After Decades, KDNZ Pulls the Plug

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After over 40 years, USF’s first radio station, KDNZ, is signing off for good this semester. General manager of the student-run station, senior Renae Santa Cruz, cited a lack of student involvement, in terms of production and audience, as the main cause for the station’s closure.

Santa Cruz began her involvement with the station her sophomore year. By the end of the school year, she was one of the only volunteers consistently working there. The students who were running the station at the time were graduating, and they offered her the highest leadership position of general manager.

But managing a station proved to be a difficult task with little support. By the end of the year, there were few volunteers left, and even fewer listeners. She felt the only logical solution was to discontinue the station. “It is kind of sad,” she said. “It’s like the end of an era.”

Founded in 1963 by then-undergraduate Steven Runyon, the station aired on an AM signal for many years. Meanwhile, USF’s other radio station, KUSF, began airing on an FM signal in 1973. The two stations quickly took on their own identities, KDNZ serving as the student voice of USF and KUSF taking on the greater San Francisco community as its audience, with many members of the outside community also coming in to volunteer.

KDNZ continued to run original programming by and for USF students, while KUSF became renowned through the city and eventually the world due to its innovative programming. KUSF has won numerous awards as a college and community radio station and is recognized for having introduced musical artists who are now world famous.

“KDNZ has been kind of left on the back-burner. Concurrently, KUSF has been building upon themselves quite well for the past 30-40 years,” said Rebecca Chan, former music director for KDNZ. “Most students who really want a foot into the radio industry, for experience and extracurricular interest, find KUSF the place to do so.”

In the 1990’s, KDNZ relinquished its AM frequency and began broadcasting online-only. During this time the popularity of the station waned. KDNZ continued providing programming for students, but fewer students were tuning in online. Santa Cruz said, “No one listened to us. We would have a show on and the only people listening would be the hosts’ friends.”

In addition to online radio shows, KDNZ has long served as the primary provider for DJ services for the campus community. They are often the ones spinning records in Harney Plaza, providing the soundtrack to many USF events. Santa Cruz said she hopes for this service to live on, even if KDNZ does not. “We’re trying to figure out what to do,” she said. “We still want to provide DJ services.” One idea she has is to make this service a branch of KUSF, a possibility she will soon be discussing with them; another is to start a generic Music Club on campus, where musicians and DJs could come together and figure out ways to perform and distribute their music.

Santa Cruz also regrets that it will now be more difficult for students interested in radio to start their own show at USF. “With KDNZ, students could come in with no experience. We would train them on the equipment and they’d be on the air,” Santa Cruz said. With KUSF, on the other hand, students often need to volunteer at the station for months before having the opportunity to get their own show.

KDNZ, formerly a funded account by the Associated Students of USF, will no longer receive funding. They continue to hold on to their office space, but only until another use for it is identified. Chan said, “Overall, our fate is uncertain.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. This is heartbreaking news. I was the General Manager of KDNZ (then KDNS) in 1991-92 and helped usher in a new era with an improved studio, with the strong support of ASUSF and our advisors. We did not have many listeners then, but the station proved to be a strong training ground where students could be exposed to the basic elements of production, and perhaps as importantly,learn how to communicate and work effectively with “co-workers” and manage deadlines- important skills in any workplace, not just in the new media environment of 2009. KUSF is a very valuable entity to the University, but it would be very sad to see the open door policy of it’s “junior partner” KDNZ close forever. I would urge the University to put the station on hiatus, and maintain its facilities while it awaits a new crop of enthusiastic students who appreciate what it can offer, and who aren’t deterred by a few hurdles. Long live KDNZ!

  2. I had a show on KDNS back in Spring ’92 and although no one really listened to it (you could only get it good reception in Phelan Hall, anyways) I didn’t care. It was a lot a fun and will remain one of many great memories I had at USF. Go Dons!

  3. This is absolutely heartbreaking news. As a former GM (’97-’00), I am extremely saddened to see the station being folded away.

    If there’s anything I can do, please reach out and let me know. KDNZ has it’s limitations, but those can always be overcome by the right people who care enough and are smart enough to figure out ways to make things happen.

  4. I am incredibly disappointed. I, too, was a GM (2000-2001), but volunteered for the station for four years. I think it’s unfair to say the station “relinquished” its frequency, as I’m sure it went off the air one day, and because of budget and other limitations, it was never fixed. It is such a true training grounds for those who wish to get into radio. It’s really a shame.

  5. Many fond memories of my time on the station (’92-’96): Live broadcasts of men’s basketball games from both the Cow Palace and Toso Pavilion, spinning records (literally) with my buddy A.J. on our show “7200 Seconds,” crashing on the couch one night in the middle of the summer after attending a concert in The City….R.I.P., KDNZ. You will be missed.

