KGHP serves critical role for KP


Rick Sorrels, Special to the KP News

The fictional “WKRP in Cincinnati” was popular with television viewers, but Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula have the “real thing” with KGHP, found at 89.3, 89.9, and 93.7 on the FM dial.

Alex Benzegala is “on the air” at KGHP. Alex, a Key Pen resident who will be a sophomore at Peninsula High School, will work at KLAY 1180 AM this summer. Photo by Hugh McMillan

The product of four resourceful and community-minded citizens (Stanley Rippon, Keith Stiles, Max Bice, and Milton Boyd), KGHP became fully licensed by the FCC and aired its first broadcasts in 1988. Stiles is the only founder still alive, and still serves as the station’s chief engineer as well as its heart and soul.

The radio station is owned by the Peninsula School District, with studios located at Peninsula High School. “Our primary transmission tower (89.9) is located at the south end of the KP. Translator towers are located at Fox Island (89.3) and along SR-16 (93.7),” Stiles said. “We can be heard in Puyallup, Fort Lewis, Olympia, Belfair, Vashon, and Federal Way.”

Stiles said the station is a “critical and essential communications element in times of emergency” for the area west of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. “We have backup generators for when power goes out. We’ve only been taken off the air on one occasion. That was in 2006, when trees took out our phone line carrying our signal to the primary,” he said. “We broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

High school students are responsible for producing programs Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, 13 community volunteers run the studio and programming every day until 9 p.m. and automated programming fills in the rest of the time, including the summer months when school is out.

Leland Smith has been the broadcast journalism instructor since April 1996. The “Intro to Broadcast Journalism” class teaches all aspects of the media, and students do the research, write the scripts, produce “canned” broadcasts, and conduct on-air operations. The “Radio Broadcast Lab” class has students actually running all the day-to-day operations of KGHP-FM. The news and sports coverage aired by KGHP are student products.

According to Smith, “Other schools with similar broadcast journalism programs include Nathan Hale High School in Seattle (KNHC-FM), Mercer Island High in Seattle (KMIH-FM), a school in Eugene, Ore. (KVRS-FM), and Clover Park Vocational Tech (KVTI-FM). Students cannot get a job in this media directly after graduating from high school. The industry pretty much requires a college degree to break in, but it does give the students such a great head start that they tend to excel. We’ve had a lot of success stories.”

Julie Miller, class of 2004, is now broadcasting live for KVTI-FM in Tacoma. Jessica Biber (2005) is majoring in journalism at Pepperdine, and is the TV anchor for the college station. Patrick Erickson (2006) is the radio sports announcer for Southern Illinois University, and travels with the teams. Russell Houghtaling (2002) graduated with degrees in broadcast journalism and sports management from Washington State University and is now a sports radio announcer. Malissa Enfield (2001) graduated from WSU with a degree in broadcast journalism and is now a sports anchor for a TV station in Medford, Ore.

“KGHP is an incredible utility,” Smith said. “It’s an absolute jewel with amazing potential. But this public relations race car needs some gas put in it. We need to hire a general manager. We have no backup engineer if anything happens to Keith Stiles. The superintendent and the school board need to decide whether we are a ‘school education station’ or a full-service eclectic radio station.”

Live DJs can be reached at 857-3589 if you have requests or comments, or if you want to volunteer.