Local Content & Services Report
1. Describe your overall goals and approach to address identified community issues, needs, and interests through your station’s vital local services, such as multiplatform long and short-form content, digital and in-person engagement, education services, community information, partnership support, and other activities, and audiences you reached or new audiences you engaged.
The goal of Pioneer 90.1 KSRQ is to bring together the people of northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota through radio programs and live events that would otherwise not be available in the rural areas we serve. KSRQ works with volunteer hosts who bring a diversity of music, interests, and ideas to the airwaves. The station also offers a platform for non-profits and artists to share their stories in conversation.
Since KSRQ began operated as a community radio station (after beginning as a training lab for broadcasting students in 1972), the station has worked to understand and meet the needs of its listeners and expand its impact through digital platforms, community partnerships, and live events.
KSRQ actively assesses the composition of its audience through market information provided by Radio Research Consortium. KSRQ’s main studio is located in Thief River Falls, a northwest Minnesota community of 10,000 residents. The station also has listeners in the metro area of Grand Forks, North Dakota and in smaller communities on both sides of the border. Programs of regional interest are produced at Northland Community and Technical College campuses in Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
To gauge listener interest, KSRQ uses these metrics:
• Web traffic
• Unique website visitors
• Online streaming metrics
• Arbitron listener estimates
• Listener feedback through electronic media and personal interactions at live events
A large portion of KSRQ’s broadcast schedule (approximately 95 hours a week) is locally-hosted by staff and volunteers. 16 of those original programs are made available for on-demand listening on KSRQ’s website. Recent updates to the station’s website have made it easier for listeners to quickly access archived content.
Selected programs are also archived at www.radionorthland.org and www.soundcloud.com. KSRQ’s Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage projects are posted to Public Radio Exchange and shared with other public stations in the state.
KSRQ opened its airwaves to a northwest Minnesota elementary school, a regional healthcare provider, a public library, and a regional art museum for its Community Voices segments. KSRQ integrated arts and culture into its daily broadcast schedule while increasing awareness and participation in community events. In FY21, listeners heard about an airplane hangar dance sponsored by the North Dakota Museum of Art; the new materials available each week at the Campbell Library in East Grand Forks; the ways small businesses were creatively adapting to the pandemic; and a variety of other topics happening in the listening area.
In December, KSRQ featured the voices of preschool and elementary students talking about their favorite holiday traditions. During the isolation of the pandemic, the station also provided a two-hour locally-hosted radio soundtrack to a holiday light tour that was viewed and heard by an estimated 600 participants in the socially-distanced safe spaces of the of vehicles.
KSRQ teamed up with the Sons of Norway Snorre Lodge to produce a series of broadcasts to replace the in-person events normally held in Thief River Falls to commemorate Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day. Though the week-long schedule of in-person events was canceled due to the pandemic, KSRQ listeners heard detailed stories of the Norwegian immigrants who settled in northwest Minnesota. In addition, the series also presented an account of the 99th Infantry Battalion, made up of Norwegian Americans who trained to liberate Norway from the Nazis in World War II. Nordic Fest Radio consisted of eight programs which were 10-to 18 minutes in length, with each airing two to three times.
When the pandemic forced the Thief River Falls Area Community Theater to cancel its schedule of live shows, the community theater joined with KSRQ to create a weekly radio broadcast that included radio dramas, virtual community concerts, and locally hosted programs focused on Broadway musicals. Over the course of the year, over 60 local performers and crew members got involved in this ambitious project, including 26 students.
While many of KSRQ’s volunteers produce their programs live in-studio, several find it preferable to record shows at home and transfer them (live or recorded) to the studio via the internet for broadcast. This has saved resources for hosts who would have otherwise needed to drive up to an hour each week to participate in community radio. It has also made it possible for hosts to contribute programming from home studios in Michigan and Wisconsin. The flexibility afforded by this technology has allowed KSRQ to grow its base of volunteers and listeners despite the challenging winter weather and long drives faced by everyone in northern Minnesota.
KSRQ remains the only radio station in northwest Minnesota to multicast using HD Digital Radio. Two additional stations have allowed KSRQ to expand popular programs to their own dedicated channels, reaching new audiences as a result. The Pioneer PolkaCast, KSRQ HD-2, was heard by more than 15,000 listeners online in FY21, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Page views for PolkaCast increased 32 percent from FY20. The channel preserves historical recordings (many from vinyl records) reflecting Minnesota’s German, Czech, and Scandinavian traditions.
