2012 - Radio Station
In the days of conglomerates and big business, Fairmont's local radio stations KSUM-AM and KFMC-FM have maintained their status as locally owned and operated.
The two stations have been in the hands of Woodward Broadcasting for nearly 50 years, keeping their focus on serving Fairmont and Martin County, both on air and outside the studios.
Woodward Broadcasting made its debut in Fairmont, MN, in November 1962. At the time, it consisted of Woodward's parents, Charlie and Elizabeth. The couple had retired to Fairmont and purchased KSUM. "My dad was in radio broadcasting since World War II," Woodward said. "He was at WOWO AM in Fort Wayne, IN, and then transferred to WIND AM in Chicago. I was brought up around radio and hung around it a lot."
Woody Woodward was in the military during the Vietnam War. When he returned to Fairmont, he began selling insurance. But in 1974, his father was dying of cancer, and Woodward joined the radio sales team to help out. "I had taken a six-month leave from my insurance sales job. That leave has turned into 38 years," he said.
While Woodward did some on-air work, he felt he excelled more on the business side of radio. He became manager of KFMC after he went to the board of directors to challenge the chosen format. "They were selling it as 'beautiful music,' but it just wasn't going over," Woodward said of the original format "We agreed to switch to an Adult Contemporary format, and the board made me the manager of the station." At the time, KFMC broadcasting was all automated. In 2003 KFMC changed format once again this time to Classic Rock, which remains today.
By 1980, Woody was acting as general manager of the company, and became president in 1982, when his mother passed away. But just prior, Woodward and his mother built the new building for the station west of town. "Before that, we were in the building that houses the gas company now," Woodward explained. "We were on the second floor, and the studios were actually suspended from the ceiling; the space was built to accommodate the bands and orchestras that came in and played on KSUM. They were suspended to keep the equipment from vibrating when the trucks would drive by. But the studios did not have windows. One day that I was looking out the window at the rain pouring so hard I couldn't see the parking lot. And the announcer gave the weather forecast ï¿½. It was pouring, yet the announcer said it was sunny."
Woodward said at that point he started drawing what he thought would be an ideal building for a radio station, which included windows in every room, especially the studios. When his mother saw it, they took the drawing to an engineering firm.
With the new building, KFMC became a live station. "At that time, we had about 35 employees. We had two separate announcing staffs, two separate sales staffs," Woodward recalled. That number is nearly halved today, with the sales staff selling for both stations and announcers doing some crossover work with some automation, also known as voice-tracking.
Technology has brought numerous advances and advantages to broadcasting, but there have also been some drawbacks. "There have been challenges with the Internet and satellite radio" Woodward said. "We have forms of communication that didn't exist 30 years ago. Because we are a for-profit business, we need to find a way to get revenue. Not all these changes are positive; a lot of them have hurt localism. But the positives for technology: we are doing things we never would have considered before. We're bringing live news from around the world at the top of each hour. National sports, like the Minnesota Wild games, are broadcast live. And we also have the equipment to go to sporting events around the area and broadcast live on location."
Before the economic bust, there were several big media companies, such as Clear Channel, that brought up numerous radio stations. Woodward feels the practice has diminished the radio industry. One example he gives is of a former announcer who went on to work for a group of five radio stations in Cleveland: "He ended up doing a voice tracking (automation) on all five stations, eliminating at least four jobs. For this reason young people aren't entering broadcasting. In addition, there aren't enough new students to justify schools training people for the few communication jobs that are available. It's difficult to hire quality people for our market."
But that doesn't seem to diminish the Woodward broadcasting product. "We're a small town, but we don't have to think small," Woodward said. "We find a way to keep our listeners happy and entertained."
Woodward was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame in October 2011. The fact that KFMC has been selected for induction into the Iowa Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is a tribute to the quality staff and the years of service to the people of the area.
KFMC signed on the air on August 1, 1978. The original power was 39,000 watts (ERP) from the current tower of 400 feet. The original format was an Adult Middle-of-the-Road format featuring Patty Page, Vickki Carr, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, John Denver and more. A year later, in 1979, the format was changed to Adult Contemporary, featuring the new music of the day. In 1983, it increased its power to 100,000 watts (ERP), the current power. As Adult Contemporary became more urban KFMC again switched formats in 2003 to Classic Rock. KFMC has been the "Home of the Free-Ride" since 2003, giving away eight Harley-Davidson motorcycles (soon to be nine) and an ATV in an effort to attract and hold the 25-to-64 demographic group. KFMC has audiences in 32 counties in both Minnesota and Iowa.