Beside the Point – Keokuk radio….is on the air


A nice story of locals pulling together to keep a local business alive unfolded right in front of us here in Lee County.

Keokuk radio KOKX (AM 1310) and Z93 was on the chopping block in the spring with the possibility of going black becoming very real. But about eight community members got together to keep the music and information alive.

Leah Jones, who was almost single-handedly keeping the lights on, reached out to community members who looked at several options including almost negotiating a sale with a Chicago Labor Union. But diligence on that offer would take too long and the deal fell apart.

One of the community members helping to keep the radio station functioning was Mike Greenwald. Greenwald, a Keokuk City Councilman and former business manager at Krichel’s Animal Hospital, stepped up to the plate and offered to buy the radio station.

Now Greenwald can put his lifelong dream of working with a radio station to work. It’s a story not unlike that of Pen City Current so I’m attracted to what Greenwald and Jones are trying to accomplish.

It’s no easy task starting any business, but firing up a business that’s revenue is based on advertising is a special task. With the country as polarized as it’s ever been short of the civil war, the trust in media is at an all-time low. And ownership is not helping matters much with decimating reporter staffs and those charged with gathering the news.

You very rarely see a news broadcast scroll that doesn’t have typos in it. Local news outlets are not immune to that either, so to take on a responsibility where you are charged with providing factual information, while tailoring it to people’s ever-changing behaviors, is a courageous move.

I’ve come to know these two as determined people who have a passion for their community. Sometimes that word “passion” can be trendy and used where it may be a bit of an overreach, but not in this case. You need that passion in-house and the work of community members like Keokuk businesswoman Kathy Gabel, Lee County Supervisor Gary Folluo, Mayor Tom Richardson, Joe Steil with Lee County Economic Development Group, Dave Schwartz, Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism’s Kirk Brandenberger, and others also showed a passion for not letting the thing go dark.

They’ve brought back on-air personalities and are putting together a program that includes 70s-90s music. Greenwald does a morning show with guests from all around Lee County. He said at one point that if that show made one person happy, “That’s a good day’s work.”

That jibes with our intentions here at Pen City Current. At times I try to focus on writing pieces that are light and in those efforts, if I can make a person smile….well, yeah…that’s a good day’s work. If I do things a little different to let the natural come out, or a picture of a grandson or niece brings a smile to a relative’s face…we did a good thing.

I was on the way to the hospital with my daughter Kelsey for a rehab stint Monday and was listening to Z93 and “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche came on. Some may know that song…some may not, but for me it put a smile on my face.

I asked Kelsey to sit in the car with me and listen to the song….in the meantime I sent Jones a text….”Queensryche…you just made my day.”

The radio station has some fantastic out-of-the-box advertising packages and they are working to bring the radio station into the full of Lee County, not just the south side. We need more of that effort as this old mentality of two sides of Lee County starts to fade into the past. This upstart radio station could be another small catalyst in a bigger picture.

Oh…and the Cardinals and Hawkeyes games are on there as well, so there’s that.

So if you’re anywhere in my age range, which depending on what mood you catch me in, could be a couple decades, turn the station over to 93.9 or 1310 and give a listen. These are local people putting their best foot forward.

By the way, state law says fireworks stop tomorrow, so we can all stop holding our pets. But that’s Beside the Point.

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