WSU’s Murrow College launches jazz radio station 89.9 KJEM

PULLMAN, Wash. – With the flip of a switch Friday, KJEM 89.9 FM, the newest radio station in the Palouse, began filling the airways with the sounds of jazz in honor of WSU alumnus and broadcast pioneer J. Elroy McCaw.

At the controls, his son Bruce R. McCaw officially signed on the station 76 years to the day after his father launched his first radio station, KELA in Centralia, Wash.

J. Elroy McCaw, WSU alum and Northwest radio pione

KJEM, whose call letters are derived from J. Elroy McCaw’s initials, is the newest of the 19 stations in the Northwest Public Radio (NWPR) group, the largest National Public Radio network in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike other NWPR stations, KJEM will be run by students but under the guidance of NWPR’s professional management team.

The station is part of the Washington State University Murrow College “teaching hospital” model, which provides students with hands-on training in real-world environments.

The station is made possible through a generous gift from McCaw’s son Bruce. An ongoing fundraising campaign is planned to support a variety of programs and operations.

J. Elroy McCaw refined his skills in radio broadcasting during his college years at radio station KWSC in Pullman. Despite the dim economic climate following the Depression, his vibrant spirit and technical proficiency led him to build his first station in Centralia at age 26. That station became the basis of a radio and cable broadcasting empire.


Among his passions was the desire to create community-focused stations. In this spirit, KJEM will serve the rich and vibrant jazz community on the Palouse while also streaming online worldwide. The station will be a place where jazz students at the region’s universities, along with area high schools and middle schools, can hear their performances broadcast.

Recordings of performances by jazz ensembles at WSU, the University of Washington, the University of Idaho and others will provide a unique regional flavor to the station’s programming, as well as help foster jazz in the Pacific Northwest.

McCaw’s commitment is part of the Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas. Since July 2006, the campaign has raised more than $844 million toward a goal of $1 billion to increase support for WSU’s students, faculty, research and programs and to leverage the university’s impact across the state, nation and world.


Kerry Swanson, Northwest Public Radio, 509-335-6512, [email protected]