O’Neill residents depend on radio station for daily news
By Marc Zakrzewski
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
O’Neill, Neb,. is an unusual area for local news coverage. With a population of only 3,000, it is the largest community in a 100-mile radius. There aren’t enough people to make a local daily newspaper profitable. So O’Neill residents rely on the local radio station, KBRX, and its website www.kbrx.com, for daily news updates.
In an interview, station manager Scott Poese discussed how KBRX handles local news.
Q: What makes KBRX unique from other radio stations?
A: KBRX is a family-owned station. My dad, Gil Poese, is the majority owner. My three sisters and myself also own percentages of the company. Because of this, we don’t have to answer to any sort of corporate overhead. We decide on programming, advertising, news and sports coverage. So it’s very nice to be your own boss, essentially.
We are also in a unique area of the country. O’Neill is not a large community by any means. However, we are the largest in the area. Our coverage reaches 25 other smaller communities in six counties. We actually receive more listeners than most radio stations because there aren’t 20 other options available in this area.
Q: What are your primary responsibilities?
A: I get here around 4:30 a.m. and am on the air as the morning show host until 8 a.m. Then, I host our Partyline show, which is basically a public, call-in show where people can buy or sell things or advertise for a small price. Once I’m finished with that, my primary responsibility is to maintain and update our website. I usually work on that until 5 p.m. If there’s a local sports event, I will do play-by-play coverage on those as well. I usually have three or four sports events per week.
Q: Did you always want to work in the radio business?
A: There may have been an inkling or two to do something different but I was pretty much born into this business. I worked here as a kid for my dad and pretty much knew that I would be taking over out of college. I love my job now and wouldn’t trade it.
Q: How does KBRX deliver news to your audience?
A: We usually run five to 10 minutes of news at the top of each hour over the air. That will run either live or recorded. At noon, my dad will read a more in-depth news broadcast. This broadcast is run live but is recorded at that time and rerun at 5:00 p.m. This will usually run around 30 minutes or so.
We also offer news on our website, which I run. I post daily news stories that range from local news to Nebraska and South Dakota state news. We also spend quite a bit of time on sports news coverage on the website as well. Our old sports directors … really built up a respectable website, which draws in a very large audience for us.
Q: What sources do you use for news?
A: Some of our news comes across the AP wire. Our station is a member of the AP. We’ll also get news briefs from town and county governments and other organizations around the community. However, I would say the majority of our news come from us directly. We try to get somebody to every local event with a notepad and a camera. I write around 50 stories per week and my dad usually adds 30 stories of his own. We run another 50 sports stories as well. All of these are reported on and written within KBRX.
Q: Why spend so much time writing your own news?
A: First of all, it makes money. Noon news is when our highest percentage of listeners tune into our station. But I also feel like it’s a public service. O’Neill has a weekly newspaper, but we’re the only daily news organization in the area. Our community needs daily news to run smoothly.
Q: How is editing important for KBRX news?
A: Well, it’s not so much important for when our DJ’s read on air. My dad misspells quite a few words. When reading news, it’s more important that he knows what he is reading. He will read through news at least three times before he goes on air. He also decides what’s important and what to leave out. Once on the air though, he is live. There’s no time to sit and think about editing.
It is much more important for me when I’m putting the news on our website. I have to make sure that it looks presentable because sloppy writing puts us in a bad light. I also make decisions on the order of the articles. I prioritize which ones are more important to our audience.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in prioritizing news?
A: We cover quite a few different communities. More often than not, we are the only source for news out of those smaller towns. We want to reach our largest audience we can but we also don’t want to overlook anybody either. No matter what we decide, somebody’s going to be unhappy. I try to do my best to balance it out so it doesn’t look like we’re picking on anybody.
Q: Can you think of any specific times when it was difficult to present the news?
A: I think it’s always hardest when we have to deliver tragic news. We read obituaries and funeral notices nearly every day. Ninety-nine percent of those are for the elderly. However, we do get a child who has died once in awhile and people want to know what happened. We try to do our best to give the news in the best interest of the family. We’ll only share details if they are comfortable with it.
Q: What’s your favorite part about your job?
A: I get to meet a lot of really awesome people. I love our community. I think we have some of the nicest people in the world. I also love being able to promote kids on KBRX. We get to share some great stories and I’m awfully proud of that.
Q: What’s your least favorite part?
A: I’m not the biggest fan of the long hours. Although, I have been doing this for 30 years now so I’m pretty much used to it.
Q: How long do you see yourself doing this?
A: Well, my dad just turned 87 and he’s still going strong. I would be very happy if I’m still here at that age and still doing as much as he does.
Q: Do you have any advice for journalism students?
A: You have to love what you do. This doesn’t feel like work to me. I get to spend my days with great people. I don’t get much sleep though. The hours are not the best for most journalists. If you’re not willing to work hard, then this might not be the best career for you.