Transmission 500    April 2007

In this issue:


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Dear Friend of KNOM,

In September 1966, when Nome Static Transmission #1 was mailed to a handful of friends and contacts, no one could have imagined that almost forty-one years later, you would be holding #500 in your hands. 

Or, in the case of this electronic edition, reading it on your computer screen!

It’s been quite a journey, filled with trials and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Below, you’ll see just a couple of highlights from those years, as the oldest Catholic radio station in the United States, KNOM has a long history of informing and inspiring remote Eskimo and Indian villagers for hundreds of miles.

We hope that in this 500th edition, you enjoy this expanded Nome Static, including a handful of photographs that we couldn't fit into the paper version.

Thank you for your kind support and your prayers, which keep our mission strong.





WE NEED MORE SHELF SPACE! (left)  KNOM volunteer Jesse Zink holds the Communicator Crystal Award he won for the mission.

Honored was “Juneau Journal,” a weekly program he produces that explains issues of special interest to western Alaskans.

Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is 1,100 miles from Nome and 1,400 miles from some of the villages we serve.  That’s the same distance that separates Philadelphia from Dallas.

Please pat yourself on the back for helping create this valuable and award-winning program.

And congratulations and thanks to Jesse!


HAMMING IT UP:  Congratulations to KNOM public affairs director Amy Flaherty, who just passed the test to become an amateur radio operator. 

With call sign KL3DW, she joins fellow mission hams Les Brown, KLOG, Lynette Berger, KLWC, Tom Busch, NL7H, and Paul Korchin, KLWS.

For some folks, ham radio is simply a fun hobby.  In western Alaska, however, it’s serious business.  A series of mountaintop repeaters provide the only person-to-person emergency communication in the wilderness.



     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:    The future is a place, created first in one’s mind and will, and then lived.

     We can influence the future by how we change ourselves, our attitudes and our actions.

     Lord, help me to live today the way that is right and holy.


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NEW FRIENDS: (left)  News director Paul Korchin befriends a pair of canine athletes at the start of the Iditarod Race on Anchorage's Fourth Avenue..

Local businesses paid for Paul to fly the 1,100-mile trail again, and along with other members of the KNOM staff, he shared duties greeting teams as they arrived in Nome.


(Left)  KNOM volunteer inspiration director Dave Dodman snapped this picture of Paul at the Nome finish line.

Paul is carrying a 2-watt transmitter which beams to the KNOM studios, a few blocks away.  We often use these little units to broadcast live from remote locations.


(Left)  Dave also captured  an enthusiastic dog team as it charges up from the ocean ice onto the street, one-third mile from the Iditarod finish line.



A NEW TRANSLATION:  You may have read last month that our village translator project has been stalled for more than two years, as we have struggled to find a way of economically feeding these eleven low-power transmitters with our audio signal.  AT&T wanted $110,000 a year!

We’ve found the answer.

The solution is HughesNet, a corporation which recently began offering satellite Internet service to Alaska.  They provide reliable Internet, fast enough for us to send our signal into all of these isolated villages.

1975-2005 KNOM general manager Tom Busch, who now serves the KNOM mission as development director, was originally a broadcast engineer. 

Last month, he took a course to become a certified installer of these Hughes systems.  He is about to become an authorized dealer, which means that he will be able to purchase these systems for KNOM at the lowest cost possible.

The price for each translator system, before shipping to villages, including the Internet equipment, low-power transmitter, power supply, cables and Tom’s bush plane travel, will be about $3,000 per location, less than we had originally thought.

Ongoing expense will be about $62 per translator per month.

You can imagine how excited we are, as the project promises to double the number of people who can hear us.  Please look for more next month!


WILLINGLY:  Please consider adding the KNOM mission to your will.  For most of us, it is the largest gift we will ever be able to make.  We prayerfully place all bequests into funds that provide for major improvements and protect the mission during future emergencies.



     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:  Look at the design of a woven basket. 

     From the simplest basket to the most complex, the ribs must be centered and held in balance. 

     They are the fixed bearings that guide the whole rhythm of the weaving.  If the ribs are out of balance, the whole basket is lopsided, uneven, or off-center. 

     Just like a woven basket, our life must have a fixed bearing Jesus Christ.


     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:   You have to do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are at the time.  That’s all God asks of us.





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 (Left)  July 14, 1971, at 5 PM, Bishop Robert Whelan, SJ presses a button that starts KNOM’s inaugural program.

The old “temporary” Army World War II buildings which housed the volunteer staff, and the old house which was hammered into a studio, had been renovated by a roving construction crew of diocesan volunteers.

The first broadcast team, volunteers Alex Hills, John Pfeifer, Harry Gallagher, Tom Busch and Leo Kehs were all professionals who had given up a year or more of their careers to get the Catholic project on the air.

From its first minute, KNOM was immensely popular. 

In the 1970s, there were no official surveys, but an informal one by Alaska Fish and Game determined that more than 90% of villagers for 100,000 square miles listened to KNOM every day. 

