This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s July 2022 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:
I got the call about two years ago from Mike Watson, host of the long-running Mountains, Rivers & Streams radio show: Stoke FM Radio Society, operator Revelstoke’s non-profit, volunteer-run community radio station, needed members for the board of directors. Was I interested?
It was during the darker early months of the pandemic and public life had shut down. Pandemic disruptions meant board members, volunteers and show hosts had to move on for various reasons; several had left town. There were a lot of holes to fill.
Financially, the station, a non-profit society, was surviving on fumes and effort from volunteers who were barely keeping things afloat. A GoFundMe put on just before I arrived was keeping the lights on.
So, I said yes because the station is important to the community. It’s a 24/7 buddy accessible for free for everyone.
It’s a unifying force in the community: it’s a shared experience available to everyone, including those with financial, literacy, and technological barriers. Unlike social media, where who knows what everyone else is scrolling through, with radio you know everyone is on the same wavelength, sharing a common, community experience.
Most importantly, it’s our thing: the community of Revelstoke is free to make of it what it will. The station will have pretty much anybody who asks on the Morning Show, and the door is wide open to anyone who wants to host their own show.
So, I joined the board as a director at large for the past couple of years. I’m happy to say we’ve dug ourselves out of the hole and are building up the station again, thanks to lots of help from the community.
We’re a licenced community radio station broadcasting at 92.5 FM and our signal goes all the way to the Weird Woods Smokey Bear statue on the highway. We also have a decent online following, including a lot of Revy ex-pats from around the world.
Our president Marquie Murphy brings a lot of enthusiasm and digital broadcasting experience, and deep knowledge of electronic music. Our executive director, Jace Preenan, puts in way more than his part-time hours to manage just about everything from faulty signals to complex grant applications. Our long-time Morning Show and Monday Mayhem host, Lerritt Robinson, hosts community guests live three times a week and brings institutional memory to the organization, having been with the station for nearly a decade. He’s also the sales rep, so hit him up! Tina Steen is our secretary and star board member, along with her I Wish I was 20 in the ‘90s co-host Jane McCulloch. Rhehal Burgess is a new recruit looking to step it up. Morning Show co-host Lynn Muller is away working this summer, so April Bloem has stepped in for the summer. Bryce Harrison brings his skateboard to the board and on the board and also hosts a show. And I’m leaving out a lot of people and all the show hosts! Sorry!
What’s next for Stoke FM?
We hope to unveil a new website this summer. It will have a new front-page emphasis on digital web versions of our shows and audio news stories, showcasing our partnership with the national Local Journalism Initiative (Read more about that below introducing our new Community Radio Journalist, Meagan Deuling). It’ll also have a great new digitized membership and donations options and we hope you will help by donating.
We’re in the middle of a rebranding process that reached out to the community to find out what you want us to be, and this summer we’ll be aligning with what you told us. We’ve also done a ton of tech upgrades and equipment improvements, including new software, hardware, remote recording equipment, computer system, and more.
We onboarded four new shows last month, a sign of our improved capacity. We’ve also done a lot of important behind-the-scenes things like inclusivity and anti-harassment policy development, governance improvement and business development.
A couple of years ago, we were down to a handful of people keeping it going, but our numbers have swelled and we’re picking up steam.
A work in progress, always
There’s lots of room to grow. Like everyone else, we’ve got financial constraints and we try not to burn our volunteers out.
Sometimes, it’s two steps forward, one step back. We get some momentum, then volunteers leave for seasonal work. We get a new equipment, then another gadget needs replacing. We land one grant and get turned down for the next. Volunteers get injured – not at the station, just doing regular Revelstoke stuff. Things like that.
We do what we can and are trying to build sustainably.
A final note
We do most of it on volunteer effort, but really money makes things work. If you’re not hearing the stories shows you want, consider becoming a member and donating. That’s really what’s going to help us up our capacity and grow, especially our executive director position.
Our three revenue pillars are grants, advertising and listener support through membership and donations, and we’re really trying to grow the last category.
Finally, I’ve been working in community media here in Revelstoke and know residents have deep feelings about community representation and always want more of it. The more you support us, the more we can support the community with programming that represents everyone.
And, from the heart, Stoke FM in 2022 is a super-welcoming, inclusive environment. All you have to do is reach out and be ready to pitch in. You’re absolutely invited to do a show and we’re ready with an onboarding process. We’ve produced a number of partnership series with community organizations this year, so consider getting your club or group involved, too. If your community group wants to be on the Morning Show, just reach out – there’s no secret handshake.
Thanks to hundreds of volunteers over the years, we made it to 10 years – here’s to 10 more.
Find us at www.stokefm.com, on Facebook, Insta or Twitter, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introducing Stoke FM’s new community reporter
By Meagan Deuling
I’m Stoke FM’s new reporter and I’m excited to have a chance to tell stories on the radio here in the Interior of B.C.
I have been all over telling stories from Halifax where I got started in radio, to Whitehorse where I almost got stuck, to Toronto, just to see what it was like, to Nunavut where I left my heart.
Growing up in the bush in the upper Shuswap, radio was my only connection to the outside world, aside from when we walked to my grandparents’ on Sunday night to watch TV.
I’ve always loved radio and the way it immediately and simply connects remote places to the rest of the world and allows people to share stories.
I learned about the importance of sovereignty over stories and the way they’re told, even the language they’re told in, during my time working for CBC in Iqaluit.
Here in Revelstoke I’m working with Stoke FM. The team at the station applied for a reporter position through the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is a federal Culture and Heritage program.
The idea behind the program is to create local journalism in smaller centres. Our mandate through LJI is to cover municipal affairs, school boards and local events.
I work remotely with a team of reporters from stations in Smithers, Cortes Island and Abbotsford.
Through the years I’ve covered city councils, legislatures, court and crime, but my favourite stories have been about 120-year-old sourdough starter, ice bridges over rivers, Russians strapping cameras to beluga whales to use them as spies and sealskin space suits.
It sure was a leap to leave Nunavut, but there aren’t many broadcast radio jobs out there, especially in smaller cities close to my home. Hence the federal initiative I suppose. I’m pretty lucky to work with such a great, supportive team and get a chance to dig up and tell some stories in the radio here.
Please get in touch with me if you want to share an idea for a story you think is being missed.