KNKX settles in downtown Tacoma

How long has it been since downtown Tacoma hosted a radio station?

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

For many of us of a certain age, radio is the one medium that embodies and pervades almost every workplace, party, travel time and study session.

Since the heyday of radio – when you could find almost any kind of music, sports coverage, talk or commentary any time of day – and it was all free.

And most of it was worth listening to.

If you listen to radio now, of course,  you know that those days are long gone.

Music of quality – and certainly variety – has disappeared.

Music – and commentary (on almost any topic) are near 100% predictable.

Radio stations, like most of us, have retreated into well-worn and well established “filter bubbles” where we all know what we are going to hear, even though we have heard the same music (or music that sounds the same) or the same patter – and commercials – from networks that stretch across the country.

Besides being independent, radio used to be local – and with an actual human introducing music or news stories and adding a bit of context or back-story to make it even more memorable.

Now if you have a long road trip across a few states, you are likely to hear the same syndicated (and automated) programing and  maybe even the same pseudo-cheery chatter and lame jokes.

KNKX broadcasting footprint.  Image courtesy of KNKX.

KNKX broadcasting footprint. Image courtesy of KNKX.

Which might explain why so few of us listen to the radio in any consistent way anymore – and why those under about age 35 never do.

And that might explain why Tacoma, rarely one to go along with the crowd, is proud to host the new facilities for the relatively new KNKX station.  (1*)

Besides having a wide open lobby area (suitable for relatively small performances) KNKX will broadcast locally produced – and locally centered – stories on everything from the tallest trees in the state – and in Point Defiance (https://www.knkx.org/post/theyre-living-history-why-these-arborists-search-washingtons-tallest-trees) to the challenges of being Tacoma’s first African-American mayor (https://www.knkx.org/post/tacomas-first-african-american-mayor-heartbreak-racism).

Besides jazz, blues and NPR news,you can catch locally made stories like these on Saturday mornings (https://www.knkx.org/programs/sound-effect) or nationally syndicated games shows like Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! or Snap Judgment or you could catch the master story tellers at This American Life (Saturdays at noon) or you could follow entrepreneurs and economics on programs like How I Built This or Planet Money, or, for something completely different, have your mind boggled by the discussions and research you will only find at Radiolab.

Like newspapers, radio worth listening to is nearly extinct.

KNKX and we, the listeners and supporters of KNKX are not giving up.

General Manager Joey Cohn addresses the crowd at the grand opening of the new studio in downtown Tacoma. Photo: Morf Morford

General Manager Joey Cohn addresses the crowd at the grand opening of the new studio in downtown Tacoma. Photo: Morf Morford

About a thousand people showed up to welcome KNKX to their new studio home at 930 Broadway (former home to The Tacoma Ledger and directly across from The Pantages Theater) on Saturday, September 7.

KNKX will be a key player in the ever-growing arts and news scene in and around Tacoma.

As I’ve implied above, KNKX is a radio station, but it is far more than that. KNKX is a voice, a presence, something far closer than a utility than a radio station.

You might have the (perhaps justifiable) assumption that jazz (and NPR news) is the domain of old people – and maybe it has been.

But as you might expect, KNKX has a reach into the future with programs like The New Cool – a program wrapped around jazz inspired and informed by the sounds of today: hip-hop, & funk, Electronic music and punk rock. You can catch it on Saturday afternoons.

KNKX has made a commitment to Tacoma, and based on the crowd and continued local support, Tacoma has made a commitment to KNKX.

 

(1*)    KNKX is “new” in name only. Under the call letters KPLU, many of those same staff and hosts have been an active presence since the early 1970s.