What a year it’s been! Take a look back at what each month of 2015 brought to our mission — and to the readers of our newsletter.
In the first Static of 2015, we describe how Santa and Mrs. Claus paid a very special Christmas visit to one of the isolated communities KNOM serves — Shishmaref, Alaska — not via reindeer and a sleigh, but rather, by a C-130 cargo plane. Reporter Francesca Fenzi was in “Shish,” too, and brought back the story about “Operation Santa Claus” for our listeners.
Work continues on the Tom and Florence Busch Digital Studios. With a major grant received from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust and countless more donations, large and small, the studios’ construction is now fully-funded, and in the Static, news director Matt and reporters Jenn and Francesca have a peek at their department’s future newsroom.
At the peak of Alaska’s “race season” — our region’s perennially-popular wintertime sled dog and snowmachine races — Matthew Smith heads to Fairbanks for the start of a unique Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, whose Anchorage start had to be relocated in 2015 on account of poor snow cover. For a week and a half, Matt sends back regular updates from the race.
The news is all about tiny Diomede, an island community in the Bering Strait that’s left stranded for more than a month when helicopter service is halted. One of those waylaid is board president Father Ross Tozzi, who describes his 39-day “mini Lenten retreat” as “a joy, an honor, and a privilege.” He returns with a special gift from Diomede: a crucifix for our studios.
Volunteer producer Caitlin Whyte and community deejay Marjorie Tahbone delight KNOM’s listeners with a special collaboration: a series of radio spots capturing Caitlin’s efforts to learn Iñupiaq, one of the two Alaska Native languages most common to KNOM country, through a series of conversations with Marge, a fluent speaker and teacher of the language.
We offer a bittersweet goodbye to outgoing development data manager Betsy Brennan, whose work brought her into contact with many of KNOM’s supporters. “I have come full circle,” Betsy says about her tenure. “I came to Nome through KNOM as a volunteer in 1988, then returned as an employee in 2006. KNOM will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Fr. Vince Burns, a Philadelphia native and longtime Army chaplain, is the new parish priest at Nome’s St. Joseph Catholic Church (and the new voice of Sunday Mass on KNOM). The Static also features a reflection from outgoing newsies Francesca and Jenn; reporting in Alaska “(is) not always the most glamorous,” Jenn says, “but it’s the stuff that really counts.”
We say goodbye to volunteers Courtney, Caitlin, and Kristin with a highlight on their exemplary work. Courtney says that local radio “is a great service to offer,” especially when “voices from the community… take the microphone themselves.” Kristin agrees: it was a “dream come true” and an “honor” to “observe people’s passion and love for this region.”
We highlight Kristin’s reporting on alarming levels of pollution in Gambell, a community in the heart of KNOM country, and recent efforts within the village to raise awareness. Meanwhile, our newly-arrived volunteers Maddie, Emily, Laura, and Mitch are taking to their new roles with aplomb, and Matthew is in Kotzebue, reporting on a visit from President Obama.
The Static showcases a recent visit from volunteers Mitch and Maddie to one of our region’s most cherished events, the Kingikmiut (KING-ick-myoot) Dance Festival in Wales, Alaska (pictured). We also offer an introduction to spiritual director Father Mark Hoelsken — and bid farewell to longtime program director Kelly Brabec, who first joined KNOM in 1998.
We highlight special trips to rural Alaska communities with strong ties to KNOM: Teller, where our volunteers attended an annual, beloved cultural festival, and Unalakleet (YOU-nuh-luh-cleet), where news reporter Laura Kraegel captured a story for our listeners on a recent youth retreat (pictured) emphasizing self-esteem, communication, and suicide prevention.
In the Static, we say goodbye to news director Matthew Smith as he departs Alaska with his fiancée for southern Florida; we also share KNOM’s 2015 “Goldie” Awards from the Alaska Broadcasters Association. At KNOM, we illuminate our traditional Christmas star (pictured) and prepare for the many ways we celebrate the holiday with Western Alaska, on the air.