Fairfield’s King of Community Radio
Question: How does a grassroots community radio station in Fairfield, Iowa, a town of 9,000, manage to get in-person interviews with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Candy Crowley, Amy Goodman, and Joe Biden?
Answer: By virtue of being located in Iowa, noteworthy because the state’s caucuses are the first major event of the presidential races, drawing frequent visits by nominees and the media — and through the hard work of radio visionary Jimmy Moore.
Solar-powered KRUU radio airs an astonishing 80 locally produced shows — in a county of only 16,800 people. Its music library contains tens of thousands of songs. Radio shows are broadcast around the clock.
Much of the credit for KRUU’s success goes to station manager Jimmy Moore, whose tireless work helped to birth the station in 2006 and who continues to drive its momentum.
To say that Jimmy is passionate about radio is an understatement. “Radio done right is an incredible experience,” says Jimmy, who earned an MBA from MUM in 1985. “It’s pure. It’s intimate. From the listener’s perspective, it’s just you and the person talking to you.”
Jimmy and his friend Roland Wells got the idea for the station in the early ’00s. Jimmy had been working as a tennis pro, musician and TM teacher. He’d been traveling a lot — to Spain, France, Switzerland, India, the Philippines, Mexico, England, Bahrain. Then he decided he wanted to stay put in Fairfield and dive into something that would have real meaning for him.
Jimmy and Roland drew up engineering specs for a community radio station and secured approval for a broadcasting license. Jimmy held town hall meetings to gauge community interest. It was there.
With donated funds, they purchased a modest brick one-story building on Second Street and set up a studio. Alliant Energy donated a 200-foot freestanding broadcast tower. Green Building Supply provided a floor. Pfizer pitched in some furniture. In all, a lot of individuals and organizations chipped in. But when launch day came around, Jimmy wasn’t quite ready for it.
“I begged the advisory board to put it off for two weeks,” he recalls. “They told me that things would be just as crazy then, so just go ahead and do it now.”
At that moment, Jimmy recalled a piece of advice given to him by his father. “He used to say, ‘Do something, even if it’s wrong.’ So I went ahead and jumped in.”
Filling up programming slots wasn’t a problem in Fairfield, with its many artists, writers and thinkers. “There are a lot of people here with a lot to say,” says Jimmy with a wink and a laugh.
Early radio shows included “Politiking with Ari Berman” by a twenty-something graduate of Fairfield’s Maharishi School who would go on to fame as a TV commentator and political journalist. BBC Filmmaker and MUM professor Stuart Tanner did a current events show of NPR quality, which still runs today.
The music library grew to require terrabytes of disk storage. The station’s online broadcast, KRUUFM.com, started to draw more listeners, many from more than 40 countries.
Today, the station boasts an impressive catalog of shows, which include Around the Town, Free Speech Radio News, Blues Oasis, Planet Erstwild, Lyrical Venus, La Nueva Hora Latina, Fringe Toaste, Filmosophers, Icon Art Radio, Eclectic Audiophile, and more. Jimmy is frequently an on-air host.
While attending MUM in his MBA program, Jimmy learned the value of being a part of a group focused on creating greater consciousness. “At MUM I learned that anything is possible,” he says. “I learned that it’s important to take personal responsibility for what you do. Responsibility is something that’s inside of you, not outside.”
Jimmy works frequently with MUM today, both as an instructor and as a recruiter of talent for the station. “The Media and Communications department is one of the shining lighthouses of the university,” he says. What he learned there informs all of his work at KRUU.
“This radio station is a rich, aural mosaic,” says Jimmy. “It gives voice to this community. I’m grateful to be a part of it. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Written by Warren Goldie