Mike McKibbin

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April 10, 2013
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Maybe not 'old time' radio, but it's still live and local

These days, the main thing missing when people remember "old time" radio stations are the records.

Now, the music is on a computer's hard drive at many stations, including The River 95.5 FM in Rifle.

In the studio, though, there's still an announcer, in this case Cheryl Minter of Rifle.

Just don't call her a disc jockey, or DJ, since there are no discs.

But since early this month, Minter has hosted her early morning show on The River in Rifle with hopes of making the station more like those "old time" radio stations. She and other hosts on The River are the only radio announcers physically located in Rifle, at 818 Taughenbaugh Blvd.

"It's going to be radio the way it was meant to be," Minter said.

Western Slope Communications, which owns The River, DRIVE 105, ESPN Radio 690, ESPN Radio 1450 in Montrose and The Range 105 in Montrose, among others, switched the music formats of The River and DRIVE 105. That allowed Minter, who had commuted between Rifle and Grand Junction for the last six years to do her show on DRIVE 105, to sleep a little longer in the mornings.

"We've wanted 95.5 to be more of a local station for some time," Minter said. "I grew up here and now it's finally time we help make Rifle an even better town."

The change comes as Rifle plans for some exciting additions, Minter said.

"I think downtown development is going to be exciting with the [New Ute Events Center]," she said. "I'd like to see Rifle have more of a night life scene that isn't just the bars or a movie. We'd like to help get local bands to perform at the Ute."

Interacting with Rifle listeners will go beyond on air, too, Minter said.

"I'm looking forward to meeting folks over coffee," she stated. "Just to have that local connection."

Minter is not the only local on air host at The River. "Big Lou" is on middays, Tim Jennings works the afternoon shift and Michael B. "Jammin'" Johnson hosts the night time shift. All worked with Minter in Grand Junction at DRIVE 105.

Minter's day starts at 4:30 a.m. each weekday, when she arrives at the studio and does some show preparation work, records weather forecasts for several of the stations and programs the songs and commercials for her five-hour show. Minter is on air from 5 to 10 a.m.

To help connect with local listeners, Minter said she will talk about stories in local newspapers. The stations do not have their own news reporters.

So far, feedback from listeners has been positive, Minter noted.

"We've had a few on air local guests and we're always open to that," she said. "The Boy Scouts are going to take a tour of the studio, too."

Minter noted the switch should also help local small businesses get the word out to their local customers.

"Before, everyone would have to drive to Grand Junction or Montrose to go to Walmart," she said. "Now, there's a Walmart in Rifle, one in Glenwood Springs, so people don't have to travel. They are shopping more locally again."

Minter added the change in formats comes as the company's new engineer, Ryan Baker, has been working hard to improve the signals of the radio stations.

"Our previous engineer had a stroke, so there was a time we didn't have anyone to keep things running," Minter, also station manager for The River, said. "Just in the last two weeks, Ryan's hit all the transmitter sites from Montrose to Iron Mountain. I think our sound is stronger than it's been in two years."

While technology has changed the radio broadcasting business just as it has nearly every other business - satellite radio and online music services have eroded listener bases - Minter said she couldn't be more excited at bringing live, local radio back to Rifle.

"It's going to be a small town feel in a big town way," she stated.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 10, 2013 06:16PM Published Apr 10, 2013 06:15PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.