KSL NewsRadio preparing for 100 year celebration

Apr 7, 2022, 5:30 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
Throwback photo of KSL news service stand...
Throwback photo of KSL news service stand (File Photo: KSL NewsRadio)
(File Photo: KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — It was an early Saturday morning on May 6, 1922, when an engineer stood in a shack atop the Deseret News building and spoke the first words to be broadcast on the station that is now known as KSL. 

“Hello, Hello,” he said. “This is KZN, the Deseret News. Salt Lake City calling.”

With those words, nearly a century of programming on KSL began.

Later in the day, dignitaries, including Elder George Albert Smith, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gathered for a more formal event. During the celebration of the station’s 25th Anniversary in 1947, he spoke about that occasion, as President of the church. “I had the privilege of riding the first bicycle that came to Salt Lake City.  I spoke on the first telephone.  I witnessed this magnificent city rise from the dusty streets,” President Smith said. “And 25 years ago, I participated in the initial broadcast.”

Radio in its infancy

KSL was among a relatively few stations to take the air at the time, but there were others. Legendary stations such as KDKA in Pittsburg, and KNX in Los Angeles had begun two years earlier. Later in 1922, KTAR began broadcasting in Phoenix. By 1923, that small handful of stations had grown from a couple of dozen to hundreds. Radio was in its infancy, but people were hungry for what it offered.

“There was a hunger from the public to see breaking news,” said BYU Communications professor, Dale Cressman. Cressman has written about how some newspapers tried to address that demand, by displaying news on signs outside their buildings. “They had the same desire for spontaneity that we have, although we’ve come to expect it,” Cressman said, “But they wanted it, and so when radio came along, they ate it up.”

That consumption didn’t happen all at once. In the early days, relatively few people had radios in their homes. Cressman compared it to a so-called “chicken or the egg” scenario when it came to broadcasts being offered, to people hearing them. But the change was underway.

“I think radio was a much bigger deal than what kind of led to the things that we take for granted now,” Cressman said. “People were shocked to hear a voice coming from a box.”

A dramatic shift

“Radio brought in the world,” said Ed Adams, Dean of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications. “The only mass communications we had were magazines and newspapers.” he said, “And newspapers had a sense of localism.”

Adams said in the 1920s, half of American society was rural. 

“And so now you’ve got a device that brings you news and information, that brings you entertainment,” Adams said.  “Now you have an opportunity to participate in things you’ve never heard of before.” 

In 1922, Utah’s population was just under 450,000

“It was a different world, it was a quiet world,” said Adams. “We didn’t have voices coming in from outside of our local community.”  

It was that voice that those backing KSL wanted to be heard. Early programming at KSL often featured religious programming, speeches, news and local entertainment. 

Through the decades, the focus has remained on providing valuable information to an ever-changing audience.  

Over the next several weeks, KSL will provide special programming and coverage as we mark the 100th anniversary.

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