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5 Questions: KSRO’s 75th anniversary

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 | Posted by

Senator William Knowland speaks at the KSRO studios around 1945 (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

By MELODY KARPINSKI / Santa Rosa Correspondent

Longtime Santa Rosa radio station KSRO celebrated their 75th anniversary September 21.

Opening on September 21, 1937, KSRO was Sonoma County’s first local station. Over 750 people attended the station’s formal dedication, which was “hailed as the most important addition to the community in years,” according to a 1937 Press Democrat article.

We had a chance to catch up with KSRO afternoon news host Michelle Marques to chat about the station’s history and meaningful anniversary.

 What does this anniversary mean for the station and the community?

Hitting a milestone like 75 years is a really significant accomplishment for a radio station. It affirms the importance of KSRO as a community resource. We’ve been here to entertain, to educate, to argue important topics and to be a friend to the people of the North Bay. Listeners have a real personal relationship with the on air hosts on KSRO, as we see when we take the station out to events around Sonoma County. Our listeners feel like they know us, and trust us to share their thoughts and hopes. We are sincerely thankful for this privilege.

KSRO has been called the “Voice of the Redwood Empire.” How has this guided the station’s philosophy and coverage?

As “The News and Talk of Sonoma County,” we are the trusted source for news that relates to Sonoma County and the North Bay. KSRO can cover issues that are important to people in Sonoma County with a focus that is often lacking in other Bay Area media outlets. While only major stories from Sonoma County may show up on the San Francisco talk radio outlets, KSRO makes it a priority to report the news of Sonoma County with depth and understanding of what is important to its citizens.

KSRO is one of the last privately owned stations in the area -what does this mean to you?

KSRO has been a privately owned radio station since our first day on the air in 1937. Our content is up to us, not dictated to us from “on high” as can happen in publicly traded companies. KSRO is intensely local with reporters, news anchors and managers who live here in Sonoma County. The sense of being rooted in Sonoma County is very clear with KSRO.

KSRO host Ken Minigard speaks with some of the contestants of the 1961 Miss Sonoma County pageant. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

What are your current broadcasting numbers? How many people are tuning in?

KSRO has a listening audience of 28,000 with an additional 12,000 streaming at ksro.com online.

What stories do you think have been KSRO’s top three broadcasts over the past 75 years?

Our top three stories have been the Ramon Salcido murder rampage in 1989, in which KSRO offered complete coverage of the case as it developed. We had reports coming in from the police and sheriff’s departments all day long as the bodies of Salcido’s victims were discovered, as well as calls from Sonoma County families and residents impacted by the tragedy.

KSRO’s coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 was also extensive, with damage updates, reports on the deaths from the quake, and news from public utilities and government officials.

Finally, KSRO’s coverage of the New Year’s 2006 flooding was exemplary. On Saturday, December 31st, 2005 KSRO cleared out all regular programming to run traffic and flooding updates all day long, anchored by everyone on staff, as well as reporters in the field. I personally came in to give traffic updates and road closures due to flooding for five hours that day. Listeners gave KSRO high praise for being a trusted resource when they needed us most.

To view a timeline of KSRO’s history, visit the anniversary page on the website here.

  • Gary

    KSRO is NOT the “Voice of the Redwood Empire!” And they continue to falter in their ratings because they are one of the most pathetic stations in the Bay Area.

    You fired Jim Grady who WAS “The Voice of the Redwood Empire.” Your fired Pat Thurston because she spoke up and got in your face. You’ve destroyed what once was a station to be listened too for local news and goings on. You have dead air often, and state it’s a transmitter issue, when it’s actually a programmers error.

    Get off the air ksro, nobody listens to you anymore!

  • Judy D

    I am one of those streaming KSRO listeners as I now live in Idaho after living in Sonoma County for 43 years. It is a pleasure to hear KSRO each morning and being able to keep up to date with what is happening in my former home town. KSRO does a great job and I wish them well for the next 75 years. Happy Birthday to KSRO and all of the staff. Keep up the good work.

  • http://dolorosacandles.net Harry Martin

    When I think of KSRO I especially I think of Jim Grady and Merle Ross. (It is unfortunate that the current management can’t honor their place in the station history). But the memory of the KSRO earthquake broadcast in the 1969 quake is permanently etched in the brain. It was probably one of the few times earthquake aftershocks were ‘predicted’. We lived in Forestville and listening to the rattling and reporting from Santa Rosa there was at least one significant aftershock that the DJ reported (from under their desk) (there’s another one!!!), moments later the shock rolled through the west county. Fires, floods, school closures, earthquakes and simply life in Sonoma County compose my memories of KSRO.

    • Sofia D.

      Great Story, Harry.

  • Gary

    What’s up with being blocked for telling the truth about KSRO being a pathetic syndicated station now?

    Jim Grady was and still is the true “Voice of Sonoma County,” only with an elevator music FM station.

    KSRO, if you want your ratings to grow, bring back Friday and Saturday night LOCAL High School and SRJC sports on the air.

  • Bruce Hagemann

    I remember Merl Ross and Jim Grady as a kid up until Jim was forced to leave They were the greatest. I still listen today, but it is not the same They were the best.

  • Mary Jo Winter

    I’m afraid when Jim Grady left KSRO, so did I. I tried to stay loyal, but it just wasn’t the same. There is no one else quite like him on Sonoma County radio – then or now. KSRO, you had a gem and you let him get away.

  • Daniel Dawson

    My late Dad, Bill Dawson, was the KSRO Engineer during the late 1960’s and was the guy DJing out of the Emergency Transmitter behind the City of Santa Rosa Yard on Stony Point Road during the 1969 earthquake!. A shelf of records, you remember those?, came down on him yet he continued on the air. Mrs. Finley was his Boss and I was 9 years old. I still have Dad’s 1936 Packard Bell wooden Radio that sat on our refrigerator in Sebastopol always tuned to KSRO. They broadcast from atop the Flamingo Hotel back in the day and I remember Dad played Iron Butterfly In a Godda Davita and went downstairs to the Bar and left me at the controls when I was 10-11 years old…..practicing what I was gonna say if the song ended before Dad returned:)

  • Gerry

    I appreciate all of the personal remembrances, but I would rather be listening to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida than the boring music they are playing these days.

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