KCOU returns to airwaves, wins awards

KCOU won two Awards of Distinction for 2008 election coverage.

In addition to making it back on air, KCOU was honored with two Communicator Awards of Distinction in this year’s 15th annual contest.

That was KCOU’s first attempt at entering any contests and the station was notified of their success this summer.

“To me [these awards] had value and meaning that represented a lot of work done by a lot of people to bring the station forward and improve it in many ways," KCOU general manager Jonathan Hutcheson said. "It’s been a long road for the past year and a half or so. These awards were our first public recognition that we are doing exceptional things and getting noticed for them."

The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals and is one of the largest contests of its kind in the world.

KCOU received two Awards of Distinction for their coverage of the 2008 general elections on both a state and national level. Awards of Distinction are given in recognition of projects that exceed industry standards in quality and achievement. This year, more than 9,000 entries were submitted for consideration, according to the Awards Web site.

“We took a unique approach to the coverage by having a lot people in a lot of different places," Hutcheson said. "We got voter reactions, talked to candidates, talked to supporters. It’s compelling radio when you have something comprehensive like that. It brought more life into the coverage."

Current news editor Theo Keith was serving as the station’s business director at the time of the election, and he brought up the idea of having some in-depth coverage of the event.

“Maybe about a month before the election I brought up the idea in one of our executive board meetings," Keith said. "The ball got rolling from that. We planned out where we would be, what we were going to do, the times we were going to talk to watch parties and reporters. After a few meetings we got everyone together on election night, gave out assignments, and ended up with a five-hour broadcast."

Former news director and co-executive producer Jordan O’Donnell reported live from The Blue Note watch party that night.

“With an event like this you can never really plan for everything," O’Donnell said. "I thought all of our bases were covered as well at they could have been. We had faith that no matter the outcome, it was going to be an historical and exciting event."

In addition to the awards, KCOU won a struggle regarding the relocation of their station from Hudson to Schurz residence halls. After a nearly six-month break from live on-air coverage that began Jan. 26 of this year, KCOU was officially back on the air July 9.

“The station is definitely back up and running and people are very excited,” said Hutcheson.

With the new location, KCOU bought some new operating equipment, a tower and an antenna. July 11, the station had a broadcast engineering specialist come in to help with tuning and adjustments. Before this, the station was operating at two-thirds its possible power. Since the adjustments, broadcast coverage has gone beyond the Columbia boundaries and you can hear the station past Kingdom City.

KCOU plans to launch a new Web site in the fall for people to check out news and stay up to date with everything going on at the station.

“We definitely realized the popularity of our Web site which was a reassurance that putting the time into making the site better is worth it,” Hutcheson said.

Other plans in place for this fall include a more in-depth news department.

“I want to use these awards to see what we can do with the broadcast reporters," Keith said. "It was great to win the awards but now we are going to see how we can use the success to go forward."

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