KSRQ has received feedback and pledge support from listeners in several states who are happy to reconnect with this music on their internet radios, computers, phones and other devices. KSRQ HD-2 is well-received over the air in our region by listeners who lack internet access. Several nursing homes have HD radios tuned to PolkaCast.
2. Describe key initiatives and the variety of partners with whom you collaborated, including other public media outlets, community nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, the business community, teachers and parents, etc. This will illustrate the many ways you’re connected across the community and engaged with other important organizations in the area.
KSRQ’s Artist Spotlight series informed the community about art projects and events that have received funding from the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council. Many of the projects discussed were funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. In a series of personal conversations, artists and event organizers shared the inspiration for their projects, talked about the process of creating their work, and the impact their projects had on their communities. The artists interviewed discussed an array of projects, ranging from the “World’s Largest Sugar Beet” in Halstad, to an 8 year-old’s painting representing her feelings about Black Lives Matter, to a new interactive Veteran’s memorial in Warren. Among the 41 segments, artists from 13 of northwest Minnesota’s rural towns and cities were represented. The Arts Council also shared the produced pieces on Facebook and published a podcast feed of the episodes.
East Grand Forks Campbell Library’s director and volunteers appeared on KSRQ each week to talk about new materials, guest speakers, and library events.
KSRQ partnered with Northland Community & Technical College faculty on a series of segments for small business owners.
The director of the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks appeared weekly on KSRQ to preview new installations and talk about concerts.
Challenger Elementary School students wrote and recorded holiday greetings that were broadcast on KSRQ.
KSRQ teamed with members of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters to produce “Minnesota HomeBrew,” which featured approximately 400 original compositions throughout the year.
KSRQ aired the Minnesota CareerForce Jobcast several times each day. Carl Unbehaun from the local office shared a selection of job openings in the area and how to get assistance with job searches.
Throughout the pandemic, KSRQ partnered with Ampers, KAXE, and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association to broadcast a weekly statewide call-in program regarding Minnesota’s response to COVID-19 with Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and other state officials. KSRQ also carried live press briefings from MN Governor Tim Walz and officials from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Weekday afternoons, Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Grand Forks joined KSRQ for a discussion of the day’s weather, including threatening conditions.
3. What impact did your key initiatives and partnerships have in your community? Describe any known measurable impact, such as increased awareness, learning or understanding about particular issues. Describe indicators of success, such as connecting people to needed resources or strengthening conversational ties across diverse neighborhoods. Did a partner see an increase in requests for related resources? Please include direct feedback from a partner(s) or from a person(s) served.
Comments from KSRQ Listeners:
“Since Mom passed away in 2007, Cathy (Erickson) and her show have been a lifeline for Dad, and he had so much fun listening! I live in New Mexico and my sisters live in Minnesota, California, and Florida. We have enjoyed listening to Cathy’s show online, making requests and sending messages to Dad. It has been a great way to stay connected and share the experience of listening with him.” – Albuquerque, NM
“As an online listener from Austin, Texas, I discovered Pioneer PolkaCast by accident last year. I can safely say that it helped me get through much of the pandemic and, through its programming, have learned there is no way you can be sad when listening to a polka! I’ve also shared the station with my Austin-based parents. We often listen to the station together and plan to visit Minnesota soon!” – Austin, TX
“I listen to your wonderful, entertaining program (Midday Dance Hall) every day at some point during the hours you’re on (and always during the last hour of the program) on the SimpleRadio app. All this music is so enjoyable. Be well, stay safe.” – New Smyrna Beach, FL
“We listen (and dance) to PolkaCast and Cathy Erickson’s radio shows on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Monday night variety music show! Those are our favorites, but we also listen to other shows on PolkaCast as well!! In fact, listening to the rebroadcast of Monday night’s music variety show RIGHT NOW! Absolutely love the PolkaCast station! Thank you!!” – Thief River Falls, MN
“Thank you to Jane and all of TRFACT for the time and effort that went into making this happen over the summer!” – Thief River Falls, MN
KSRQ’s partnership with community non-profits is reflected in the following comments from event organizers:
“GREAT show last night from start to finish. I was so pleased with the whole thing. Thank you for your brilliant editing. I loved the intro/outro music. So fun!” – Jane Anderson Executive Director, Thief River Falls Area Community Theater, commenting on “Voices of the Theater.”
