By Sue Taylor
What if there was a radio station in San Diego that offered a voice to those shut out of mainstream media; a station dedicated to social justice, music, local culture and progressive views? What if that station was commercial free? What if anyone with a desire and a willingness to serve the community could be a part of it? Well, KNSJ 89.1 FM is such a station and it’s located right in City Heights.
KNSJ FM is a full-power, FCC licensed, community funded, volunteer-run radio station. KNSJ offers news, public affairs, music and much more. Some of you may be familiar with the station from its live remotes from the Pride Parade, Earth Fair, and other public events.
Community radio is a third model of radio broadcasting, differing from commercial radio and public broadcasting. Community radio, like public broadcasting (think KPBS), is commercial free. There are over 300 community radio stations across the U.S. Before KNSJ was established over seven years ago, San Diego was the largest city in the country without a community radio station.
The call letters reflect KNSJ’s mission: Networking for Social Justice. The station is owned and operated by Activist San Diego, a long-time social justice organization. The station is dedicated to being a nonpartisan asset to the San Diego community and a resource for news, culture and information.
The driving force behind the station is general manager Martin Eder. Martin is well-known around town for his involvement with numerous progressive causes and groups. He got his start, and love of radio, at KCFR in Colorado, also a tiny community radio station. Eder had to come up with $60,000 to get the station up and running. To help bring his dream to fruition, he gathered local movers and shakers like Donny Walker and Tawnya Winter. A number of people were involved with raising the necessary funds and doing the technical work needed to get KNSJ started. The station began broadcasting on July 4, 2013.
“Our station provides a free form environment that allows artists, musicians, and DJ’s the freedom to create and grow,” music director Casey Hickenbottom said. “You’ll hear tracks, labels and artists you won’t hear anywhere else, all commercial-free. There’s no other station in San Diego willing, or able, to provide what we give to our listeners.”
KNSJ operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The station is fully automated, with content emanating from the studio at the station, the home studios of some producers, as well as syndicators like the Pacifica Radio Network.
With the transmitter and tower at over 6,200 feet in the Laguna Mountains, KNSJ’s signal can be heard over the airwaves from the US-Mexico border to Highway 52, from the East County mountains to the bay. Broadcasts can even be picked up in Imperial County and some parts of Tijuana. In some areas, the signal strength is weak, something the station is working on. The majority of listeners, here or anywhere in the world, catch KNSJ’s webcast by going to KNSJ.org, or with a smart speaker, or on a mobile device (with the Tune-In app).
KNSJ shows cover a multitude of topics with an emphasis on public affairs and social justice. The station carries nationally known syndicated shows like “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman, and the “Thom Hartman Show.” It also has many locally produced shows like “Talk of the Town,” with former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, the popular comedy show, “Laugh in Your Face,” “Women’s Radio Hour,” “Women of Color Roar,” “Notes from the Underground” and “Food for Thought.”
As KNSJ is truly a progressive station, many of its local public affairs shows are helmed by women. East County Magazine, hosted by Miriam Raftery, has won 116 major journalism awards. The long-running “Women’s Radio Hour” is led by Patria Law. “Women of Color Roar” is hosted by journalist and activist Angela de Joseph.
KNSJ airs music shows in a wide variety of genres. Local musicians or DJs can submit material or express interest in the station by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As noted above, KNSJ is staffed entirely by volunteers, from the on-air folks to the management. 89.1 FM continues to create local programs and offer an opportunity to community members to participate in live broadcasts and get on the air. They are actively seeking additional volunteers. While persons with fundraising, social media, and marketing experience are needed, all persons interested in radio, regardless of experience, are encouraged to volunteer. KNSJ is looking to make additional connections with musicians and performance venues. The station is particularly interested in meeting the needs of San Diego’s increasingly multiethnic and diverse population. You can find information on the station, including the schedule, at KNSJ.org. You can contact the station at 619-283-1100 or email@example.com. There is a monthly virtual meeting for new volunteers on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. When allowed, we expect to go back to meeting in-person.
– Sue Taylor is a retired English teacher and currently works as a private tutor and freelance writer. She has written for North Park News and Edible San Diego. Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.