On the Air: Coronavirus era marks still another new KVMR ‘world’ | TheUnion.com

On the Air: Coronavirus era marks still another new KVMR ‘world’

Special to Prospector

Once again, KVMR 89.5 FM has had to adapt to a new “world”.

Last October, it was the world of utility-mandated power outages and the impact the blackouts had on radio listeners, both old and new, local and regional.

And that was while the Nevada City community radio station was also conducting an on-air membership campaign.

Try that out sometime, except the fall fundraising drive ended up the most successful single drive of the decade for non-profit KVMR.

In fact, the station’s emergency hand crank radios became maybe the most popular drive thank you gift in station history, with nearly 300 of them going to both new and renewing KVMR sustaining members.

Still, there was this completely odd, bizarre feeling about the so-called PSPS era, just as there now is in the new world of the novel coronavirus crisis with KVMR again offering daytime top-of-the-hour updates on COVID-19 as well as snow, those pesky power outages (only weather-caused this time) and other emergency information.

KVMR’s General Manager Ali Lightfoot got to deal with these two absolutely astounding developments during her first year leading the station and its over 200 volunteer broadcasters.

Here’s her account of what the station has done, is doing and will be doing to continue its broadcast service in the pandemic era, starting with a reference to a different on-air fundraiser:

“During KVMR’s Pledge Drive this February, health officials reported that a Solano County resident receiving care at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento tested positive for coronavirus, representing the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. that was of unknown origin,” Lightfoot said.

“Yes, coronavirus was present and growing in KVMR’s listening area.”

“Broadcasters began asking what we were doing to prepare for a pandemic and community radio stations all over the country began discussing what could be done to keep studios, microphones, staff and volunteers virus free.

“Because KVMR is the official emergency broadcaster for Nevada County, we also began talking about the real possibility that our broadcasters and staff might not be able to come into the station due to a quarantine. How would we continue to broadcast and bring vital information, music and top of the hour updates to our community?

“But KVMR is known for our ability to set up a remote broadcast from any location (with internet access) on the fly and does so all summer long at music festivals across Northern California,” Lightfoot noted.

“KVMR’s Chief Engineer, Dave (Buzz) Barnett has already assembled a remote broadcast kit for quick departure in the case of an evacuation,” she added. “News producers Felton Pruitt and Paul Emery both have remote broadcasting and recording capabilities in their homes located close to the station that can be used.”

According to Lightfoot, “We are uniquely poised to respond to a situation where we can’t broadcast from our studios at 120 Bridge Street if necessary. We also have several months worth of archived music programs to automate for our listeners if our beloved broadcasters are in quarantine.”

“So, in the coming weeks, if we need to close the doors to the station, you will still be able to get KVMR,” she said. “You may be hearing previously recorded music programs, but you’ll have live updates throughout the week and weeks to come.”

“As long as the equipment holds up, the internet is working and at least a couple of our staff members are healthy, we’ll keep this thing going. In the meantime, stay healthy and stay tuned.”


KVMR’s Winter Membership Drive made its $50,000 goal the last week of February during the last scheduled drive show of the week — Dead Air on Saturday night, Feb. 29.

The station welcomed 54 new members among the 430 who donated during the drive.

Saturday afternoon’s tribute show to the late Wesley Robertson drew over 40 contributions totalling over $5,000. Hosts Thomas Greener and Kim Rogers called their show “Pirate Rockin’ & Stompin’: The Right Stuff” in honor of Wes’ long-running “Rockin’ & Stompin’” Saturday stable.

Robertson died of injuries in a car accident two years ago this month.

On The Air is a weekly look at Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org A second stream features indie pop and a younger sound at kvmrx.org and the station now has a second over-the-air signal at 105.7 FM for NPR and Pacifica programming by day and KVMRx by night and weekend afternoons. Further information is at kvmr.org and kvmrx.org

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