First published in The Emporia Gazette on March 22, 2005

photo of old radio and books


by Cheryl Unruh

"Stay away from milk and chocolate and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated," J. Schafer suggested.

Schafer, the news director for Kansas Public Radio, was kind enough to e-mail a few tips on how to prepare for my guest commentary on KPR.

He included this exercise for improving enunciation:

"Take a pencil and put it in your mouth, sticking it in sideways as if you were holding a rose in your teeth and doing a Spanish dance. Then, read your commentary aloud … ."

"Of course, it will sound silly and you'll likely drool on yourself, but it forces your tongue to quickly dart above and below the pencil so you can get out all the syllables."

Drool and all, it was effective. I was a little apprehensive about being on the

J. Schafer

J. Schafer

radio and was grateful for his suggestions.

Two weeks ago, I met J. Schafer in person at the Kansas Public Radio station on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence.

Like me, Schafer hails from Barton County. He's a Great Bend native. (And, I learned, my high school band teacher just happened to be his Uncle Dean.)

While in high school he worked for KVGB radio (Kansas Voice of Great Bend). Schafer has been on the airwaves ever since and joined Kansas Public Radio in 1995. He can be heard on KPR's "Morning Edition."

Inside Studio D, Schafer demonstrated a good pace for me to use while reading. He picked up my script and delivered the first few paragraphs. His interpretation far surpassed any recording that I could hope to make.

"Oooh, you read it," I said, amazed at the life and energy he put into my words.

Instead, he adjusted the swivel microphone to be in front and to the right of me.

"Just read and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," he said with a smile as he stepped behind the console.

Kansas Public Radio was previously KANU-Lawrence. The station changed the name a few years ago "to reflect that we're no longer just broadcasting from the Lawrence-based transmitter," Schafer said.

In Lyon County and the surrounding area, Kansas Public Radio is KANH, 89.7 FM. Broadcasts can also be heard over Channel 8 on Emporia's cable TV and online at

KPR won the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Non-Commercial Station of the Year Award for seven consecutive years. Last year, Wichita Public Radio took top honors.

"My goal is for us to recapture the title this year," Schafer said.

In 2003, after 50 years of broadcasting from a tiny building known as the "Mud Hut," KPR moved into a new radio station. This state-of-the-art station is tucked away down a lane on Mount Oread.

Schafer was a gracious host. He gave me an in-depth tour of the station

and introduced me to everyone who was in the building.

I saw the music library with its

a shelf in the KPR music library

a shelf in the KPR music library

30,000 CDs. And we stepped into Studio A where Cordelia Brown was broadcasting a composition by Handel.

It's not just words and music that emanate from Kansas Public Radio. While listening to the on-air voices, I've always felt an extension of warmth, sensed a dedication to excellence. During the visit, I found that my impressions had been correct.

"Most of the people that are here have been here forever," Schafer told me.

He mentioned that Darrell Brogdon

had been with KPR since 1982,

Rachel Hunter since 1983, Cordelia Brown about 17 years total, Calder Pickett for 30.

Bob McWilliams joined KPR in 1983 and Dr. Jim Seaver began as host of "Opera is My Hobby" a few days after the station signed on in 1952.

"I guess we all just love this place too much to leave," Schafer said.


old radio


Copyright 2005 by Cheryl Unruh

For more information on Kansas Public Radio, visit the KPR Web site.

Kansas Public Radio

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All Content Copyright 2004-2005 by Cheryl Unruh
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