NMU Archives Explores Public Radio 90 History
MARQUETTE, Mich.—The 50th anniversary of Public Radio 90 (WNMU-FM) will be the focus of the next “Evening at the Archives” event at Northern Michigan University.
Station personnel and archives staff members have assembled images, documents, oral history interviews and broadcasts that trace the history of the station. The presentation will be narrated by WNMU-FM host Hans Ahlstrom. It is free and open to the public and scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, in room 126 of the Learning Resources Center. Refreshments will be served.
The Federal Communications Commission approved the construction permit for the station in February 1963 and the first broadcast by WNMR-FM—the station’s original call letters—was on April 15 from its Lee Hall studio. Station Manager Evelyn Massaro said what began as an “underground student station” similar to Radio X, with five hours of programming per day, evolved into WNMU-FM, a professional Public Broadcasting affiliate that is on the air 24/7.
Public Radio 90 has designed a 50th anniversary logo to feature online, in programming guides and on thank-you gifts for listener contributions. Station personnel are encouraging loyal listeners to record “Happy Anniversary” messages for broadcast. Individuals may call 227-6500 to participate and, unlike live radio, more than one take will be allowed to get it just right. Massaro said the station is also planning possible fundraising trips to join the studio audiences of the programs “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”
The station was broadcast on cable originally, then over the air. Massaro said early coverage was sketchy, even in Marquette. As the signal extended to a wider geographical area, the station’s role expanded as well.
“Public Radio 90 is important to this region,” Massaro said. “The loyalty to the station is incredible. It seems everybody around here has heard of it. Our goal is to continue the tradition of making good radio for listeners and promoting what’s going on in their backyards. In Houghton, the station was acquired by Minnesota Public Radio so there’s very little local focus anymore. We’re still here for the local audience.
“It’s all about longevity. When I hear a business has been around 50 years, I may not get excited, but I think to myself, ‘They must be doing something right.’ That’s what I hope people have been thinking about us.”