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KTAL celebrates five years on the air

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Peter Goodman
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Commentary:

KTAL-LP is five!

More than seven years ago, Kevin Bixby learned that the FCC would grant a “low-power” radio license in Las Cruces. Meanwhile, experienced journalist and community radio guru Nan Rubin had moved here. A small group of us applied for the license, spread the word, found and trained folks who wanted to do radio shows, studied rules, bought equipment, and rented studio and radio tower space – all to become a real radio station.

I’d hosted a daily radio show for six months on commercial radio here; in Taiwan in 1986-88, I gabbed (in English) on radio; and in the mid-1970s I hosted a weekly news-discussion show on KRWG-TV.

I thought we could fill an important need that would soon grow more important: helping Las Cruces talk to itself. Politically, culturally, socially, musically, artistically, and more. As other media died, or their local programming dried up like desert puddles, we’d need an independent, non-partisan community radio station.

So we busted butt. Not to compete with KRWG Radio, to which most of us listen regularly, but to supplement KRWG’s local programming. With award-winning national NPR shows, great classical music, plus some local shows, KRWG had limited resources for local news, let alone an eclectic mix of music shows hosted by radio rookies.

Five years ago, we finally seemed ready to go on air. Some felt we should raise more money, to ensure that once we went on air we could survive; others felt we should jump right in, and new listeners would contribute enough to keep us going. (I was in the “Jump right in” camp.) We jumped.

“Speak Up, Las Cruces!” was the first regular program we aired, and the only two-hour news-oriented show. Walt Rubel quickly joined me as co-host; Minerva Rivera volunteered as our engineer, so that I didn’t have to try to run the board while talking to guests and callers. Weekly, she saves us from madness and idiocy. More recently, Shirley Baca became a third co-host, bringing her unique local perspective and knowledge.

How do I feel about “Que Tal!” turning 5? Delighted – and determined to make us better! We quickly developed a set of shows that were generally pretty good, each with its own style and focus. Some show-hosts were experienced and skillful; others had always wanted to try radio, and quickly made the best of this opportunity to do so. People listened. Some contributed money. We kept on keeping on, all of us volunteers until we finally hired a part-time station manager early this year.

We survived COVID, although mask arguments cost us one excellent show, and COVID precautions kept us from gathering in person for a long time, let alone holding another spectacular Rio Grande Theater fund-raiser. People joined us, and others left. Space doesn’t permit me to rave about the many wonderful KTAL folks who’ve impressed me, on-air and behind-the-scenes.

Peter Goodman's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.