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.

The station works 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 monitors web traffic, online streaming metrics, Nielson Audio listener estimates, and gathers listener feedback through electronic media and personal interactions at live events.

A large portion of KSRQ’s broadcast schedule (approximately 100 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. 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 radio stations in the state.

KSRQ’s Artist Spotlight project was a radio series that aired in FY22 aimed at informing the community about art projects and events that had received funding from the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council. Many of the projects discussed on Artist Spotlight were funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, giving listeners insight into the creative work being supported with Legacy funds. This collaborative project featured interviews with photographers, painters, sculptors, woodcarvers, vocalists, musicians, actors, directors, arts advocates, educators, and festival and county fair organizers from Kittson, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau Counties. KSRQ created a total of 48 of the 10- to 15-minute weekly segments, which were broadcast on air, posted on the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council’s website, and made available to other Ampers stations via Public Radio Exchange (PRX). Artist Spotlight highlighted 44 artists and organizations from 20 Northwest Minnesota communities. NWMAC also shared the produced pieces on Facebook and published a podcast feed of the episodes. Approximately eight-and-a-half hours of Minnesota-focused content were broadcast, streamed, and archived from this project.

KSRQ’s Kezar Music Showroom Presents provided a variety of vintage live and studio-produced audio recordings by local musical acts that were featured in a 55-minute weekly broadcast hosted by Thief River Falls music store owner and musician Joel Kezar. Some of these recordings dated as far back as the 1960s. Episodes featured interviews with local musicians such as Darcy Reese, the Lincoln High School Choir, Back Behind the Barn Boys, and John Kimball. KSRQ created 20 of the shows that were each 50 to 60 minutes in length. Kezar Music Showroom Presents was a key historical documentation of the local art scene in and around Thief River Falls. The segments showcased 30 Minnesota-based music acts. Approximately 20 hours of Minnesota-based content was created and broadcast through this project. The program showcased more Minnesota musicians through public broadcasting, exposed listeners to art and culture, and increased local and Minnesota-focused content produced by public radio.

KSRQ’s Pioneer PolkaCast KSRQ HD-2 helped to preserve, curate, and share music and interviews of polka performers of the past, along with contemporary polka musicians. The station made the programming available on one of its digital (HD) terrestrial radio channels, as well as a 24/7 web stream. Pioneer PolkaCast attracted listeners statewide to its web stream. Pioneer PolkaCast featured vintage and rare recordings from more than 200 Minnesota bands from the past and present. Many of the songs heard on Pioneer PolkaCast were digitized by KSRQ staff from the original vinyl records and had not been heard since they were originally released in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Along with classics from bands like Whoopee John and the Six Fat Dutchmen, current polka bands from across the state were heard daily. The stream is much more than a computerized playlist of music. Lively hosted shows brought listeners historical information about this traditional music, along with interviews, community events, and conversation.

While most 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 later broadcast. This has saved resources for hosts who would have otherwise needed to drive 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 16,400 listeners online in FY22. 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 received over the air in our region by listeners who lack internet access. Several nursing homes have HD radios tuned to PolkaCast.

  • 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.

Pioneer 90.1’s Live Sessions was a series of free concerts, held in partnership with the Northland Community & Technical College Student Senate, The Thief River Falls Public Schools Instrumental Music Department, and the Thief River Falls Chamber of Commerce. In FY22, three concerts were held featuring Church of Cash, The Regiment Horns, and SixAppeal. Performances and interview segments were recorded for broadcast and made available to other Ampers stations via PRX. Pioneer 90.1 Live Sessions events yielded four 15- to 20-minute shows that were broadcast and posted to the Public Radio Exchange. Commenting about the Regiment Horns concert, held at Franklin Middle School, Thief River Falls resident and parent Alyssa Hanson said, “I really appreciate the kids getting this opportunity with the visiting musicians. [My student] had a good experience and the concert was great. Thanks for all you do for our kids!” Pioneer 90.1 Live Sessions included four professional Minnesota-based performers, along with approximately 75 student musicians from Thief River Falls. An estimated 1,250 people, in total, attended the three live events. Approximately two hours of content was created for broadcast and online distribution.

This November, students from Challenger Elementary School talked about the veterans in their lives to commemorate Veterans’ Day. In December, members of the Lincoln High School Wind Ensemble of Thief River Falls presented an hour of their favorite holiday tunes as part of KSRQ’s “North Pole 90.”

KSRQ continued its partnership with the Thief River Falls Chamber of Commerce to present RiverFest each August. The station contributes funds to support a Minnesota-based musical group to perform to one of the largest crowds to gather in Thief River falls each summer.

In addition, KSRQ partners with East Grand Forks Campbell Library. The 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.

St. Bernard’s 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.

Weekday afternoons, Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Grand Forks joined KSRQ for a discussion of the day’s weather, including threatening conditions.

  • 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.

KSRQ partnered with the Thief River falls Area Community Theater to present “Voices of the Theater” each week. TRFACT Executive Director Jane Anderson said, “In 2020, we committed to weekly Radio Readers’ Theater programs during the pandemic, in conjunction with Pioneer 90.1 FM. Our intentions were to revert to airing shows twice monthly after we returned to the stage. However, in 2022, Teresa McGriff stepped up to take on the bulk of production, working with Lexi Conwell, who has engineered several of our new shows. We’ve been able to continue weekly shows, creating new episodes as well as playing audience favorites from the past. While Radio Readers’ Theater is not a money-maker, it serves many purposes in line with our mission.  It provides creative opportunities for actors in the off-season, as well as to others who are not able to appear on stage for various reasons such as anxiety, small children, or scheduling issues. It also provides audiences all over the world with creative performance entertainment that is not readily available through other outlets and keeps us in the ‘spotlight’ year-round.”

Comments from KSRQ Listeners:

“Good morning! I recently visited your beautiful state for the first time visiting our corporate office in Winona. Being of Czech descent, I googled polka stations in Minnesota. Lo and behold I found y’all! That was back in February, and I’m still listening. I’m originally from south central Texas, Shiner. We love our polka and waltz music. Keep up the great work! Na Zdraví!.” – Dennis Pesek, KSRQ listener, commenting on Pioneer PolkaCast

“I grew up in central Minnesota but now live in Montana. Needless to say, Montana does not have any Polka music radio stations, so I really enjoy listening to your wonderful programs. Thank You!” – Joe, KSRQ listener, commenting on Pioneer PolkaCast

“Regiment Horns concert at Franklin Middle School was a great concert and wonderful opportunity for the kids! Kudos to you at Pioneer 90.1 for helping make this happen!” – Kelly Jesme Thygeson of Thief River Falls, KSRQ listener, commenting on Pioneer 90.1 Live Sessions

  • 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 2022, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2023. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.

KSRQ broadcast the series, “Minnesota Native News COVID-19 Community 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 looked at social, economic, cultural, and health issues facing Minnesota’s Native American communities.

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, discussed race, identity, social justice and culture.

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 aired a Hispanic music and culture program for one hour each week, called “Beat Latino.” A portion of that program is in Spanish.

In partnership with Northland community & Technical College and area employers, KSRQ plans to participate in a program called “A Seat at the Table” in the fall of 2023. The series of events will provide perspectives from the area’s new Nicaraguan community, culminating in a community dinner with foods from Minnesota and Nicaragua. The events will also feature speakers, art exhibitions, community conversations, and music reflective of Nicaragua.

  • 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, which continued until the college’s broadcasting program was discontinued in 2007. The CPB grant saved the station from closure and allowed it to start its 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 station’s 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 creating a local podcasting production facility; 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.