Vern Kaspar became a member of the Indiana Broadcast Hall of Fame in October of 2004 and was still delivering editorials on some of his community radio stations in Frankfort, Indiana and his St. Louis, Missouri operations. He owns, with his two sons, four radio stations and an online newspaper. He is the station’s CEO and senior political analyst. For years he delivered editorials five times a week; now it’s whenever he feels a need for one. “You will not get Alzheimer’s if you keep your mind doing editorials and talk shows, it’s important to keep active.”
Born in 1922 in Sioux City, Iowa, Kaspar obtained his first FCC license at age 13 as an amateur radio operator, building and operating his own amateur radio station – the use of part of the radio frequency spectrum for recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, and emergency communication that is still used today. Back in the days before Teletype news was available, he would copy Morse code at 33 words per minute to obtain national and international news for local radio stations. The news was being transmitted via short wave in Morse code to United States radio stations through the Trans- Radio News Service. A graduate of Iowa State University, he has degrees in physics and electrical engineering. After serving in the navy in World War II and stints at Princeton and Columbia University, he became an executive for WOI-TV, the first TV station in Iowa. In 1953, he helped with TV coverage of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign. In 1959, as a minority partner in a radio station in Nebraska, he decided he’d like to own one of his own. He and his wife Lillian looked at Frankfort, IN, Colorado and Minnesota. He opted for Indiana.
In addition to WILO-AM in Frankfort, Kaspar Broadcasting now owns WHSW-FM, a 50,000 watt station he built that serves 14 Indiana counties. He also build a 25,000-watt FM radio station, which is now on of the two stations in Missouri: KWRE-AM and KFAV-FM, serving several counties west of St. Louis.
An inveterate traveler, Kaspar visited more than 50 countries. He spent time behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. He has done work for the Voice of America, has been to China five times, and visited Cuba actually doing some broadcasts on Radio Havana. He interviewed everyone from Yassar Arafat to King Abdullah. Adamant about a broadcasters’ duty to editorialize, Kaspar won many awards from UPI and the Indiana Broadcasters Association for best editorial. “Politicians are lying all the time. It’s media’s job to keep ‘em honest,” he says.
He served as board member of the National Broadcast Editorial Association, the National Conference of Editorial Writers, and as a member of the International Broadcasters’ idea Bank, an organization of radio broadcasting owners and manager united to share knowledge and uphold standards of broadcasting.
About the changes he has seen over the years Kaspar says, “The best is technology. The worse is out lowering of moral values and personal responsibilities and our surrender of common sense. Nothing will ever replace radio – the human voice, a constant companion. But we do need to constantly adjust. Otherwise, it will become extinct.”