How to Get Involved
Every semester we invite all interested students (regardless of their academic major/focus) to get involved at KCOU. Soon after classes begin, we hold informational sessions wherein prospective new members can learn more about the station. Afterward, we conduct a comprehensive training program to provide new staff members with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at KCOU. This past year, we welcomed over 90 new student staff members to KCOU who joined our veteran staff to bring you the best in new music, Mizzou news & sports, engaging talk shows, exciting events, great contests, and lots more!
If you are interested in getting involved in KCOU, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Keep in mind that there are also a number ways to work at KCOU beyond just DJ’ing: opportunities include news, sports, promotions, audio production, and much more!
– It Had to Start Somewhere…
KCOU’s past reaches all the way back to 1961 when KLOP began broadcasting from a broom closet in Cramer Hall. KLOP became a “real” station with KCCS 580AM in 1963, an amalgamation of several existing, small dormitory radio stations around the University of Missouri-Columbia’s campus, which later evolved into KCOU. The call letters for the station come from the abbreviation from the Columbia Airport. The station was established to serve the students of the residence halls as well as the entire surrounding community of Columbia, MO.
In 1972, Jim Green (President of IRHA and former chief engineer of KHMO Brookfield), John Bobel (General Manager), and Marv Wells (Program Director), did all of the legal, financial, and political work to create KCOU. KCOU became the first station in U.S. history to be licensed to a student group within a university, and not to the university administration! Jim Green held the First Class FCC license and so was nominally Technical Director. R. J. Hanson (Chief Engineer the semester that KCOU went on the air) did the installation of the new equipment in the station. Marv Wells, Phil Bourne (former News Director), Tom Lange (General Manager after John Bobel left in May of 1973), and R. J. Hanson worked together to erect the antenna on top of Hudson Hall. The FM was turned on live for the first time on October 31, 1973 at 88.3 MHz with 10 watts of power, and monaural audio, enough to cover most of the city of Columbia to the north, and south almost to Rock Bridge. Napoleon XIII’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Hah Hah” was the first tune on the air. In Spring of 1974, Marv Wells and Bob Gallo (new Chief Engineer) designed the layout of the station with help from Marv’s roommate Jim Buesing who was studying architecture. Mike Renth (new general manager), Marv, and Bob oversaw all construction of the new double-sized radio station studio space, and Bob did all of the stereo design and wiring for KCOU, and installed all the new stereo equipment, including the new 250-watt stereo FM transmitter.
– Big Things
Over time KCOU continued to grow and charted new musical territories. During the late 1970’s, KCOU served Columbia as a Progressive Rock station. Most of the specialty shows of that time stemmed from the era of KCCS. However, towards the end of the decade and into the early 1980’s, punk and new wave emerged, changing the sound of music and the station’s direction. Since Columbia had no outlet for the new styles of music coming out, KCOU began to attract those interested in the newer music, growing to be one of the foremost college radio stations in the country. In 1989, College Music Journal – the major publication and charting source for all college radio stations – named KCOU “Best College Radio Station of the Year.” We were an early champion of Uncle Tupelo (who split up forming Wilco and Son Volt in 1994) and were mentioned in the liner notes for No Depression, their first studio album. UT also played a KCOU benefit show at the Blue Note that same year, and in one of the most impressive moments in college radio history (still found in some broadcast textbooks) KCOU reunited the cult band Big Star for a campus show in 1993, which was the first time they had played together in 20 years. Music critics referred to it as a “minor miracle” (see also http://go.kcou.fm/bigstar and Wikipedia’s entry on the band for more info).
– Mid-Life Crisis
Five months later, KCOU was shut down due to claims of financial mismanagement and RHA fired the entire staff. The station became KEJJ “The Edge,” which was its one big attempt at a Top 40 format. The format failed quickly. Troubles erupted again in 1997 when RHA began negotiations to sell KCOU to KBIA, who wanted to use the station to broadcast more classical music. The student body and the Columbia community that rallied around KCOU saved the station from that fate. In November 1997, the Missouri Students Association (Mizzou’s student government) purchased KCOU from RHA for $80,000. KCOU approved of the deal based upon MSA’s promise that the student General Manager was to be selected by the KCOU staff and was to have complete artistic control with no interference from any outside organization. MSA made good on that promise, and continues to provide an annual budget and other organizational support for the ongoing operation of KCOU, and in return KCOU provides promotional support and airtime to assist with MSA activities and auxiliaries.
