Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 19, 2004

KWOM goes off the air as sale completed

By Ryan Gueningsman

Radio listeners tuning into KWOM 1600 will no longer be able to hear regional sports coverage, local event information, or polka favorites with Randy Heuer Saturday mornings.

KWOM 1600, based in Watertown, has officially been sold, according to radio industry web site northpine.com.

The new owners, WM Broadcasting, have reserved the call sign KZGX for use on 1600 AM. It is believed that the new format will be of Hispanic nature.

The deal took place April 12. The following day, the new owners did some evaluation, and Wednesday, they said to “turn off the station at about sunset,” said former KWOM manager Bruce Johnson.

A nostalgia show was aired from 2 p.m. to about 5 p.m. that day, and following that, at 8:10 p.m., it was shut down.

The new owners plan on broadcasting out of the Twin Cities area, Johnson said.

The transmitter, located by Buck Lake, was from 1962. The new owners are going to put in a new transmitter in hopes of reaching farther, Johnson said.

Some members of the former KWOM staff have filed for unemployment, and Johnson has accepted a sales position at Herald Journal Publishing. Johnson was at KWOM four years. The station made it just one month short of eight years on the air.

“We were small staffed,” he said. “They all loved on-air radio and enjoyed their work being on-air. The staff would like to thank the listeners and sponsors, and keep away from the ownership thing,” Johnson said.

“There are things that could be said about it, but at the same time, it’s not going to change anything,” he added.

“You could tell it in Heuer’s voice when he came on to play a polka,” Johnson said. “He (Heuer) said that he wanted to have one more Saturday so he could say goodbye to everybody, but we found out we were not going to be here anymore after Wednesday.”

Listeners flooded KWOM’s voice mail with messages wondering about the station and why it was off the air.

“It all of the sudden has reality when you turn it on in the morning and hear static,” Johnson said. “There are people who don’t listen to us except Saturday morning for Randy Heuer or Sunday church services, so there’s bound to be more (calls),” Johnson said.

It is common in station ownership changes for stations to “go dark” until the new format can be put in effect, Johnson said.

It was estimated that the format change could take place in about three months, but it’s not known for sure how long it will take.

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