Since broadcaster John Chapman’s arrival in Seaside in 1989, he has established himself as the voice of the community.
Raised in England, he came to the U.S. to be near his mother’s family in Sacramento, where he met his wife-to-be, Karen.
Chapman arrived in Seaside in 1989 as the Shilo Inn’s entertainment director and entered local broadcasting soon after. After years as an employee and co-owner of KSWB with Cal Brady (“We were peas and carrots,” Chapman said in a 2013 interview), he purchased the station in 2011.
Chapman now operates from offices on the corner of Broadway and Columbia.
Q: You’re the voice of Seaside. At what point did you get accepted as a true Seasider?
Chapman: I hope by now, after broadcasting Seaside sports for 24 years! I wouldn’t say I was “the voice,” I would like to say a “good continuity of voice.” I think I’ve been stable for quite a while now. I haven’t come and gone.
Q: That’s important.
Chapman: It actually surprised me when I sat back a couple of years ago and thought, “I’ve been doing this 20 years.” (Former Seaside basketball star) Byron Thompson graduated the year before I started broadcasting Seaside sports. Last year, his son Hunter was on my soccer team. So now I am starting to see the second generation of some of those families.
Q: KSWB is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Tell me about the station.
Chapman: When KSWB started it was 980 on the AM frequency. It was only a daytime station then. On its 13th birthday, they moved it to 840-AM and that became a 24-hour station. It was 1,000 watts during the day, 500 watts at night. KSWB has primarily been a pop-classic-hits station. FM came two years ago. Jerry Dennon, who was a record producer, was the original co-owner of the station with the Brothers Four, from Seaside.
Q: The Brothers Four?
Chapman: Listen back to the ’50s. They had one big hit, “Greenfields.”
Q: How did you get involved?
Chapman: I had been working in radio and wanted to stay working in radio. There were only five stations at the time: KVAS, KKEE, KAST-AM and -FM, and KSWB. I popped into KSWB one day and said, “I’ve been working in radio, I’m interested in doing that.” I met Ken Karge, who was the main part of KSWB at the time. His programming director Nancy Black was the one who pulled the trigger.
Q: How did you get involved in sports broadcasting?
Chapman: Because I had been in sports as a referee and player. It just seemed liked fun, though with an English accent, people asked, “What do you know about covering football?” It was that fall we started covering Seaside sports again. Which happened to be the year that Seaside football went to the state championship and won.
Q: Any secrets to share?
Chapman: One of the things I learned going through broadcasting school is that people want theater of mind. Most people don’t understand a game in its complexity. But they understand enough, especially when you’re talking about their kids. They want to hear their name. They want to hear what’s going on. Even today, that’s still my way. Simple, very clear. It’s about the kids, about recognizing what they’re doing. Win or lose, you have to try and keep that as positive as possible.
Q: We’ve had some great years with the Gulls lately.
Chapman: Yes, but we’ve had some bad moments, too. We had a spell of about five years when we only won three football games. That was hard broadcasting. Winning broadcasting is easy. It’s not always good for the blood pressure, but yes, we’ve had some great success. We’ve gone to the state tournament with either the boys’ or the girls’ basketball team every year for the last six years.
Q: Do you stream KSWB programming on the internet?
Chapman: We got streaming going this year. This year was the first season we had basketball online. We finally got into the 21st century, I guess, 18 years later.
Q: How do you see the future of small radio stations?
Chapman: I’m not ever going to get rich. When there is an emergency, if the tsunami warning comes, the newspaper can’t tell you that. But a radio station can. As long as you can stay on the air, people will look for you for continuity.
Q: Have you thought about your role in the tsunami?
Chapman: Last time we had a warning, I called my wife and said, “I’ve got to stay right here.” That’s my job. As long as I am on the air I am going to stay right here so people know what’s going on. In a radio situation it’s not just about the entertainment side. You are there for a community benefit. You’ve got to be one of those last people on the line that says, “Before we go off the air, this is what is happening.” And I believe that. That’s what you take home when you have a station, just like you would as an editor when you have a story.
Q: How has Seaside impacted you over the years?
Chapman: When I got the opportunity to buy into the ownership of the license in 2005, I knew I had bought something valuable within the community. No longer was I just a broadcaster. I was committing to the community for what goes across the airwaves. And hopefully it’s true, it’s real and people believe in that. I’d like to think that’s why I’m still around doing what I’m doing. In 2011, when I made the move and purchased KSWB outright, it became, “We’re here to stay.”
In 2009 when I got sick with the swine flu, this community gathered around me. I’m not going to leave this community. They were there for me when I was nearly dead. I’ve got to be there for them when they need me.
Hopefully we don’t have to go to that extreme, but when they need something, I’m hoping they can go, “What does Chappy got to say?” “Where is he at?” People think it’s a lucrative business, but it is a labor of love.
R.J. Marx is The Daily Astorian’s South County reporter and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette.