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KOSU on OKC's Film Row
Story by Michael Baker
Photography by Phil Shockley
The oversized switch was flipped. A microsecond later, the “on-air” light glowed strong and bright as KOSU radio went live from its new studios in downtown Oklahoma City.
“It’s just another jewel in the crown of Oklahoma State University,” OSU President Burns Hargis told about 200 people gathered Sept. 20 at the Hart Building in Oklahoma City’s Film Row.
“Hearing KOSU live from historic Film Row is the culmination of more than two years of planning, construction and audio engineering,” Hargis said. “The expansion of KOSU into downtown Oklahoma City serves a dual role as an academic extension of the broadcast programs on the OSU campus and as a public service outreach for the university and the arts community in Oklahoma.”
Doubling the Local
The $400,000, 4,000-square-foot studio space will join the KOSU studios in Stillwater and double the National Public Radio station’s capacity to produce local news and music.
KOSU Film Row will serve as a hub for collaborating with the state’s other public media organizations. The facility features performance and production studios and an expanded and technically enhanced newsroom. New satellite receivers and other technology will allow KOSU to upload and download NPR data and audio interviews faster and with greater clarity.
“Our mission has always been to serve as a conduit of fresh ideas and thinking to contemporary audiences, and our new studios are ideally located to further that goal,” KOSU Director Kelly Burley said.
The Film Row studios allow KOSU staff to connect with listeners as public donations become more important to maintain its operations, Burley said. A $150,000 donation from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and $75,000 from the Kirkpatrick Foundation helped fund the new station.
OSU alumna Jenifer Reynolds, a former television news anchor and KOSU reporter, began the Sept. 20 live broadcast from the Hart Building.
“We’re happy to get to share this with you,” she told a radio audience of thousands and the group that had gathered in the atrium of the renovated building at the corner of Sheridan and Shartel avenues. “This will be a unique gathering place for conversation, music and art.”
Several dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the studios’ opening, including OSU alumnus Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb; Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett; Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid, who is running for mayor; OSU alumnus Chip Fudge, the developer responsible for renovating the Hart Building and several other properties in the area; and President Hargis and First Cowgirl Ann Hargis.
“As an OSU grad, I’m thrilled we are here on Film Row,” Lamb said. “OSU makes a difference not just here, but in the nation and the world. Thank you for the difference you make in this state.”
Anchoring Film Row
The renovated Hart Building is an ideal place for KOSU’s venture. The building also houses a half-dozen other businesses including resource and oil companies, financial institutions, the deadCenter Film Festival and Chopt coffee and sandwich shop.
“KOSU is now positioned as an anchor institution for Film Row,” Burley said.
The Film Row district dates back to 1907, when entrepreneurs sold equipment and supplies to theater owners and offered spaces where films were screened before being shown to the public. The area was largely abandoned from the 1960s through the 1980s.
In recent years, Fudge has bought several of the art-deco buildings and begun renovations like that of the Hart Building. Film Row is now home to an art gallery, screening room, shops and other offices. According to a recent article in The Oklahoman, about 500 people work along the two-block stretch of Sheridan.
Radio Star Not Dead
KOSU’s expansion into the thriving downtown Oklahoma City area attests to the quality and longevity of the station, Burley said.
“Whoever said that radio was a dying medium certainly has not heard the KOSU story,” he said.
The station began broadcasting on Dec. 29, 1955, with its first antenna located on a light pole in a parking lot at 6th Avenue and Walnut Street in Stillwater.
Today, KOSU has antennas sitting atop two 1,000-foot towers near Oklahoma City and Tulsa. KOSU broadcasts cover 54,000 square miles in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. It’s the largest broadcast coverage area of any public radio station in the state. In addition to about 83,000 on-air listeners every week, KOSU also has a bustling website with nearly 20,000 unique online visitors per month.
“KOSU is a radio station on the rise with significant growth in listeners, as well as community and business supporters,” Burley said. “The OKC studios complete our triangle of influence connecting our base studios in Stillwater and our satellite studio at OETA’s OSU-Tulsa campus location.”