Radiothon donors can get KZMU swag such as t-shirts or the buff pictured here, modeled by Serah Mead, KZMU's general manager. [Photo: KZMU webpage]

High atop Rocky Road just south of Moab’s city limits sits KZMU’s solar-powered nonprofit radio station. It may be found on the FM radio dial at 90.1 and 106.7 and streamed online at www.kzmu.org.

For nearly three decades, KZMU has been what it calls an “aural oasis in the desert airwaves of southeastern Utah” with a mission to inform, educate, engage, entertain and connect.” In pursuit of that goal, KZMU has an original news show and also features Democracy Now and Science Moab, as well as a selection of regional productions – plus lots of music, featuring tunes both familiar and obscure from a wide range of genres.

A small staff and many volunteers make the radio magic happen. KZMU General Manager Serah Mead told the Moab Sun News that she estimates there are currently more than 80 volunteer DJs and hosts representing what she called “a diverse slice of our community.”

KZMU is gearing up for its Fall Radiothon fundraiser which will run from Friday, Oct. 23 through Saturday, Oct. 31.

“Radiothon is KZMU’s equivalent to the ever-familiar public radio pledge drive,” Mead said. “It is a focused push for … members and their financial support.”

Mead said the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allows KZMU to raise money for a total of 18 days out of the year, which KZMU divides between two Radiothon fundraisers, one in the spring and one in the fall. She said KZMU needs to raise $35,000 each Radiothon to meet its budgetary goals, which include expanding programming and supporting staff. Mead said Radiothons account for about 50% of the income of the station.

“We are all used to having KZMU there at our fingertips,” Mead said, “but it’s important to realize that, in this day and age, independent media that is fundamentally of, by, and for the community it serves is super unique and valuable.”

Those who donate don’t just get the satisfaction of supporting the radio station – there are “thank-you” gifts available, including t-shirts with a new, original design featuring what Mead calls the station’s “mysteriously donated radio junk angel sculpture,” as well as several KZMU stickers. There are also woolen KZMU socks and knit caps just in time for the colder months, as well as promotional buffs, the multifunctional cloth tubes that may be used as a scarf, sun protection, and more.

“We’re always putting out new swag so I want to make sure our stuff is really high-quality. I’ve heard so many compliments on the socks!” said Mead.

Donations may be made by phone or online, and Mead said the public is also invited to come up to the station (1734 Rocky Road, Moab) to donate and pick up their thank-you gifts at a tent set up at the station’s entryway between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of Radiothon. This is KZMU’s pandemic-safe version of the tent it usually sets up at City Market.

As is the case for many local organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has created what Mead called “some major challenges,” including two months in which no DJs came to the studio to do their shows. During that time, KZMU News shifted to focus on pandemic-related news and updates and expanded from 10 minutes to 30 minutes between March and July. The radio station’s ladies’ arm wrestling tournament fundraiser had to be canceled.

“We … essentially had to re-think what the role of community media truly is,” Mead said.

Mead said KZMU Trustees are working hard on long term visioning, diversity, equity, and inclusion policy and overall long term sustainability.

“These two pandemics, coronavirus and systemic racism, have put KZMU is a unique place to not only make changes on an organizational level, but broadcast and be a platform for conversations on the kind of change that needs to occur in our greater shared spaces,” she said.

The majority of KZMU DJs are back in the studio now, wearing masks and sanitizing surfaces before and after each show.

“KZMU’s DJs are the lifeblood of this little station and I can’t tell you how nice it has been having them back, live, on the air,” Mead said, adding that some programmers are still pre-recording shows from home.

“We are beyond grateful for all of their dedication,” she said.

Mead said the radio station is still figuring out ways to continue to connect with listeners without being able to host live events – though she said KZMU is moving forward with its 2021 live radio play in a way that is “COVID-safe, full of surprises, and absolute radio magic.”

“Stay tuned for details,” she added.

For more information or to make a donation, go to kzmu.org or call the office at 435-259-8824.

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“Independent media that is fundamentally of, by, and for the community it serves is super unique and valuable.”

– Serah Mead


When: Oct. 23 through Oct. 31

Where: on air at 90.1 and 106.7 FM; in-person at 1734 Rocky Road, Moab

Contact: 435-259-8824; www.kzmu.org