Blair Radio: “Labor of Love”

Kelly Johnson of Blair Radio Staff
2021 July 5, Monday

Kelly Johnson Blair RadioInterview with Kelly Johnson, Morning Show Host / Community Relations Developer, Blair Radio 94.7

(1) BLAIR TODAY: The history of Blair radio stations is not one of longevity and success. Why did you want to try to do what others could not?

KELLY JOHNSON: It was to give Blair, and the surrounding area, a voice in a world that does not listen to “the little guy,” or everybody. The world usually has an agenda in mind, so we try to take that agenda away and give back to the community.

(2) BLAIR TODAY: Your answer is general and applies to many small communities. But, what does Blair Radio do for Blair?

KELLY JOHNSON: The concept is, and the motto is, “Unity and community through media.” So, we work closely with many different agencies, whether it’s the police department, the sheriff’s department, the school superintendent of the high school, middle school, and elementary schools. The chamber, and promoting small town business… So, it is something that is general, but it’s focused right here for Blair. And, the fact is, this is where we are located. We are here to do this for home.

(3) BLAIR TODAY: Is there Blair-specific content?

KELLY JOHNSON: Monday through Friday from 7AM to 8AM, it is what I call the local guest host segment. I invite anyone in the community to be able to come in and take that hour. So, it’s really four segments we prerecord to talk about what’s happening for them in the community, what’s happening with a business or non-profit, or whatever it is that reaches and impacts them right here in Blair or Washington County. We also have non-profit news for specific non-profit organizations in our community – that’s two half-hour segments which we air from 10AM to 10:30AM, then re-air it at 4:00PM to 4:30PM in the afternoon. We do local news every hour from 6AM to 6PM every Monday through Friday, which is Blair-specific. Then, every half-hour from 6AM to 9PM we do local weather – which is focused, again, on Blair, Nebraska. We do contests and commentaries that impact Blair where we can give back to the community. At the beginning of this year – January and February – we organized a local day of appreciation for the staff of Blair community schools – not just teachers or anyone specific – but, everyone associated with the schools, from superintendent to dishwashers to substitute teachers, and we were able to raise $16,000 worth of gift certificates for items which we gave 100% to the schools.

“60 Days of Seniors” at

We’re in the middle of our “60 Days of Seniors,” honoring the class of 2021 for Blair High School (that started last year when they were not able to have their graduation ceremony). I was like, “Well 60 days of summer,” why don’t we fix that and change it to “60 Days of Seniors” and honor the class-members for 2020. And, we continued the process this year. Last year we had flags made up and we gave them to the volunteer fire department that said, “I support the volunteer fire department,” and they were able to use them as a fundraiser last year – a lot of non-profits were not able to be able to do any fundraisers. Through those we were able to write checks to the Blair volunteer fire department for about $2,000, and I gave them additional flags this year so they could do more fundraising with them.

It’s almost like a “Field of Dreams,” situation where we are building it, we’ll make it; then the people see it, they know what’s going, and they will come and be a part of it.

Kelly Johnson, Morning Show Host / Community Relations Developer, Blair Radio 94.7

(4) BLAIR TODAY: None of this is free. Blair is a small market. Many small radio stations collapse when they run out of money. And, Blair Radio takes space on the third floor of a building at Dana campus. How can Blair Radio operate and have money left to give out?

KELLY JOHNSON: We build relationships, and we’re a non-profit organization, but yes, everything we do, yes, takes money. I work with businesses. I build relationships with those businesses and say, “Hey, this is what we will be doing. Would you like to be associated with it, by financial gifts to us to be able to continue this process?” For example, with the “60 Days of Seniors,” there’s not a lot of funds going out because we don’t give anything to the seniors other than we acknowledge them. But, we do have sponsors that are associated with that to be able to finance other things. Washington County Fair, for example, we are going to stream to all the 4H events – they have teamed up with us and they donate to us, in order to able to pull some of these things off. Everything we do has to focus on, if I’m going to ask someone to help us – by donating to us – we have to, in turn, be able to give back in a way that recognizes them back into the community.

(5) BLAIR TODAY: A donation model?

KELLY JOHNSON: Yes. Sponsorships through donations. Almost, a little bit, PBS-like.

(6) BLAIR TODAY: How do you decide what music to play, around the Blair-specific content?

Blair Radio Bear CallKELLY JOHNSON: We chose every song ourselves. We decided on a “family-friendly” format. 10% of the music is Christian – because we are a Christian-based organization. Everything has to be “family-friendly” where we can build relationships… We did it this way so we can create things like the media club in the high school to be able to teach students how to do this, and they can then, in turn, be able to write and produce news that actually goes on the air – they call that “the Bear Call.” The rest of our time is music from a variety of genres, but they are songs people recognize. But, they cannot have lyrics derogatory to the human spirit. We are focusing on building relationships so we can then grow from there.

(7) BLAIR TODAY: Some people are confused about how many stations are local. Some don’t know “Boomer Radio” and “Blair Radio” are different. Why is that?

KELLY JOHNSON: Well, right, we had yard signs that said 94.7 is Blair Radio. Boomer claimed to be “Boomer Radio in Blair.” It comes down to the focus of reach. “Boomer,” has a focus outside of Blair, our focus is into Blair.

(8) BLAIR TODAY: Does Blair need two stations, or can two stations survive in this small market?

KELLY JOHNSON: Yes, but… Here’s the difference between the two: We are a non-profit. We’re what’s called an “LPFM” (Low Power FM) which is 100 watts. So, our focus and range is Fort Calhoun-to-Tekamah, Kennard-to-Missouri Valley; that is our footprint. “Boomer” or 97.3 is just one-fifth of “Boomer,” because “Boomer” actually has five stations (that’s why they’re broadcasting from Omaha to able to compensate for that)… 97.3 was just enveloped into that network. So, they are getting a lot of their funding, obviously, from their Omaha listeners. But, can there be two stations? Well, they are a 25,000-watt station, they could have a good impact around us, but, what I would do in that particular case, is I would focus on a regional view, more-so than a local view because they cover a regional area better. I’m not in competition with anyone, though. I’m doing what I’m led to do.

(9) BLAIR TODAY: Why are you “led to do” this? There are many ways you could give to Blair. Why radio?

KELLY JOHNSON: In life, I learned many different things for a reason. One of them has culminated into, “there’s a reason why I was brought to Blair,” and I fell in love with Blair. And, I desire for Blair to have something that is theirs, that is quality, that is 100%-focused on this area. I have no claims for false-thinking I’m going to get rich off this. This is a “labor of love.” And, if you do what God tells you to do, God leads you to do, and you do to the best of your ability, that is where you need to be. He provides the rest.

(10) BLAIR TODAY: How can people support Blair Radio?

KELLY JOHNSON: Learn more about Blair Radio. Go to our website at BlairRadio.Com. Read about us. Go through the interviews. Know who we are, where are our heart is, and learn more about us. Follows on Facebook… “Like and share,” if you agree with us. And, if you get to that point – and, you would like to – you could certainly volunteer. We are always looking for volunteers at this point, because there are a lot of things we cover. And, if you do want to donate – we don’t want to do “share-marathons” like other non-profits do – we want to be able to just give the programming, give the station to the community… If people want to voluntarily give, we greatly appreciate it. It’s almost like a “Field of Dreams,” situation where we are building it, we’ll make it; then the people see it, they know what’s going, and they will come and be a part of it.