KSD Was One of the First Local Radio Stations

By Absher, Frank | St. Louis Journalism Review, May-June 2009 | Go to article overview

KSD Was One of the First Local Radio Stations


Absher, Frank, St. Louis Journalism Review


When KSD signed on in 1922, the Pulitzer family proudly touted their new radio station in the pages of their newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Then other stations signed on in St. Louis, and other newspapers gave them plenty of publicity. By the time KSD became affiliated with the NBC Radio Network, the local station had assumed a low profile, from which it would not emerge for several years. What happened?

There is no actual documentation available to explain this, but scattered newspaper accounts and a first-person memoir of engineer Robert Coe shed light on the subject.

Coe was instrumental in putting several St. Louis stations on the air. He credits the uniqueness factor with creating the early excitement among the public when WEW and KSD, the city's first two stations, signed on. In 1921, that anticipation and excitement helped him get a job hosting public demonstrations of radio, picking up amateur broadcasts. "It is no real mystery. The radio audience grew so rapidly even before there was much attempt at regular planned programming," he wrote.

So when KSD began its experimental broadcasts, they were trumpeted in advance in the paper. As soon as the station was licensed it began regularly scheduled programming, which was arranged by the station's program manager, Virginia Jones. Since there were only three or four stations in St. Louis at the time, listeners were very interested in knowing when broadcasts were available.

During KSD's first few years, radio stations came and went in St. Louis. The station's paid staff consisted of three engineer/announcers, one program director/announcer, a secretary and an office boy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Then late in 1925, the city's power brokers built a powerhouse station, KMOX. The only real competition among the stations was for broadcast time, since frequencies were often shared and only one station could use the frequency at a time.

But on Nov. 15, 1926, something major happened that changed the local broadcast landscape. The National Broadcasting Company, NBC, debuted, and KSD was on the list of 24 initial affiliates.

Before the network came into being, KSD's programs were much like those on other stations: Live music concerts, dramatic presentations and lectures, all featuring local talent. …

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