In the early years, before television and before many villages even had electric power, the average adult listened to KNOM an incredible ten hours a day.



Finances were shaky, and they were largely held together by other volunteers, for the most part registered nurses who worked at Nome’s hospital, living as volunteers and donating their entire incomes to the mission project.  Gifts by mail accounted for about 10% of the station’s income.

 (Left) In Nome’s hospital, Candy Gleason, RN (with mike) and Meg Gabriel, RN use shortwave radio to give medical advice to remote villages.

     Over the years, a total of 70 nurses, 4 doctors, a librarian and an accountant contributed their entire salaries for a year or more.



From its earliest conception, the station’s format was designed to reach a wide audience, aimed to capture listeners who would never ordinarily tune to an educational or a religious radio station.

And so, then, as now, in addition to Mass and other Catholic religious programs, the station featured a lot of important news, five minutes an hour of both national and regional.  It played a variety of popular music.  At the core were educational and inspirational spots sprinkled among the music and information.

At first, the educational spots addressed serious but very basic topics.   At the time, for example, many people in the region didn’t know that brushing teeth was necessary.   



As time passed, KNOM began addressing more complex issues, such as alcoholism, suicide and other violent deaths, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, gasoline sniffing….problems which are endemic to western Alaska.

These problems continue to exist, but because of KNOM, they are no longer viewed as being a normal part of everyday life.  We continue to educate, to encourage people to seek help, and we lead them to the resources they need for that help.

(Left) in 1983, volunteer production director Lynette Schmidt checks the plywood “spot board” in the manager’s office.

Each card represents one of 64 spots that air in rotation. 

When KNOM first signed on the air, staff were admonished to use only terms that were familiar to the village audience.  To describe something as “the size of a golf ball” was silly, as most of our listeners had never seen one.  With time, the sophistication of our audience grew, and our format grew with them.In the mid 1970s, we introduced longer news shows, adding six 20-minute regional newscasts a day, plus an evening public affairs program.

(Left)  U.S. Senator Ted Stevens speaks to KNOM listeners in 2005.

Since 1971, every Alaska governor and senator has appeared over KNOM many times. 

For many of our village listeners, it has been their only way to learn politicians’ views on issues that are important to the isolated Alaska bush.


(Left) Some of the KNOM buildings as they appeared prior to 1992.  The studio, at right, was a converted house. 

The buildings at center and left, as well as buildings behind them, were fifty-year old “temporary” U.S. Army barracks and offices which the government abandoned following the end of World War II. 

Flimsily constructed, they were expensive to heat and growing dangerous. 

Volunteers living in the building at center dubbed it “The Fire Trap.”  In 1992 and 1993, generous gifts by donors allowed us to replace all of these structures with safe, efficient super-insulated buildings.



(Left) In 1982, 30-year KNOM general manager Tom Busch shares a podium with Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite was the Alaska Broadcasters Association’s featured speaker, and Tom had just been elected the organization’s president.  He was the first representative from a religious station to lead the trade group, and served two terms.

The second person from a religious station to lead Alaska’s radio and TV industry was Ric Schmidt, KNOM’s long time director of programming, and general manager starting in 2005.  Ric  served as president for two years, 2004 through 2006.



Among KNOM volunteer support nurses, Anne McCarthy (left) was noted for her sideline as a KNOM deejay.

From 1979 to 1982, Anne donated not only her entire salary, but also her talent on the air. 

She was often called on to voice spots, and to narrate programs.

Most of KNOM’s spots, recorded onto tape cartridges, are visible in a rack just behind Anne.



In 1982, gifts by nurses accounted for 66.3% of KNOM’s operating income.

In the 1980s, a nursing shortage struck KNOM, as well as the health care industry. 

The mission sought help by mail, and thanks to the kindness of many good people, continued to operate, then as today.  After several frightening years, KNOM’s finances stabilized in 1987, when gifts by mail accounted for 86.3% of the station’s funds.

(Today, contributions by people like you are 97% of KNOM’s operating revenue.  Thank you!)



In 1979, KNOM was presented by Unda-USA, the national group of Catholic communicators, with its highest honor, the Gabriel “Radio Station of the Year” Award.  Since that year, KNOM’s outstanding programming has won that award a total of 14 times.

In addition, KNOM has been honored by the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) Crystal Award for Excellence in Local Programming no fewer than 4 times.  It is the only religious station to have been given this coveted award.

NAB has also given KNOM its Marconi “Religious Station of the Year” twice.

(Left)  In August 1998, KNOM’s newest volunteer, Michael Warren (front right) holds KNOM’s newest Gabriel "Radio Station of the Year" Award.   

Another new arrival to Nome, volunteer Kelly Brabec (front left) holds one of our mission’s five previous Gabriels, as do (left to right) volunteers Jodi Engle, Connie Fessel, Vicki Muzik and Kevin Glynn. 

Why should a Catholic radio station in remote Nome, Alaska be so praised, you might ask.  The answer is the absolute dedication of our generous, hardworking, talented staff to helping improve the lives of the people in this far-flung region.



