DEADWOOD — Yes, it will continue as a radio station and no, the format won’t change. While a new ownership group has taken over decades-old KDSJ 980AM from long-time former owners Al and Jeanne Decker, “live and local” are still the operatives, remaining very much a big part of the station’s business mantra.
Loren and Renee Maier, along with their son Pace Maier, all of Lead, and Scott Jensen of Sturgis, officially took over the airwaves at the station Monday and will operate the station as co-owners.
“We want to continue. It has such great tradition,” said Loren. “And Scott on board, we’re fortunate to have him as far as sales and ownership. Pace, station manager, so, I’m guessing we want to tweak a few things, but actually, we love Deadwood. We just think that there’s so much here and that we want to carry on the tradition, probably tweak it and advance it a little bit.”
Scott said the history of Deadwood speaks for itself.
“The history of the radio station and how it coincides with the history of Deadwood, we want to bring that out a little bit more. We want the tradition, as good as it already is, we want to just build on that even more,” Scott said. “The respect of the community, we want to keep in tradition with that and other outlying communities, too. Not just Deadwood, but, of course, Lead, the surrounding communities, Sturgis, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Sundance, Wyoming, Newcastle. All the main areas that we serve, but we also serve Faith and Harding County and Phillip and Wall and Rapid City. With that comes a lot more responsibility to all the communities with news, weather, sports, community events. That tradition’s already been built. We want to continue that and enhance it.”
The current employees at KDSJ will continue working there.
“We’ve got two full-time guys, Cody Oliver and Ryan Reider and they made this transition so smooth,” said Pace, who took over the mic for the first time Tuesday night.
Part-time weekend help, Jim O’Grady and Michael Doorn will stay on-board, as well.
Loren, who had a career in crop insurance and Renee, a retired nurse, moved to the area four years ago from Bismarck and have always loved the Lead-Deadwood area and envisioned moving here. Pace, who has a great passion for sports, worked at a radio station in college and was most recently a sports editor at the Hillsboro Banner in North Dakota.
“It is kind of a leap of faith,” Loren said. “Last summer, we kind of joked, ‘Should we take a look at this radio station?’ It’s been for sale for awhile. And came in and met with Al and Jeanne. That was at the end of July and one thing led to another.”
Decker said that people have asked him what he will miss when he’s not on the KDSJ airwaves anymore.
“I won’t miss getting up at 4 a.m. daily and being one of the first vehicles on snow-covered roads before the plows go out,” he said. “I won’t miss getting snowed in and having to sleep at the KDSJ studio during a blizzard. I won’t miss having to go to bed early every night and missing out on family time. I won’t miss taking work home with me.”
On the flip side, Decker said he will miss bringing KDSJ listeners the very first news, weather, and sports they hear every day, plus to inform them about road conditions and school announcements. I will miss all the calls, emails, and texts I get about one of my ‘worst of the week’ jokes I just told. I will miss getting calls from listeners requesting a special song for someone. I will miss ‘Uncle Al’s Oldies Hour’ each day, featuring a different year from the past with music and news and sports events from that year. I will miss interviewing all the people in the news and all the coaches we have done reports with and all the friends we have made through these contests over the years. We will also miss all the great employees we have worked with over the years who have made KDSJ successful.”
Decker said he now plans to travel – worry- and work-free, spend more time with his 11 grandchildren.
“I will be playing a lot more golf and drinking more tomato beer, and taking lots of naps,” Decker said. “My wife will be doing some volunteer work.”
Scott said that a deciding factor for him in purchasing the business was, with the many years of experience he has in broadcast radio and television, the live and local feel was very important to him.
“KDSJ is live,” Scott said. “There are some stations within the market that aren’t live all day long. This radio station is. There’s somebody that’s manning the board at all hours of the day, while we’re on the air. The importance of the local feel with all the communities that we cover. It’s not only just sports, but it’s news. It’s community events. It’s everything … That was one of the most important things to me was coming to a station that still read the news every morning and the weather and had chamber reports and put people on the air live or recorded them in some sort of fashion and really dove into that local story … I love radio. It’s part of who I am.”
Scott said that while the programming at KDSJ is great, they plan to tweak it a little bit. For example, the web site will be revamped soon, as well as the station logo.
“I think the important thing to remember here is you don’t sell anything without programming at a radio station,” Scott said. “For right now, we’re going to keep the format because of the great tradition that it is and the great listeners that are already listening to KDSJ. We don’t want to ruin that. We want to keep that great tradition going, as well. As well as the customers that advertise with KDSJ. That’s important, too. Without them, you don’t do any of this.”
If anything, plans are to increase coverage in a few areas, including coverage of 65 sporting events and high school wrestling coverage, beginning tonight (Thursday) with Belle Fourche and Sturgis through March and concluding with Black Hills Nationals Wrestling Tournament in Spearfish.
“We’re looking into expanding into even some rodeo,” Scott said.
Other ventures coming up include support of Outlaw Square, including live broadcasting during Friday’s grand opening and on other Fridays, possibly a weekly coach’s talk show, history segments, and call-in shows featuring healthcare and legal professionals.
“We just want to be out in the community. Live and local,” Pace said.
“It’s been working so well for so many years, so why would we want to come in and uproot that and change it?” Renee said. “We just want to expound on it and maybe bring it a little bit more forward … give listeners more outlets.”
“Continuing the legacy,” Pace said.
Scott said that while changes will be minimal, a focus will be to move the station further into the 21st century, incorporating technology into their business plan.
“We’re considered a solid gold oldies station, so how do you update solid gold oldies?” he said. “You do the things that we’re going to do by updating the logo, updating the web site, using social media, streaming a little bit better. Technology is advancing and that’s what we’re doing with KDSJ. And, again, there’s no disrespect with that. It’s just that when Al and Jeanne purchased this station in 1982, we didn’t have social media. We didn’t have computers. We didn’t have the kinds of things that news organizations or television stations, radio stations didn’t have that kinds of stuff back in the day.”
Loren said he thinks it’s unique that the group will only be the third ownership group for KDSJ since its beginning in 1947.
“The Daniels brothers had it in 1947 until 1982. And then Al and Jeanne Decker, ‘82 to Dec. 2 and so now us,” Loren said. “So just trying to carry on that tradition. Been around a long time, KDSJ.”
Decker said it’s been a great run with lots of super memories to look back on.
“The past 48 years in radio and 37 years owning KDSJ,” he said. “We are ready to enjoy our retirement and see what’s next in our lives.”
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