multitude of streaming services. But we vehemently disagree because terrestrial radio has a vital and almost sacred role in fostering and building community. No other medium has the immediacy radio can provide. No other medium can keep us as safe, informed, unified and surprised and delighted as radio.

Ask anyone who lives in a small town lucky enough to have their own radio station, and they will tell you that their life is enriched by it. It’s where they go for community news, culture, entertainment, the arts, public affairs, and to delight in the musical discoveries that their neighbors curate for them. Radio can energize and activate a town, keep you informed of happenings, of celebration, of emergencies. And, of course, make us feel more connected and less alone.

Laguna is particularly ripe for this medium. Our secluded location means we receive precious few radio signals from surrounding communities. Yet our diverse little town has an unbelievable roster of radio talent (many who came from major markets) who volunteer their time to do what they love – create magic in the studio and put it out over the ether and into your ears. We have over 60 people doing this for free. How many other industries can boast that? My guess is none. That’s the pixie dust of radio.

KXRN Laguna Beach is secure for now. In the coming months, we will keep you apprised of the changes that will make the station even more hyper-local, with the goal of making it an indispensable communication and information portal for our community. We will program more community shows that cover the panoply of Laguna life. And we will recruit you and your neighbors to share your gifts and talents over the airways.

We will deliver more highbrow music, more radio theater, more storytelling from our gifted writers, more laughs, more local arts and entertainment, more health and wellness, more on our local food scene, more hometown sports like surfing, mountain biking and skateboarding, more high school sports, more youth shows, more weather, community affairs, politics, and even cultural offerings from surrounding areas. And much more live, remote broadcasting from every nook and cranny of this remarkable place.

We want to be an invaluable guide for visitors, including advice on how to behave and NOT clog our roadways or enighborhoods. We want to be a critical partner to our local merchants and cultural institutions and, most importantly, a critical communication beacon for our police, fire, and marine safety personnel. One thing we won’t be is opinionated or biased, but instead, we will offer a balance of divergent (yet civil) opinions. Because if radio can do one thing, it’s to remind us that we’re all in this together. And, of course, embedded in all of this will be the best in eclectic and surprisingly delightful music (both live and recorded) from our many music lovers and musicians.

My role is to cheerlead and steward this little community asset for the next generation of caretakers. We have an amazing team who can carry this vision forward and ensure that this little signal at 104.7 will stand among the very best of community radio stations.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the lovely book, “Sex & Broadcasting,” written by radio legend Lorenzo Milam, and gifted to me by Cindy as required reading when I agreed to this crazy undertaking: “A radio station should not be just a hole in the universe for making money, or feeding ego, or running the world. A radio station should be a live place for live people to sing and dance and talk: to talk their talk and walk their walk and know that they (and the rest of us) are not finally and irrevocably alone.”

We invite you to walk and talk this path hand and hand with us. So, as we say in biz, stay tuned… to the new KXRN, Laguna’s Community Radio.

Billy is the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an outdoor adventure company, and beginning May 1, KXRN radio. Email: [email protected].

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