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Globe-Democrat Finally Builds A Radio Station

When the St. Louis Globe-Democrat finally got on the bandwagon of newspaper ownership of radio stations, it did so in a big way. KWGD-FM was given a state-of-the-art facility of its own at 12th and Cole, down the street from the newspaper offices.

KWGD Studios architect rendering

The building, which now houses Sinclair Broadcasting’s St. Louis operations, cost $1.6 million to build in 1948, and the new station went on the air in December of that year. The newspaper admitted that it spent so much on the building because it also planned to set up a television station there.

The newspaper’s owners had actually applied for the frequency in 1941, but U.S. participation in World War II brought about a freeze on all new broadcast licenses. By the time it signed on December 19, 1948, at 92.9 mHz, KWGD-FM was beamed through its 10 kilowatt transmitter to the area’s nearly 100,000 FM receivers.

The paper touted the possibilities of FM, which was springing to life in the period following the war: “Listeners…will be assured of a new experience in radio enjoyment, free from the annoyance of interference by electric razors or vacuum cleaners, atmospheric static, and competing programs which set up a stream of ‘cross talk’ on standard broadcasting dials.”

Globe-Democrat staff writer Bob Goddard was given the task of writing the full-page introductory piece about the station. He described the building, writing, “The layout and dĂ©cor are well calculated to put the prospective advertiser in a warm and receptive frame of mind from the moment he steps through the entrance door on Cole Street.”

There were four radio studios on the street level, two of which were nearly 1,400 square feet so they could handle studio audiences of up to 50 people. The studios were described as “floating,” That is, the walls and floors were constructed on “cushioned members, which creates acoustic isolation for the highest fidelity sound reproduction.”

The KWGD-FM newsroom was located just off the lobby, and passers-by were invited to stop and watch through the large exterior plate glass windows as the news staff worked. Although the newspaper dubbed the facility “Radio City,” a portion of the second floor was set aside to house television transmitting equipment and studios.

The fanfare was short-lived, though. FM radio stations in St. Louis, which at that time did little more than simulcast the programs of their co-owned AM counterparts, failed at a rapid rate. In a six month period, KSD-FM, KXLW-FM, WIL-FM, and WEW-FM went dark.

KWGD was acquired in 1949 by Thomas Patrick, Inc., which owned KWK, and KWK-FM began using the facility and transmitting equipment. The station was now located at 98.1 mHz, but in less than a year after the acquisition, the plug was pulled. In April of 1950, KWK-FM became the fifth FM station in six months to fail in St. Louis.

(Reprinted with permission of the St.Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 12/98.)