“I want to thank you so much for giving us airtime to host radio shows on Pioneer 90.1 FM as a Nordic Fest event for our Sons of Norway lodge. We normally have a full week to 10 days of activities in the community in the days surrounding Syttende Mai (May 17) to celebrate our Norwegian heritage. With COVID running rampant and restrictions on all gatherings, this all had to be cancelled – but RADIO works out very well. Our members could record their shows individually in a private room, and everything was done safely. Thank you for providing that safety. I received many compliments for our efforts on these days of radio shows, aired three times daily. People are at home so much now and appreciate hearing personal narratives from people they know in the local community. Thank you for all you do for the listening area!” – Jan Strandlie, Thief River Falls, Nordic Fest Committee, commenting on Nordic Fest Radio
“The music was great last night, thank you for working with us on that. We underestimated the number of people who would come out for it, but we had lots of smiles!” – Lisa Hinrichs, Thief River Falls, ECFE Teacher and Program Coordinator, commenting on Holiday Light Tour
4. Please describe any efforts (e.g. programming, production, engagement activities) you have made to investigate and/or meet the needs of minority and other diverse audiences (including, but not limited to, new immigrants, people for whom English is a second language and illiterate adults) during Fiscal Year 2019, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2020. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.
KSRQ broadcast the series, “Minnesota Native News COVID-19 Conversation,” focusing on the impact of the pandemic on the state’s indigenous population. The program was produced by Ampers.
KSRQ aired “MN Native News,” produced by Ampers. Each week, Minnesota Native News looks at social, economic, cultural, and health issues facing Minnesota’s Native American communities. By informing and educating all Minnesotans about events, activities, and issues in Minnesota’s Native American communities, this program interweaves the Native American culture into the rest of the communities of the state.
KSRQ broadcast the series, “Minnesota Native News COVID-19 Update” and the “Minnesota Native News Health Report,” focusing on the impact of the pandemic on the state’s indigenous population. Both programs were produced by Ampers.
Beginning in March, KSRQ broadcast “Counter Stories.” The weekly series, produced by Ampers, discusses race, identity, social justice and culture.
Also beginning in March KSRQ broadcast “Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice,” a daily update on the trial of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. The series, produced by Ampers, provided news and commentary on issues of race and police accountability in Minnesota.
KSRQ airs a Hispanic music and culture program for one hour each week, called “Beat Latino.” A portion of that program is in Spanish.
5. Please assess the impact that your CPB funding had on your ability to serve your community. What were you able to do with your grant that you wouldn’t be able to do if you didn’t receive it?
KSRQ began as a training lab for students until the college’s broadcasting program was discontinued in 2007. The CPB grant saved the station from closure and allowed it to start the transition to the successful community station is it today.
Since it was admitted into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Community Service Grant program, KSRQ has recruited community volunteers who create programming that has become very valued in our region. Each host brings new listeners to the station, along with a greater sense of community. CPB funding allows for training and scheduling of volunteers, and the marketing of volunteer shows through the website, social media and print media.
CPB funding has also allowed the station to bring quality national programs such as “Beat Latino” and “American Routes” to listeners in our area.
KSRQ has cultivated a growing audience through a carefully considered mix of programming tailored to our region, with an emphasis on increasing the number of local voices heard on the air.
KSRQ also uses CPB funding to serve its listeners a mix of independent music not heard elsewhere in our region. KSRQ strives to make its music playlist as inclusive as possible.
CPB funding allows KSRQ to employ a full-time station manager who oversees the station’s underwriting and grant maintenance. We are happy to say that KSRQ’s community of listener supporters grows each year, and now includes many listeners from outside our FM broadcast coverage area.
KSRQ is looking to the future of community radio by offering additional programming on HD radio and streaming stations; exploring the possibility of hosting a local podcasting workshop; working with volunteers to create and submit programming from home; and investigating locations for additional studios in our area.
The past decade has been one of exciting growth at KSRQ. CPB grants have been essential to these changes. The staff and volunteers are immensely grateful to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for its support of KSRQ.