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New public radio station aims to add a cross-cultural, moderate voice to Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, June 15, 2014, at 9:26 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 15, 2014, at 9:27 p.m.

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How to help

To make contributions, send checks to Sunflower Community Action, 1751 N. Ash, Wichita, KS 67214. Put “For KSUN” on the memo line. For more information, call 316-264-9972, ext. 24.

By fall, Wichita should have a cross-culture public radio station that organizers hope provides a place for nonpolarized discussions and local artists’ music.

KSUN is set to launch in September with a “95 percent local format,” said Reuben Eckels, a Wichita pastor who is the station’s general manager.

“We want to have different discussions about cultural issues,” Eckels said. “Many times what you hear is too far to the right or too far to the left.

“We’d like to bring people on who can talk from everyday experiences and not be so polarized. People aren’t always going to agree, but you don’t have to go to the extreme where you demonize folks.”

KSUN, 95.9 FM, obtained its Federal Communications Commission license earlier this year. It’s owned and operated by Sunflower Community Action, a grassroots nonprofit in Wichita.

Like other public stations, KSUN will seek underwriting for its programs. Mennonite Housing has agreed to be an underwriter, said Eckels, who is Sunflower’s deputy director.

He said the station still needs to raise $30,000 to buy equipment and build the studio at Sunflower’s offices, 1751 N. Ash.

“It’s in the heart of the African-American and Latino communities,” Eckels said. “We not only wanted to bring a new voice, but we also wanted to show people you can create jobs in the community with ideas.”

The station hopes to employ 10 to 15 people plus provide internships for college students, he said.

While the station will be cross-cultural, Eckels said, “We will have a number of African-American programs that will be geared toward that population.”

A number of black pastors have already signed on to help – from preaching to doing programs they’d like to see on the air, he said.

Wichita had radio stations targeting African-Americans from the late 1980s until about seven years ago.

Don Sherman is the only African-American to own a Wichita station, operating KSJM from 2000 until he sold it in 2004. The programming format changed when the station was sold again in 2007.

Sherman, now an executive with Westar Energy, was delighted to see Eckels’ efforts to start the station.

“There was a void in the community,” he said. “If it’s good for the community, it’s a good thing.”

KSUN’s Saturday mornings will be geared toward leadership and youths.

Music will be a big part of the programming. That will include more “old school” rhythm and blues, gospel and music with a beat “that you can dance to,” Eckels said.

KSUN also wants to be a home for local musicians.

“We have a lot of African-American artists who don’t get their music on the air,” Eckels said. “We want to be a place where they can do that.

“Hopefully, we’ll bring more voices to the airwaves, music that is a little more uplifting, geared to a positive message,” he said.

In fact, he wants to see the station take a positive approach throughout its programming.

“You hear a lot of negative stories about the youth in our community,” Eckels said. “We want to give out positive voices and messages, something the youth can look forward to hearing throughout the day.”

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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