– The Hangover
After the wild rollercoaster of the 1990s and helping to break bands like Death Cab For Cutie, the early 2000s were spent recovering and arguably barely hanging on. Mizzou sports broadcasting emerged mid-decade with men’s football, women’s volleyball, and soccer. KCOU maintained a staff of about 50 or so, and the station began to fade from view in the community due to a lacking schedule as well as heavy reliance on an automation system that consisted of a 200-disc CD player featuring prerecorded shows that were rarely updated (a majority of which were produced from 2003-2005 but repeated through 2007). Multiple years of poor management coupled with the above issues made the station a prime candidate for elimination by MSA in 2008.
– The Great Funding Debacle
Hudson Hall, the site of KCOU’s tower and transmitter for decades, was scheduled for renovation late 2008/early 2009. Thus over the winter break of 2008-2009, our tower and transmitter were slated for relocation to Schurz Hall where a new tower was to be erected. Along with some other improvements, the project cost roughly $30,000, but by the start of fall semester ’08 MSA explained that the funding would not be provided unless it was demonstrated that KCOU was worth the investment. KCOU launched a public information campaign – “Save KCOU” – which was headed by the Program Director and fueled by the entire station. This effort included a website hub about these issues, a letter-writing campaign, widespread flyering, public protests, a short documentary, t-shirts, fundraising, local business partnerships, and media interviews. As campus/community awareness spiked, some MSA senators worked with KCOU’s GM and PD to negotiate a legislative solution to fund the tower. After a failed initial proposal, mediation sessions and roughly another three months of protests/meetings/emails/phone calls/relatively extensive media coverage, MSA decided to provide the needed funding on October 21, 2008.
While that was a huge win, the delay forced the project to be pushed back by six months and KCOU went off the air for the first half of 2009 during which online broadcasting continued. The station resumed its FM broadcast on July 9, 2009 and came back more powerful as it was discovered there had been a calculation error with the transmitter and KCOU’s signal had been underpowered for years. Around this time KCOU received two Communicator Awards of Distinction for “Overall Newscast” and “Student Produced Programs” for its 2008 Election Night coverage. (The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals and one of the largest contests of its kind in the world.)
– Your Station, Your Voice
Over the course of summer 2009, KCOU changed in many ways. A new logo was created, a tagline added (“Your Station, Your Voice”), a full-blown news department (re-)launched, refinements made to sports programming, a new production department formed, and several major technical issues resolved. Fall 2009 there were 112 new KCOU staff members, the largest number to join in a single semester up until that point. With an overall station staff exceeding 200 for the first time, over 73% of the hours in a week filled with live programming, several successful promotional events, and a number of Blue Note concerts (including a sold-out show with Grizzly Bear) KCOU was well on its way back to good health and a bright future. This was further evidenced when the station rocketed its way to the top 5 of the mtvU Woodie Awards for the category of “Best College Radio Station.” (KCOU came second to KUPS/University of Puget Sound; it is still unclear how a student body of roughly 2,500 was able to defeat KCOU and Mizzou…) Later that year KCOU was able to “Rock the Wrench” in its first major collaboration with the Student Union Programming Board – a campus-wide battle of the bands competition – and one of the most successful events of its type recently at Mizzou. The concept continues in its most recent incarnation as the “Shack Showdown.”
– The Future is Unwritten
Now KCOU finds itself in a unique and advantageous position. We have a brand-new studio with top-of-the-line equipment and new technological capabilities. Opportunities abound for new partnerships and events. And with a dedicated and thoughtful staff, we have all the means to take KCOU to new heights and solidify its status as an essential institution in Columbia.
While the end was clearly in sight during 1993 and again in the fall of 2008, the efforts by the many dedicated staff and fans of KCOU kept the station alive. The years will go by and the names and faces will change, but one thing remains certain: KCOU will persevere, continuing to grow and succeed as long as it maintains a passionate staff that has purpose and believes in its mission.
KCOU-FM has a Class A Non-Commercial license and is operated in accordance with Part 73 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.