This is our 15th year of KHOL on the airwaves in Jackson Hole and we are celebrating all year long!
As the current music director here at the station I had a great time chatting with one of the founding members of KHOL back in 2008, Walker White, who joined me over the phone recently in the KHOL studios and gave us a sense of what it was like in those early days of community radio here in Jackson.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on March 8.
KHOL/JACK CATLIN: What made you personally want to get involved from those early days?
WALKER WHITE: I’m a huge fan of music. I collect vinyl. And so I loved the idea of sharing the music that I thought was important. And I also loved the idea of hearing hyper local programming, not just music, but all these individuals that I was starting to meet. After ten years in Jackson, it takes a long time to start to feel like a local in Jackson. And after about ten years there, you start to feel like a local and you start to establish contacts and know people who have all that expertise.
So I was meeting all these great people in different organizations that I was, volunteering for the community center. And it just seemed like everybody needed a mouthpiece and there just wasn’t that in Jackson. The commercial stations weren’t providing that. And we didn’t have the digital means at that time. There just wasn’t the base of podcasts and stuff to suss it out either. I believed in community radio because it’s something that I had always listened to as a kid. I loved the diverse music. I loved musical styles that weren’t being played in Jackson at the time and just wanted to try and put all of that up on a pedestal, kind of make it more prominent in our community.
KHOL: You must be proud as the one that basically started this station to see where it’s at now. Can you speak on that development over the last 15 years?
WHITE: I think it’s amazing to think that Jackson Hole Community radio is still broadcasting. You know, when we first started, we had to fight tooth and nail just to get our signal broadcast. We had to fight tooth and nail to get a space on the tower. We started broadcasting down on the town out of a terrestrial, a land based tower in town at an LPFM, a low power FM capacity. That means under 50 watts. The only people that were hearing us were people that lived within two blocks of town square. It’s like the stuff you started at a community college and now we’re broadcasting at full capacity. We’re broadcasting to the whole valley. And so I take great pride literally in just overcoming the physical obstacles because those physical obstacles took up so much of our time before we took the air. And then once you take the air, the physical obstacles fall by the wayside.
Then it’s all the other challenges of volunteer management and broadcasting and programming. I take immense pride knowing that new volunteers are still coming in the doors, finding a place for themselves in the Jackson community through Jackson Hole Community Radio and are also contributing and making that community a stronger community with their presence on KHOL. Everything on that station, when you’ve got volunteers doing the work, it’s done because they love the mission and what they’re doing. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a product that comes out of that kind of dedication The product that’s produced when people are producing it with their best intentions. Best intentions can lead you astray sometimes, but typically when you’re putting your best foot forward, you create something for everyone out of all that effort. I’m proud that Jackson Hole Community Radio is still an inclusive space for members of the community to come in to.
KHOL: What does KHOL mean to you and why should people donate to KHOL during our 15 year anniversary?
WHITE: KHOL to me means expression. It’s a mirror for Jackson Hole’s community culture. And why people should give is because here in our 15th anniversary, the station is at a critical turning point. It’s not a given that KHOL’s airwaves will stay broadcasting. Community stations lose their licenses all the time. People need to understand that. They need to understand what a rare treasure Jackson Hole Community Radio is and just how special that resource is in a small community like Jackson.
It reaches people even when the lights go out, it reaches people even when the storm is heavy and all the roads in and out of the valley are closed. You can still get the signal from KHOL. That matters on a practical level, but it also matters on a broader level when you just stop to think about that reflection of the community. That KHOL is always there, but don’t take it for granted. It may not be there next year. So this year and the next five years are really critical to helping KHOL form its mission for the next few decades. It’s important to donate and to support that local community programing and tell us with your money that this is an important resource I value.
KHOL to me has always been a source of pride, a way to leave a mark on Jackson that will always give back to the community.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Walker White.