The Case For AM Radio

By Matt Blume

This is a test. KAYS is conducting a test
of the Emergency Broadcast System. This
is only a test.

I remember that automated voice wringing the AM radio waves in western Kansas during my formative years of the early 80’s. I cleaned our garage every other Saturday to earn 5 bucks. And there, in our garage next to the WD-40 and cans of Shasta sat our AM radio. We had a tape player and an FM radio as well but the FM radio station sucked and my tape collection was no better. It wasn’t only the warnings playing on KAYS 1400 AM, there were also golden-oldies, high-school football and Royals games. There was also my personal favorite, a program called Party Line that never quite lived up to its name. Part verbal garage sale and part citywide announcement, the analog Craigslist still plays in my head. Everyone you can imagine called Party Line to request a babysitter or snow removal or advertise used cars. Most of my friends were beyond bored by the program but the various voices pulled me in and I always listened.

I loved hearing grumbly old men grumble and women with thick volga german accents selling homemade bierocks. I had an appreciation for the dry humor of someone actually trying to sell a broken lawn mower or three rakes and a Mr. Coffee. You could hear a mom overselling a lot of size 13 levi’s with no holes but some signs of wear. I once heard my seventh grade social studies teacher selling a used cross-bow. What had he used it on? He was too odd to hunt.

It was those sounds that significantly delayed my recent purchase of a radio (I am not ashamed to admit I spent the better part of two months researching the options). I was disinterested in the Bluetooth or USB charging features. I didn’t need the thing to tell me barometric pressure or connect to my Spotify account. What I wanted was to replicate the sound of the AM radio. I am always searching for those voices. Unedited and unapologetic. Voices earnest in persuading listeners to part with 15 dollars for a used love seat that was missing a cushion.

I’m not sure if I got the purchase right but I do know the AM radio taught me how to listen to people. It is not just the sports talk guys or Denny Matthews calling a Royals game. Often in the videos we produce our job is to just keep quiet and ask honest questions. To start open-ended conversations and ease into the content we are there to capture. We love finding the truth first and then planning how to capture it. Here is the thing that I think makes the Northpass Media approach different, we are all genuinely interested. Not just in the topics we covering but in the voices that are telling them. Of course I love it because for me it sounds like home.