At a time when many news organizations are downsizing, one local company is booming. • They've doubled their staff and added a foreign correspondent. They've gone global with their audience. Owner and "sports master" Adam "A-Dawg" Baker said his grades at Largo Middle School are even improving. • WKID 96.7 FM claims it's the only radio station in the world owned and operated by kids. Since being featured in a story in the Times last year, their operation has expanded considerably.
The station was created with the help of Adam's dad, Rodger Baker, a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office electronics technician. Using about $2,500, Baker created a low-power station from his Clearwater home as a Christmas gift for his sons Adam, 12, and Eric, 8, who serves as co-owner and meteorologist.
"I'm getting a lot of experience," Adam said. "I had no idea how to run a radio station or anything and it bumped up my reading."
At first, the station's signal only transmitted in a 1-mile radius along S Highland Avenue as far north as Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater and south to Rosery Road in Largo. To broadcast any further would violate Federal Communication Commission rules.
Today, as the kids like to say, they transmit around the block but stream around the world. Spatial Audio, a company that provides audio streaming and broadcast software, offered to sponsor the kids and stream their broadcasts online for free, a service that usually costs $300 to $400 a month, Baker said. They estimate they have more than 1,000 listeners a night.
Several online radio sites have picked up on the kids, prompting a 14-year-old living in Germany to contact them. The teen will start gathering news from Germany and send his reports in MP3 files for the Clearwater crew to broadcast.
There are about 45 kids in the group but only five to eight of them show up each night in time to broadcast the 8 p.m. news. They also take song requests.
Wednesday, Adam was preparing for "Parents Night."
"That's when if you're having trouble with your parents or anything they call in and we can help them out," he said.
The community has rallied around the station. When meteorologist Eric wrote to RainWise Inc. to ask for a discount on a new weather station after his broke, RainWise wrote back saying they wouldn't give a discount. Instead, they sent their best equipment for free. One of Eric's teachers donated a laptop computer.
And working on the station has boosted grades and put kids on the honor roll, Rodger Baker said.
"I think what I credit it to is the kids being able to use their mind a lot more, finding stories on the Internet, being able to distinguish between what they should and shouldn't read on the air," Baker said.
The kids also give back, donating their DJ services for community events and fundraisers. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, they'll be at the Dunedin Fire Station's open house, 1046 Virginia St.
They're also writing a screenplay about their station. Spoiler alert: There's a happy ending.
Tune in for more radio programming this summer as the kids fight summer break boredom.
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)445-4181.