60 Years: KASU's "Firsts"

May 18, 2017

KASU is a station that has had many broadcasting "firsts" in its 60 years.  In this story, we will look at some of the ways KASU has been the first station in the region, and in some cases, in the state at certain accomplishments.  The series started with the mention that KASU is the oldest non-commercial radio station in Arkansas.  Notice I said it is not the FIRST non-commercial radio station.  Retired Department Chair of Radio-TV and KASU station manager Richard Carvell explains:

"The first non-commercial station actually was operated by the University of Arkansas," said Carvell. "However, they sold that station and KASU became the oldest non-commercial station."

 Some of the "firsts" that KASU can claim include being the first NPR-member station in Arkansas...that happened in 1971.  Another important first involved severe weather coverage.  Today, many radio and television stations do comprehensive coverage when severe weather threatens a region.  In 1973, KASU became the first media station to provide severe weather coverage.  Memorial Day Weekend, 1973.  During the overnight hours of May 27th, series of three tornadoes ripped through south Jonesboro.  The twisters struck several schools including Jonesboro High School, part of the Arkansas State University campus, two shopping malls, and many homes.  At least 300 people were seriously injured and three were killed.  During that time, many of the radio stations were closed in the overnight hours and coverage of severe weather was something that was not done.  That tornado outbreak changed the way Jonesboro media would approach severe weather.  A few weeks later, another tornado outbreak occurred.   Charles Rasberry would go on the air and broadcast coverage of the severe weather for listeners.   The coverage of severe weather would garner numerous awards and would set the standard for future weather coverage.    Other firsts for KASU included it was the first station in the area to receive regular daily programming by satellite.  That happened in 1981.  In 1993, KASU became the first broadcast station in the region to offer an extensive block of blues programming on the weekend.  In 1998, KASU became the first broadcasting station to broadcast regularly scheduled live interviews with United States Senators and Representatives from Arkansas and the region.  In 2013, KASU became the first station in Arkansas to offer a daily program devoted exclusively to Arkansas' current music scene and to the Natural State's musical heritage through Arkansas Roots.