With so many choices on the radio dial, it would seem difficult for a radio station serving a small coastal community to compete for local listeners' ears.

Not so, says Seaside radio personality John Chapman, who believes a local station has the advantage of focusing its attention solely on the needs of the community it serves.

"All we're here for is (to serve) our community," Chapman said. "Our listeners want local news and continuity in an emergency. If there's a major power outage locally, they want to know we'll still be on the air" providing current information on the situation.

Seaside radio personality John Chapman says small communities count on their local radio stations, especially in times of emergencies. Photo: Greg Cohen

Chapman is part-owner and general manager of KSWB AM 840 and morning host on sister station KCWB FM 94.9. The two Seaside-based stations are operated by Calcomm Stations Oregon, LLC.

While listeners might tune into a station for background music, to catch the just-released songs or to get revved up by a talk-show host, Chapman said community stations can provide all that, as well as news and information that has a direct bearing on their listeners' lives.

"We're not a big corporate company," Chapman said. "All of our employees live in the community. We know the community, and we're here to support our community, whether it's to provide local news, broadcast high school games or to promote local mom and pop businesses."

That local connection is important to Oregon's North Coast communities, especially in times of severe weather, when a storm can knock out power and leave the town literally isolated.

It was just for such emergencies that Calcomm invested in a backup power system that it installed at both its Seaside studios and at its transmitter site. That investment has allowed the company to continue to broadcast when regular power was out throughout the town.

"We need to be here when the public needs us," he said, stressing that it's during such emergencies that a local radio station takes on its most important role - to relay the most up-to-date information from local government and public service agencies to

Radio personality:

A few quick facts

Responsibilities: Connect and engage with audience; announce song title and artist. Job also may require preparing on-air ads and public service announcements, interviewing guests, reading news flashes and weather updates, and acting as master of ceremonies at community events.

Educational requirements: Some on-the-job training to gain the necessary skills for this occupation. Having technical skills with digital automation is a plus. Those with a bachelor's degree have a competitive advantage in this labor market.

Employment opportunities: Limited employment opportunities exist.

Salary: Statewide middle range is $12.02 to $20.66 per hour (based on 2009 wages).

Source: Oregon Employment Department


Not only is keeping ties with the community a priority for his radio station, it also has become a big part of Chapman's personal life - whether it's coaching a girls soccer team, volunteering his time for one of several charity organizations with which he is involved, serving as executive director of the Miss Clatsop County Pageant or creating the background music and narrating Seaside's Fourth of July fireworks program.

Although he's never considered himself a "celebrity," Chapman said the biggest reward about being in the entertainment business is the connection he has developed with his audience.

But it wasn't until he suffered a nearly fatal illness last fall that he realized how many people he reached.

In October, Chapman contracted the H1N1 virus which developed into advanced respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). He was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator for more than a month and doctors prepared his family for the worst.

"I was technically dead for four or five days," he said.

Chapman said it was only through a "miracle" that doctors were finally able to stabilize him, and his body was able to begin a lengthy recovery.

It was during his months-long illness and recovery that the radio station was besieged with calls and inquiries from the community wanting to know the latest word on his condition. The station created a special blog to keep everyone up to date on his progress. Local groups held special events to raise funds to help Chapman and his family meet the skyrocketing hospital and medical expenses.

Chapman was able to return to work in February, although, even now, he hasn't fully recovered. He said he still gets winded on occasion climbing the stairs to the station's second floor offices.

Chapman said he and his family still remain overwhelmed by the community's support and encouragement during his medical ordeal.

"It tells me I'm doing something of value with my life and that it's important to a lot of people," he said.

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