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KUSP Goes Silent

A radio station signs off, and a mosquito threat grows

Bonnie Jean Primbsch briefly served as KUSP’s general manager in the spring while the station went on an last-ditch fundraising spree. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Hear that? An eerie static. After 45 years, the airwaves at 88.9 FM have gone dead.

KUSP, a radio station with only one staff person left, stopped broadcasting at 12 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1.

“The writing was on the wall. I know people were trying desperately to avoid this situation and I wish them luck,” says Stephen Slade, a former KUSP board member who recently stepped down due to issues unrelated to the station. “But it was a very steep hill.”

KUSP is mired in more than a quarter of a million dollars of debt—most of it to National Public Radio (NPR) and two other public radio groups.

No one from the KUSP Board of Directors is doing interviews this week, but according to a press release from board member Cathie Royer, monthly expenses exceed revenues, even after all the cost-cutting the station has done. The release also praises the work of recently appointed General Manager Alex Burke, an eight-year employee who became the lone staff person because she knew how to do pretty much everything around the station.

The station switched to expensive national programming in 2008, ditching music and a lot of original content for some of the same shows airing out of KAZU 90.3 FM, broadcasting out of Cal State Monterey Bay. The station retooled this past fall, switching to a music-only format, and listeners responded, calling in excitedly with positive feedback.

According to Royers’ press release, the station will keep looking for a buyer—just in case anyone’s interested in a station that’s not only deep in debt, but also no longer on the air.

BITING TIME

Here come the mosquitoes and their creepy diseases. No, not Zika, which causes birth defects and has now been found in Florida. That’s thankfully still nowhere near Santa Cruz.

But officials did find West Nile Virus in Santa Cruz for the first time last month. The offending mosquitoes were in Neary Lagoon.

The virus can cause flu symptoms and—in less than 1 percent of cases—central nervous system damage too. In Santa Clara County, where the problem is more established, officials began fogging affected areas with fumigants in June. 

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