Petrowich leaves KRCU a bigger, broader station

Thursday, March 21, 2002

When Greg Petrowich came to KRCU a decade ago, the Southeast Missouri State University station was barely noticeable on the radio dial.

There were few listeners. The National Public Radio station's signal was too weak to be picked up in parts of Cape Girardeau much less anywhere else.

"Ten years ago, you couldn't get us at the mall," recalled Petrowich, the station's general manager, who is leaving soon for a similar job in Alaska.

Over the years, the station has powered up its signal from 100 watts to 6,500 watts, allowing the signal to be heard within a 50-mile radius.

The latest boost came this week when the station put a new transmitter in operation on a commercial radio station tower north of Cape Girardeau.

KRCU currently is heard easily within a 30-mile radius and as far away as 50 miles, Petrowich said. The station has about 10,000 regular listeners, he estimated.

That could dramatically increase. KRCU has applied for a license and is seeking federal funds to establish a satellite station at Farmington, Mo. A second satellite station is on the drawing board for Poplar Bluff, Mo. That would extend public radio to all of Southeast Missouri, Petrowich said.

But he won't be around to see it. Petrowich has accepted a job as general manager of KUAC, the University of Alaska's public radio and television stations in Fairbanks. His last day at KRCU is March 29. He begins his new job on April 15.

He and his wife and two children plan to make the journey by car and ferryboat.

Petrowich is looking forward to his new job. His biggest adjustment may be in dealing with Alaskan weather.

When he flew into Fairbanks for a job interview in December, the temperature was 40 degrees below zero. Petrowich said it didn't seem that cold.

"People weren't wrapped in parkas," he said.

Even with his new job waiting, Petrowich still is focused on the Cape Girardeau station. His desk is covered with paperwork. A pile of federal grant applications is stacked on a table.

Southeast is embarking on a search for a new manager. Meanwhile, Danny Woods, KRCU's operations manager, will serve as acting general manager.

Dr. Martin Jones, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said he hopes to have a new manager in place by August or September.

Petrowich, who has served as general manager since 1995, garners praise from Jones and others involved with the radio station.

They say he has quietly guided KRCU 90.9 FM to become a professionally run Public Radio station.

Going beyond campus

Petrowich signed on as operations manager for the station in 1991, a few months after graduating from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he had worked for that school's public radio station.

The Cape Girardeau station began as a campus radio station in 1976. In 1990, the station moved from cramped quarters in the Grauel Building to a converted apartment building near Houck Field House and began airing National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" news show.

When Petrowich came aboard, the transmitter was in Academic Hall. Petrowich said the signal strayed off frequency every fall and spring when there were wide variances in temperature.

The station was on the air 18 hours a day. Today the station broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a wide range of National Public Radio shows and even locally produced programs such as "Sunday Night at the Opera" and "Going Public," a public affairs show hosted by three Southeast professors.

Barbara Herbert, who hosts "Sunday Night at the Opera," said Petrowich encouraged her and others who have developed shows for the station.

"He's wonderful to work with," she said. "If you have an idea, he lets you go with it."

Folk singers have joined in KRCU's "Your Folk Connection" in-studio concerts, Petrowich said.

The station's improved technology has helped, too.

In 1991, the station had a bare-bones production studio that depended largely on reel-to-reel tapes and whatever jazz records weren't scratched, Petrowich said. Today, it has 5,000 CDs and a first-rate production studio.

Better funding

The station's operating budget has more than doubled, from less than $200,000 a year to $420,000 this year.

The university pays about half of the operating cost. Donations from individuals and businesses account for about a fourth of the budget. The rest comes from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Petrowich said much of the budget boost has resulted from fund-raising efforts. Under his leadership, there are membership drives twice a year. KRCU hopes to raise $28,000 in its spring drive, set for April 20-27. It exceeded a similar goal last fall.

The station's 34-member Southeast Public Radio Circle also donates money. Each member gives at least $1,000 a year to the station. The group began in 1998 with 17 members.

The number of full-time staff has increased from three to six. The station also has several part-time announcers and a student staff of about a dozen.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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