A pair of Keokuk-based radio stations that were on the verge of signing off will remain on-air following a change in ownership.
Leah Jones and Mike Greenwald announced they have purchased KOKX-AM and WCEZ-FM (Radio Keokuk) from Riverfront Broadcasting, which is based in Yankton, SD. Riverfront Broadcasting previously told Tri States Public Radio that it planned to close the stations unless new owners were found.
Jones and Greenwald, whose partnership is known as Keokuk Broadcasting Inc., have taken quite different paths to becoming the owners of two radio stations.
Jones has worked at KOKX-AM and WCEZ-FM for years, both on-air and in management. She said it was devastating when she learned that the stations were on the chopping block and the employees were laid off.
But instead of sitting back and looking for a new job, Jones started organizing meetings with city and county leaders to save Radio Keokuk. She said dozens of meetings were held in the roughly two-month span to try to find a local owner or owners for the stations.
“I just feel like I have been grasping and working my tail off and I have gotten pretty stubborn about it, which is paying off now,” said Jones.
Jones said it is critical for the stations to have local ownership, people in charge who are invested in Keokuk.
“That is the biggest part of this,” said Jones. “It’s been a long time since the actual owners of the station lived here, was a part of the community and worked here every day. We are not going to be some entity that no one knows that lives 100’s of miles away. We are owners, yes, but we are also the face of the stations and part of the team on a daily basis and we really think that’s what Keokuk wants and needs.”
Greenwald feels the same as Jones when it comes to the need for local ownership.
“That’s what is going to make this work,” said Greenwald. “We are in the community for the community and we are dependent on the community in supporting us in those efforts.”
Greenwald started attending the meetings organized to save the radio stations. He, personally, is quite invested in the community, serving on the Keokuk City Council and in leadership roles for various local boards, commissions and organizations.
Greenwald said he could tell during the process that things were not looking good for the future of the stations, so he sat back and decided he needed to get more involved. He said while his involvement might surprise some, he actually is no stranger to radio as he graduated from college with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
“Way back in the day, I had this dream of working in radio,” said Greenwald. “Then life just carried me down this different path until this opportunity arose. To say I am excited to chase a dream is an understatement at this point so I am looking forward to getting back into the mix of things with a microphone in my face.”
So Greenwald said he contacted Jones and their partnership was formed. Jones said she still cannot believe the stations she has loved for so long will remain open, with her as an owner.
“I couldn’t even let myself start to celebrate or think about all of the wonderful great things that I wanted to do and the changes because I felt like this is too good to be true,” said Jones. “So I just decided to focus on the legalities and what’s going on and I just kept waiting for this other shoe to drop. Somebody was going to be like, ‘oh no, you can’t really have your dream.’ But they didn’t and I really do.”
Jones said on-air talent returned to the airwaves on Monday, June 4, including “Suzy G” on KOKX-AM and “Big Don” on WCEZ-FM.
Jones will also return to an on-air role on WCEZ-FM while Greenwald, who left his job as a business manager for a local animal hospital, will be on-air as well, with an emphasis on news coverage.
“If I did not try to save the local radio stations, I would second-guess it for the rest of my life, which became the motivation for me to jump in head-first,” said Greenwald.
They said more staff could be added in the future.
Jones said KOKX-AM will continue with a country music format for now while WCEZ-FM, which currently features Rock & Roll from the 1950’s-1980’s will fast forward a couple decades, focusing on the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.
Greenwald said the stations plans to hold a community meeting on Thursday, June 14 at 5:00 p.m. to introduce the new ownership and explain their plans for the future. He said the official sale of the station still requires FCC approval, which is expected to take place in September.