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KXCI To Conduct Strategic-Planning Town Hall

A year ago, Ryan J. Bruce began his duties as KXCI FM 91.3's general manager. Things have been fairly boring ever since.

Not boring in a nothing-to-do sense, but boring due to the relative lack of political bickering that often fractured the community radio station's membership base. Things are "boring," because now the station appears to be moving toward a consistent focus and direction.

Upon his arrival, Bruce says, he listened to what KXCI's vast constituency had to say.

"I wanted to have interactions to get to know the station before I felt like I could be an active participant to make the station better," said Bruce. "I had to find out why the staff members who are here take the time to work here, and why the volunteers take the time to volunteer. It's different for every radio station. I've talked to a lot of listeners, and feel I've been receptive to those especially who feel like the station can improve in areas. The only way we can get better is to listen to everybody, even the people who have felt disenfranchised by the organization for a period of time. Those people have a very active and positive role to play in this organization. We have to figure out a way to build the bridges to those people."

A major bridge-building event will take place for KXCI this Saturday, April 19, from noon to 2 p.m. at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. Third St. The eight-member KXCI Strategic Planning Committee is hosting a town hall in an effort to streamline the station's often-muddy mission statement. The hope is that the town hall--open to anybody with an interest in what the eclectic frequency at 91.3 FM has to offer--will focus on the areas of concern and help create a template to provide consistent guidance for those who get involved.

"KXCI operates with an old strategic plan and mission statement that was not serving the purpose of KXCI," said Lois Grushka, who acts as part of the general-membership portion of the Strategic Planning Committee. "The old mission statement is kind of goofy. It's a little hard to understand. The purpose of the Strategic Planning Committee is to get together with a broad spectrum of people who really care about KXCI and put together a formal strategic plan that can be in place for five years. When new people come on the board, or when new people come on in a community-advisory role, there are some mutual goals they can go back and look at when decisions come up."

The town hall figures to highlight a broad spectrum of issues facing the station.

"Things like reception issues, programming, volunteerism and education," Bruce said. "I don't think there's one specifically that's driving strategic planning. (We just want to) get together a plan so we can understand the station has three to five really big issues it needs to focus on."

Bruce says signal reception is KXCI's biggest complaint, and it probably will remain the station's greatest challenge. KXCI has to deal with more dark areas--places the signal can't penetrate--than any FM frequency in Tucson.

"I probably spend 40 percent of my time as general manager looking at that issue and trying to figure out how to solve it," Bruce said. "We want to be a dependable service for Tucson, and we aren't (dependable) for some people depending on where they are. We want to fix it, but there are a number of hoops we have to jump through specifically in regards to the Federal Communications Commission. There are only so many opportunities that are presented to us to solve those issues."

Efforts to enhance volunteerism will be on the docket as well.

"Our volunteers are the best. They are the people who make the station what it is. We'd like to increase the number of people who come in here. We'd like to offer more than air time," Bruce said. "We're currently conducting a media classroom at KXCI, not just for things that go on the air, but to teach you how to do your own podcast, teach you how to do your own social networking. They'll be offered to our volunteers on a first-come basis, and also to the public to see what this place is all about.

"It's not that (people) have to be radio people to come in and volunteer. Rather, they can be coming in for something different and get the vibe of the organization and understand it's 100-plus people who make the station work, and that they can actually be involved in some way."

The vibe is what attracted Grushka, who spends her working hours operating a private-investigation firm.

"Instead of ending up in therapy, I thought I'd volunteer for something that wasn't murder and mayhem," Grushka said. "It's been extremely enlightening to me that the people on the board are extremely passionate and devoted to the cause. It's been wonderful for me.

"My passion for KXCI is that it's community radio. I'm a big supporter for having venues for people, whether it's news or music, that isn't commercial driven. It's directly answerable to its listeners, not advertisers. That's what distinguishes it from commercial radio. Because I am very sensitive to the bombardment of advertising in my world, I really love having a place where I can turn on music or news that I believe is not driven by commercial interests.

"We're putting on this town hall to give lots of people the same opportunity I've had, to learn more and talk about what they really want for the future of KXCI."

The KXCI Town Hall is this Saturday, April 19, at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. Third Street. The Town Hall has a three-hour window, from noon-3, but Grushka anticipates most of the issues to be handled by 2.

More by John Schuster

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