KWNK 97.7 FM x Blackbird

Written by BlackbirdGo January 31, 2018
The People

Blackbird is proud to announce our partnership with Reno's newest radio station KWNK 97.7. We believe that by contributing to organizations we care about, we are in investing in the diverse cultural resources of our communities.

Check out our interview with KWNK's Executive Director, Thomas Snider, and peep the live studio performance with Drag Me Under performing "Galactic Acid" at The Sound Saloon below.

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Can you explain what KWNK is about, and what freeform community radio is for anyone reading this that may not know what that is?

Tom: KWNK is Reno, Nevada’s first freeform community radio station. That means that it is the first radio station in Reno where all our programming comes from people of our community. It is a format in radio that has been around since the 70’s and most major cities in the United States have some form of a free-form station. Here in Reno we have never truly had a station that broadcasts in this format on the FM dial until now.

What was the impetus for KWNK, and how long was this project in the works before you launched?

Tom: The community here in Reno. Most towns have a college or community radio station that is broadcasted with free-form programming. Free-form radio is needed in Reno because it’s a radio station that allows the people to have a voice, to have an authentic voice. It’s where people discover new music. They hear underground artists, they hear what’s going on with local artists in the community. It’s a radio station that the community has a chance to be a part of. This project has been in the works since the Reno Bike Project, who is the licensee of KWNK, received a permit to build the radio station in 2014.

How did you get involved?

Tom: In 2014, I became the General Manager of the University of Nevada’s Wolf Pack Radio, an online student-run station, and part of my goals for the station was to get students into the community. With that we would have our on-air personalities DJ at local art gallery receptions and one of these receptions happened to be at Cuddleworks Art Space next to the Reno Bike Project. That is where I got connected with Noah the Director of the Reno Bike Project and Tim, the director of Cuddleworks. They told me about the license and said they wanted to work with Wolf Pack Radio and try to get a community station together.

Ironically, when I ran for the position I ran on a platform that Wolf Pack Radio would completely embrace the online format and not look to get our own FM frequency. I had seen every GM before me say they were trying to get on the dial but with no real path to make it happen. When the Reno Bike Project got the permit to build a station and asked if we wanted to be a part it seemed like the first real course of action to get a college/community station in Reno.

Now that you've launched and are in your new space, what big picture goals do you have for 2018?

Tom: Bringing free-form radio to Reno was major. We were able to get to broadcast ultimately because some good folks at Open Sky Radio that helps us acquire the equipment needed to broadcast. Since getting on the air last Halloween, we have only had the resources to broadcast 12 hours a day from 4am to 4pm. These first few months was essentially the pilot program for KWNK to show people what community radio in Reno can and could be. So the goal for 2018 is to take the station 24hrs, and online! 



Starting on February 12th we are going to begin our fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 to solidify KWNK in our community.

It's a pretty interesting time right now. Do you feel that freeform community radio is especially important in this political environment?

Tom: Oh most definitely! Change happens locally. We can make a lot of changes just by getting to know our neighbors and helping make a difference in our communities. Radio connects people, it’s participatory so people feel like they are a part of something, and it informs people of what is happening in their communities.

Are there any freeform community/college radio stations in other cities you look to for inspiration?

Tom: Absolutely! About every major city in the US has some form of community/college radio station. Every time I visit a new city I try to find their free-form station because you just don’t know what you are going to hear. They all have a unique voice and feel that represents their locals.

Tell me about your top 3 favorite radio shows on KWNK right now.

Tom: Listening to KWNK is like mixtape dream! With each DJ having complete control over their show it creates for a unique sound and I really could pick nail it down to three. I will say one of my favorites is ‘Colloquial Sounds’ with DJ Atey Ate because it always flows and the talking parts feel honest and true. Almost like DJ Atey Ate is having a conversation with the listener.

How can people listen to KWNK if they aren't in Reno?

Tom: Currently, the only way to listen is on 97.7FM in Reno, Nevada. We are beginning a fundraising campaign to take the station online and 24hrs on February 12th. You can donate on our website at kwnkradio.org to help us solidify the station and make it accessible online.

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