Since 1971, we knew that in addition to 100,000 square miles of Alaska, we were also heard deep inside the Soviet Union.

In 1987, volunteer Therese Horvath, who speaks fluent Russian, created “KNOM’s Radio Bridge to Siberia,” with news of interest to both sides of the border in both languages.

(Left) Later, volunteer Sean Brennan, here with Siberian Yupik (YOO-pik) elder Tim Gologergen, produced the show in English and the Siberian Yupik Native language.




(Left) Among Eskimo cultures, the wisdom of elders is held in high regard.  In February 2002, volunteer news reporter Julia Arrotti interviews Inupiat (in-OO-pee-at) senior Dan Karmun for the first of what we plan as a long-running series, “Elder Voices.”



The field of broadcasting has come a long way since KNOM’s first day on the air. 

Early on, we relied on magnetic tape and vinyl discs.

In 1993, as our original equipment was wearing out, we began using computers to store and play audio.

Thanks to this new technology, in January 1996 we began broadcasting 24 hours a day.

(Left)  KNOM general manager Ric Schmidt checks a few of the more than thirty computers the station uses today.


To thoroughly tell the story of the KNOM mission, its 300 volunteers over the years, the sometimes bone-weary work, would take hundreds of photographs and hundreds of pages.

We hope you enjoy this brief snapshot of a few elements of our mission.

Thanks to you, there is a beacon throughout road-less western Alaska.

That beacon offers the Mass and Rosary, lifesaving information, healing, companionship and hope to dozens of villages.    May our Heavenly Father bless you for your help!



     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:  A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels.


     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:  One of the best talents is the incredible ability to say no. 

     When asked to cheat in school?  No. 

     When asked to drink to excess?  No. 

     When asked to break a marriage vow?  No.

     This wonderful ability can bring us closer to God, avoid much misery, and build peace.


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RARIN’ TO GO:  (left)  KNOM’s Amy Flaherty caught this trio of Iditarod dogs, who just couldn’t wait to hit the trail from the Anchorage starting line.

Ten days later, 150 miles north of Nome and five miles above the ground as his son Lance Mackey won the 2007 Iditarod Race, Lance’s father Dick was aboard Alaska Airlines flight 153. 

He was heartsick.  Due to flight delays, he was unable to reach the finish line in time to greet his son at the moment of victory.  In the jet’s flight deck, the pilots, listening to KNOM, announced the good news to Dick, who then received a resounding cheer from the other passengers.

Old time KNOM fans will remember that Dick won the 1978 Iditarod Race by a half-second.  They will also recall that Dick is an old friend of the mission.  He was part of the steel working crew that built the KNOM tower, and he maintained it for us for many years.


FORTY YEARS AGO Of all people, the Shah of Iran visits remote Nome in April 1967, en route to a polar bear hunt on Alaska’s rugged northwest coast.


THIRTY YEARS AGO:  From the village of Chevak in April 1977, Mary Nanuwak, RN, visits KNOM for a month between graduate courses, and produces inspirational spots that are voiced in both the English and Yup’ik languages.


HOW MANY WAS THAT?  Since January first, KNOM has broadcast about 11,300 inspirational spots, and an equal number of educational ones, thanks to you. 

They are frequent powerful tools that are helping to improve lives, many times every hour of the day.



     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:  Charity comes from practice.


     INSPIRATIONAL SPOT:  There is no saint without a past, and there is no sinner without a future.


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WHAT A DISH:  Les Brown (left) and Tom Busch were in Nome in March.  The two engineers were attempting to re-aim a satellite dish we haven’t used for a while, in order to pick up ABC network news.

The antenna is apparently too small to work properly.  Still, Les and Tom got to burn some calories, working in, for Nome, relatively balmy - 5 temperatures.


APRIL 8TH IS A NOTABLE NIGHT IN NOME:  In addition to the joyous celebration of Easter, it’s the last night that Nome will see true darkness, thanks to the Midnight Sun, until September 4.


APRIL 27TH IS A NOTABLE DAY, TOO:  On the average, it’s the first day of the year when the mercury rises above freezing.  We have to wait until May 20th before we reach the average first day when the temperature remains above freezing.  (Even in May, however, the temp still can drop to - 10.)


“PAWS” FOR CONCERN”  The Iditarod musher was frantic.  Tethered near the finish line in Nome, one of his dogs had slipped its collar.

What did he do?  He called KNOM.

KNOM put out the word, and less than 90 minutes later, a listener had located the animal and reunited it with the team.


WE RENEW OUR PLEDGE TO YOU:  We promise that out of respect for your privacy, we will never provide your name or address to anyone for any reason.


Transmission #500.  Thank you, Lord!

We continue to be in awe of the generous, spirited volunteers, almost 300 of them since the radio mission’s inception, and the thousands of thousands of kind benefactors who have kept our spirit alive throughout western Alaska.

Once more, we thank you most sincerely, and we pray that Our Almighty Father blesses you and those you love many times over.  Thank you!



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