Minnesota’s Community Radio: Local News, Arts and Culture

The Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations (AMPERS) advises the state government on grants to the community radio stations that make up its membership. Of the 18 AMPERS stations in Minnesota, four are affiliated with Native American communities, six are licensed to colleges and all but one receives programming grants from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Current reports that perhaps no station has done as much with the funding distributed through AMPERS as KFAI, one of four AMPERS members in the Twin Cities area. The scrappy FM outlet’s mission is serving “people ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media … while fostering the values of democracy and social justice.” Last year KFAI feature stories won a half-dozen awards from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. “For a tiny community radio station competing against Minnesota Public Radio and other folks, we felt really good about winning six times,” said Todd Melby, managing editor.

Radio WTIP in the resort town of Grand Marais serves Cook County, the largest county in Minnesota with the smallest population. The AMPERS member station sits on the northern shore of Lake Superior, about 40 miles southwest of the Canadian border. In recent years it has become the primary media outlet for what is known as the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota, according to Matthew Brown, station manager. This has meant covering the county commission, the city council and local township boards as well as reporting on local weather in great detail, power outages and road closings.

“We really try to be as local as we can be,” said Brown.