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High fidelity

A no-frills approach to public radio won't stop KRCC from expanding its reach in Colorado Springs


FM Radio Station

KRCC-FM 91.5

912 N. Weber St., 473-4801

We're in KRCC's basement, surrounded by what general manager Delaney Utterback estimates to be 40,000 records many of them jazz, most of them decades old, all of them safely sleeved. They're painstakingly organized in square wooden shelves that, when paired with the room's cool and quiet, create a vibe almost approaching wine-cellar.

Three floors above, where people actually spend their time, cardboard to-go cartons tacked to sloped ceilings double as in-studio soundproofing material, la Hustle and Flow. It's warm, and news director Eric Whitney stands with a student intern at a torso-high desk. There's no chair in sight.

"Donald Rumsfeld-style," Whitney quips.

For a long time, some of the best indicators of KRCC's frugality and dedication to its product homegrown public radio have been hidden in its 912 N. Weber St. studios.

"There are no luxury suites, or staff parties that run into the wee hours of the night," asserts program director Jeff Bieri. "[Listeners] can trust that their contributions are being well-spent."

But now, perhaps as much as anytime before in KRCC's 56-year history, listeners actually can see that for themselves. With a pair of relatively conspicuous efforts, Utterback and Co. are trying to make the station bigger and better for the people who have named it their favorite 14 years running.


Whitney himself personifies one of those efforts: a push for more local news coverage. Nearly three years ago, "Western Skies" debuted as Whitney's weekly half-hour show dedicated to news from the Pikes Peak region and Colorado. It's essentially morphed into "KRCC Local News," airing on weekdays at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. (and often replaying at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. the following day). The new schedule gives Whitney more listeners and the chance to cover breaking news, like when fire ignited near the Manitou Incline in September.

"I just ran out there with my cell phone and Delaney got me on the air, and we were able to tell people what was going on," Whitney says. "We had a lot of listeners call and say they appreciated that."

A good working relationship with other public radio stations essential for sharing stories, given the limited resources of most public radio news directors yielded perhaps its most tangible fruit when KRCC banded with a handful of other stations to pay for Bente Birkeland to report full-time from the state Capitol.

The station's other obvious effort is on the music side of things appropriate, since Utterback says half his listeners gravitate toward news, the other half toward music.

In the late '80s and early '90s, former GM Mario Valdes single-handedly booked as many as three or four concerts a month, according to Bieri. Valdes, who left the station last year and passed away this September, let that go when it grew too time-consuming.

In the past year, Bieri whose baritone voice most listeners know from his afternoon "Blue Plate Special" and free-form shows has revived the scheduling of concerts again, bringing acts like Low, The Soul of John Black and Jos Gonzlez to Colorado Springs. On Oct. 19, KRCC organized a taping of stalwart radio show "etown" at Colorado College's Armstrong Hall.

While these things serve the whole community, Utterback says the station tries to ensure that its 5,000-plus members get unparalleled access to unique benefits, like free tickets.

"We feel like we need to make KRCC memberships as valuable as possible," he says.

Understandable, considering that when the current fundraising drive ends, listeners will have donated between $350,000 and $400,000 just this year to keep the station going and growing.

"People love KRCC," Whitney says. "It's obvious when I talk to people in the community. It's a huge advantage I have, that when I tell people I work for this outlet, I have this credibility, this automatic credibility that I try really hard to live up to."

Kirk Woundy

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