Though there's no local voice telling her about activities in the community or what the weather will be like in Crescent City, Susan Andrews still listens to KHSU.
She still gets national news from NPR and she says she loves “Democracy Now!” But more than a month after Humboldt State University reorganized the public radio station, eliminating most of its staff and suspending its community-based shows "indefinitely," Andrews says KHSU is a ghost of itself.
"I loved it when there was somebody there," she said. "On the drive between Humboldt and Del Norte, I'd call and say 'nice show!' I just think it makes a huge difference to have that local connection and not just nationwide news."
Members of the KHSU's former community advisory board are hoping to renew that local connection and have hired Washington D.C.-based lawyer Ernie Sanchez, an expert in FCC regulations for help.
According to Jana Kirk-Levine, the community advisory board's most recent chair, the group, Friends of KHSU-FM, has come up with $5,000, half the amount needed to retain Sanchez and is in the process of raising another $5,000. As of May 9, the group has collected $1,675.02 of the additional $5,000. It must raise the full amount by the end of this week, Kirk-Levine said.
On April 29, Friends of KHSU-FM sent a letter to HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, stating its intent to potentially purchase the public radio station from the university. The potential sale would include purchasing KHSU's music and program content library, membership, donor and underwriting lists and database as well as the transmission and studio equipment, according to the letter.
Friends of KHSU-FM also propose including the station's current studio, FCC authorizations as well as its website, domain names, social media accounts and other intellectual property belonging to the station, according to the letter.
According to Kirk-Levine, Friends of KHSU-FM is still waiting on the university's response. In the meantime, the group is in the process of seeking 501 c(3) nonprofit status and building its web presence, she said.
"We don't know what the complete picture's going to look like," Kirk-Levine said, adding that KHSU is just shy of its 60th anniversary. "We're waiting to see what the university has to say, but we would like to find a copacetic relationship with the university where we work together."
Ideally, she said, Friends of KHSU-FM would like to see the station remain at its current home on the HSU campus.
According to Geraldine Goldberg, a member of the community advisory board who has been connected with KHSU since she was a student in 1986, Rossbacher responded to the Friends of KHSU-FM to acknowledge receipt of the group's April 29 letter.
"My hopes would be for the president to give us the station into the hands of a community group," Goldberg said. "It's going to be a lot of work for a community group. We've had people reaching out to us, especially from the Bay Area. Several stations (their) university tried to get rid of and several community groups have been very successful in getting their station back. I've been hearing from people saying let us help you."
In an April 11 news release, HSU announced that it would cease directly funding the station, eliminate five staff positions including the general manager and chief engineer positions, indefinitely suspend volunteer-run programs and require the appointment of any interim director be supported through non-university funding.
Andrews, who has worked with KHSU for more than 25 years before retiring in November, said volunteers found out about the changes when they discovered the door to the studio was locked. She said they weren't allowed to get their belongings until days later.
The only two staff members who kept their jobs, Morning Edition host Natalya Estrada and Development Director David Reed, stepped down, the North Coast Journal reported in an April 18 article.
In the announcement, HSU representatives stated that KHSU had been struggling with "serious budget issues" and was heavily subsidized by the university's general fund. At the end of the 2017-18 year, HSU had to cover a budget deficit of nearly $135,000 beyond its regular subsidy. This year's projected budget deficit was expected to be larger, according to HSU's April 11 press release.
In an email to the Triplicate, Aileen Yoo, HSU's director of news and information, forwarded a statement from the university's interim vice president of advancement, Frank Whitlatch, to the Eureka Times-Standard.
"There are discussions underway to collaborate with other partners," Whitlatch told the Times-Standard. "HSU has many discussions with potential collaborators and in many cases those discussions do not lead to anything. Our practice is to not share details of these types of discussions prior to some type of agreement being reached."
Andrews, a counselor with Del Norte Unified School District who volunteered for the public radio station for more than 25 years, said she has heard a lot of "mixed discussions" from people who want to potentially buy KHSU's license from the university. There are also those who want to wait until a new university president takes over from Rossbacher, who is expected to retire at the end of the 2018-19 year, Andrews said.
Meanwhile, since its decision to lay off most of KHSU's staff and suspend volunteer programming, HSU has also had to refund community donations given to the station during a pledge drive just prior to the changes, Andrews said. Andrews said she herself called the university and demanded a refund after donating during the most recent pledge drive.
The university has refunded or is in the process of refunding about $6,800 from 78 donors who gave during KHSU's spring pledge drive between April 3 and April 7, Yoo said in an email Tuesday. Since April 11, 395 sustaining members, those who give to the station monthly, have canceled their membership.
There are still 665 sustaining members who are still active, Yoo said.
KHSU was facing a budget shortfall partly due to declining community support, according to Yoo. Underwriting revenue had been down about 14 percent for the year and listener support had fallen about 17 percent, she said.
Though its operation was centered at the HSU campus in Arcata, the changes at KHSU has had an impact on at least one Del Norte County organization. Stephanie Wenning, executive director for the Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness, or DNACA, said her organization used to be able to interview the artists it works with and talk about the free programs it offers to the community like Arts for Veterans.
Wenning said she has noticed an impact on attendance and participation in DNACA's programs since the local programming at KHSU went away.
"A lot of people did comment that KHSU was a way they had learned about, not only the program, but DNACA itself," she said. "People here do, or did, really listen to it and losing it was kind of a big hit for a lot of the community."
Andrews, who started out providing the station ID during its morning programs and was later a paid morning host, was once part of the Del Norte News Team. She and others, such as former DNUSD Superintendent Jan Moorehouse, would read Triplicate stories on air, interview public officials like the sheriff and produce original content. Andrews also produced a piece called School Days that focused on education.
Now, with just instrumental music filling the time slots between NPR news segments and other national programs, and a lone voice simply providing the station's ID, Andrews says it's difficult to listen to KHSU.
"I've got a woman in my yoga class who's distraught," she said. "It's the station that I listen to and now it's so different."
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .