96.1 FM, 780 AM, Yours for Western Alaska

Alumni Memories: Thank you for listening, by Tom Bunger

KNOM Radio Mission stands on the shoulders of all the volunteers that have come before. For one, two or three years they give of their time and talents to enrich the airwaves and the mission of KNOM Radio. As they move on, volunteers take with them a wealth of experiences, memories, and relationships.

Former volunteer and former KNOM News Director Tom Bunger shares an early KNOM memory:

I never knew what it was like to be famous. I never sought it out. I had just started my first year as a KNOM volunteer and I was in the village of Stebbins to cover a fiddling festival. Fiddlers and fiddling fans from all around the region were packed in the community hall. I must’ve looked a bit out of place walking down the road in the middle of the day with a microphone. A woman came up to me and asked me who I was. I introduced myself and then she lowered her voice and did her best Tom Bunger imitation: “I’m Tom Bunger, KNOM Update News!” — a phrase which I said 6 or seven times a day, but never expected to hear it come out of the mouth of someone I had just met.

As a news reporter, I would go to work, read the news into a microphone and do some DJ shifts. I was alone in a booth, but taking part in a very intimate, personal experience. People who listen to the same radio station every day form a bond with the people who are on the air. They let us into their homes. They trust us to report the news accurately and to warn them when the next big storm is coming.

So many other jobs involve much more personal contact – teaching, coaching, working in social services. Being on the radio was the first time in my life I had an audience that large. It was before blogs, the web and Facebook. Spending some time outside of the studio made me realize KNOM has a very strong, personal relationship with its listeners and even though I only met a fraction of those listeners, I was with them at fish camp, in the car, at their desks and in their homes. They invited me in. And over the years, I was able to accept many personal invitations to spend time with KNOM listeners – many of whom had just met me, but acted like they had known me for years.

It was this incident and others like it that reminded me to say “thank you for listening” often when I was on the air. And several years later, I am still thankful – thankful to have been a part of KNOM and to have earned the trust of so many loyal listeners. –contributed by Tom Bunger