According to archived KSLU articles, radio at Saint Louis University began in 1920 with the establishment of the first radio station west of the Mississippi River, WEW. WEW was a faculty-run, religious radio station. Then in 1949 the communications department established KBIL, a student-run station operating as a carrier current facility broadcasting to a small radius around campus. According to an excerpt on KBIL in the 1955 Saint Louis University Yearbook, the purpose of the station was to provide training for students preparing for the radio profession and entertainment designed for its student audience. According to a March 2000 University News article, the call letters KSLU were established in 1983 after the Federal Communication Commission required KBIL to changed its call letters because a station in Texas shared them. KSLU currently broadcasts over cable channel 18 on campus and also online. Chris Graubau, KSLU faculty advisor speculated on the possible reason for departure from the airwaves, “I presume the license was ineligible to be renewed. It could be that the broadcast reach didn’t meet minimum requirements for a license.” Grabau continued, “There is no history that says the University shut it down.”
Evolution of KSLU
According to Grabau KSLU has evolved as technology has evolved. Sean Dineen described what the station was like when he was News Director in 1990. He said: “The station was all analog, so sound effects and anything else were all recorded on carts which could be plugged into a player and most of the time they worked. Needless to say, it was not a hugely exciting station. Broadcasting was a bit of a joke: you had to be plugged into an outlet in a building where the station was broadcast and that only worked some of the time.”
Between ’92 and ’98 KSLU became better known on campus. Grabau stated that the mid ’90s were some of the most exciting and exceptional years for KSLU marked by a lot of growth. KSLU became an audio and visual entity broadcasting over cable channel 12 and published Fiber, a college music magazine. Also Grabau said that KSLU hosted popular concerts at the Reinert Pub, a student tavern on the ground floor of Reinert Hall.
Becoming a College Music Journal Station
Grabau said that the station received a new soundboard in 1995 as a donation from Emmis Communications, a national media conglomerate. By this time KSLU was focusing on music. According to Grabau KSLU became a College Music Journal station in 1994. CMJ is a music events and publishing company that reports what college radio stations are playing to record companies. In turn CMJ stations receive hundreds of free CD’s from artists every year. Grabau said, “College music was a catalyst behind changing airwaves.” He continued, “These are the stations that are tastemakers; R.E.M. broke on college radio.”
With a failed push for a return to the airwaves as a low-power FM station in 2000, KSLU has continued to grow, but according to Grabau KSLU is an organization that is what the students make of it. He stressed that KSLU is in an era that is no longer restricted by not being on the airwaves.
He described Jason Sengheiser, General Manager of KSLU in 2000 as someone that actively pursued progress for KSLU. Grabau described a meeting between Sengheiser and SLU officials to move the KSLU studio out of the Busch Memorial Center basement after rumors of a new student center grew. Grabau detailed Sengheiser’s tact when he quoted Sengheiser as having said, “I hear there are rumors about a new student center. Here is a look at what we will need.” Grabau continued, “It is almost an exact schematic of what the KSLU studio is now.”
KSLU in Recent Times
KSLU has lived up to its mission statement that was printed in the 1955 SLU Yearbook to provide students with experience and be a valuable extra-curricular activity. Dineen recalled one of his favorite memories: “One of my best memories was my roommate calling in once with a remote foot traffic report from Grand Avenue at Forest Park Parkway. Since it was before the good quality mobile phones, he had called me on a wireless phone with the base unit hanging out of our 10th floor Reinert window!”
Currently KSLU broadcasts online 24 hours a day, offers a mobile disc-jockey service for on-campus events, publishes The Amp (a successor of Fiber), and organizes music events.