By Jessica A. York, Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — Squidmore, a donated 12-foot red animatronic kraken will soon be prominently spread across a wall of aquamarine blue, serving as mascot for Santa Cruz’s newest public radio station.

KSQD radio station members Mathilde Rand, Rachel Anne Goodman and Omar Guzman are among those opening the new station in Harvey West Business Park. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)
With the paint still fresh at the nonprofit Natural Bridges Media’s 399 Encinal St. studio for their KSQD 90.7 FM or “k-squid,” the station’s very first broadcast over the airwaves is scheduled to go live in February.

One of the early contributors will be Geo Warner, a presence familiar to listeners of KSQD’s predecessor, KUSP, 88.9 FM. Warner was a volunteer show producer at KUSP for 27 years, going on to work as volunteer coordinator for another four. With KSQD’s launch, Warner said his CD cases are packed and ready to host eclectic music program “Music for all Occasions” on Tuesday afternoons. He said he is attracted by the opportunity to be on a “new page” with a radio station “for the people and by the people.”

“You try to make a nice place for people to come and feel good about, so that they can come back and keep doing it,” said Warner, 65, of Santa Cruz, between applying coats of paint Friday. “You want them to feel supported and feel good about what they’re doing.”

Hurdling barriers
Natural Bridges Media acquired a lease for UC Santa Cruz’s KZSC transmitter use in December, partnered with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education for its studio and is within about $8,000 of its $83,000 first-year startup and operations goal.

While carrying forward many veterans of KUSP, which filed for bankruptcy in 2016, KSQD aims to learn from its predecessor’s mistakes, said Natural Bridges Media board chairwoman Rachel Anne Goodman. Among the fledgling volunteer-run station’s most important lessons, Goodman said, are: trust the volunteers, don’t lose your vision and don’t get into a “huge amount of debt.”

“Community radio is more community than radio, sometimes, and it allows somewhat less slick delivery, but it is also real,” Goodman said during an interview with several board members in October. “Santa Cruz is not this slick place. We’re not Silicon Valley.”

Though more than 100 volunteer show producers are waiting in the wings as regular on-air contributors, KSQD also will feature 15 hours a week of syndicated programming such as Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now,” said Goodman, who is not related to the national syndicate’s leading personality.

Community first
Board treasurer Mathilde Rand, who will have a part in hosting two of her own KSQD segments, said a core value of the organization is to be widespread, wrapping its arms around the community — including those segments usually not heard from.

“We’re not putting radio first,” said Rand, who will revive her KUSP two-minute segment “First Person Singular” and co-host the new “Exploring Santa Cruz.” “It is the interaction with the community that actually makes for good programming.”

Omar Guzman, a board member and the group’s outreach coordinator, is aiming to bring KSQD into the modern age — using its mass communication status to have a two-way communication with the public. In addition to opportunities for listeners to call in during live broadcasts — or host their own shows — KSQD organizers have plans to do live broadcasts from community events, livestream on its website, post recorded podcasts and interact via social media.

“That’s kind of the beauty of where we’re at right now. You can livestream on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook,” Guzman said. “We have a page for each one of them and someone running each of them,” Guzman said. “We want them to listen to the radio station, but in case they can’t, they have options.”

Goodman said she would not trade the buzz and excitement of being live on air, versus converting to Internet-based radio only, however.

“It’s also one of the last free broadcast mass-communicated media,” said Goodman, who teaches journalism at Cabrillo College. “It’s going through the air, you can pick it up on your radio. It’s free.”

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