  6. It is awesome to see so many alumni coming back to reminisce about their time at USF and working at the radio station. I know I would be heartbroken if I found out the Foghorn was out of business ten years from now.

  7. I, too, am saddened by this news. As a DJ for KDNZ from 97-00 (special guest status in 01), I had a the pleasure of working with some incredible people…. people who went on to make Radio their career. I still refer to my days as Kit Kat in the Afternoon, because being involved at KDNZ was a unique experience. Not many can say they were a DJ on a college radio station… not many had the advantages that we had to meet members of bands, attend shows, and cultivate our creative side. I would like to clarify that throughout my 4 years at USF, KDNZ ran on an AM, FM, online, and television frequency. I can hear the cart in my head.. “You are listening to KDNZ, 88.1 FM, 880AM, your cable channel 3 and streaming online” Patrick, Brent, Niall, and Phil… thank you for your dedication to KDNZ and to the USF community. Here is the difference, we all gave of our time to something we believed in and remained loyal to that commitment in the midst of our other commitments. Today’s students perhaps have more to worry about than we did, leaving them little time to “enjoy” some the hidden gems at USF.

  8. As former General Manager (03-06), I feel sad about this whole ordeal, too, but I also feel angry. So I apologize if this sounds more like a rant, than a comment.

    In my heart, I love USF and wouldn’t trade my time there for anything, but I don’t think the people in positions of power are doing enough to save KDNZ. Period.

    There was a ton of work and sweat that went into making KDNZ what it became, at what I believe was its highest point. Not taking away what those accomplished before me, because you all set us up to be successful, but it is frustrating to read that this place is sinking so soon after it was handed over so well off.

    When I left, there was a steady LIVE stream of online music, not just a preset playlist that people could click and download. The Mobile DJ Service was very prosperous, often being booked months in advance, and was by far the most visible attribute of the station. I remember presenting the information of doing 54 events in a year, as means to justify our Executive Board stipend raises. Those 54 events were FREE of charge, by the way. We had former students (Jimmy can support this) who would return, and be wowed by what we had accomplished. I remember one Friday we sat in the station and an old student/member came in and reminisced about his old days there, and how the equipment still hadn’t changed! But he was amazed to see how far we had advanced.

    Also, there were DJ’s audtioning to be able to spin in the Harney Plaza during our weekly concert series. There were artists calling in about getting interviews, doing shows, live in-studio performances, etc.

    And I know Jimmy P., Tri V., and George E. will remember USF Senate and others, controversial decision not to finance the station’s antenna repair proposal. The repair would have costs around $3,700 while the replacement would have been in the $9,000 range. Those were the figures we were quoted, and presented to either ASUSF, SuperFund, or Senate; one of those bodies. We were ultimately denied. As well as Jimmy’s personal campaign to bring KDNZ Channel 3 back, once it was shut off-air still for no sufficient reason. Then, mysteriously, some members of Senate (James K. and Casey F.) created the idea for USFTv, which sounded a lot like what we already had in place, but was shut down without any clear explanation. Coincidentally, the creator behind USFTv was a part of those governing organizations. I just think it is “fishy” how the guy heading the A/V Dept. all of a suddent takes our channel off-air, then is unable to provide a reason why. I can’t remember his name but he was a red/brown hair guy, and I remember specifically Jimmy and I NOT confronting him because we had gotten word that his wife had recently passed. So we decided to take the heat off for a while. But prior to that, we were hounding his Dept. for answers, and demanding to meet with him, but he was never available.

    I’m not suggesting this was a conspiracy to rid KDNZ, but I’m saying I don’t think there was enough done to make sure KDNZ was saved. I didn’t get the impression then, and certainly not after I left. There were people who definitely had our backs, especially Marci T. finding us multiple advisors, and even arranging lunches with the Jesuits, but we never really felt like we had the University’s full support.

    After Jason V. aka “Trackademicks” graduated, he handed me a station that was unorganized and chaotic, yet underneath the stacks of papers everywhere and unopened envelopes, was a functional and revenue-generating on-campus club. Next to Campus Activities Board (CAB) and perhaps College Players, KDNZ was second-highest profiting organization. As an Exercise & Sports Science major, not even related to Music/Business/Media in any way, I took the station and dedicated three full years of my life. My Summers were spent in there cleaning, reading old emails, letters from people I didn’t know named Howcrio Burley, Patrick Lagreid, etc. which I found to be former GM’s like myself. All I’m saying is, I took the station and made it my personal goal to see it succeed, and left it with a worthy successor as dedicated as I was, and I’m sure he did the same after he left, but although I hate to believe it, I just don’t think the University has done enough to ensure KDNZ’s future existence.

    Sad day….

    P.S. and more to come on my personal blog

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