The logo of WCSR’s new country station 99.5 The Dale. Courtesy | Jamie McK­ibbin

Hillsdale res­i­dents may be sur­prised when they turn their radio dial to 1340 AM or 99.5 FM and now find a local country station instead of the usual Radio Hillsdale full-service content. If they turn to 92.1 FM, however, they will still find the WCSR content they are used to.

At the end of Feb­ruary, WCSR’s new owner, Jamie McK­ibbin, split formats for the three signals, con­tinuing the full-service format on Radio Hillsdale 92.1 FM and starting a country station, called The Dale, on 1340 AM and 99.5 FM. 

McK­ibbin, a Hillsdale native, pur­chased WCSR 1340 AM, 92.1 FM, and 99.5 FM in December 2019. In Feb­ruary 2020, he began man­aging the station. It “made sense,” he said, to add variety to the three sta­tions and appeal to a larger audience.

“Radio Hillsdale is such a staple to the com­munity with local news, but that same pro­gramming was hap­pening on three signals,” McK­ibbin said. “Radio lis­teners are only going to pick one.” 

McK­ibbin said he chose to put a country music format on two of the signals because there was a need for a local country station.

“There are a lot of country music fans in the area, and it’s a really fun format,” McK­ibbin said.

Hillsdale College senior Martin Petersen, who works part-time for WCSR, said the country station is already popular. Petersen added that he was impressed with how quickly McK­ibbin was able to split the signals and create the new station.

“It was a quick turn­around,” Petersen said. “He came in, and a few days later, it was all up and running.”

McK­ibbin said several local busi­nesses have told him they are enjoying lis­tening to The Dale. Many res­i­dents, he added, have also told him it’s refreshing to have another choice.

Scot Bertram, general manager of Hillsdale College radio station Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, said the addition of The Dale reaches a wider audience.

“The full-service format wasn’t ser­vicing country lis­teners,” Bertram said. “Splitting the station allows them to poten­tially service a new group of local lis­teners.”

According to McK­ibbin, The Dale still incor­po­rates the local feel of WCSR with local news and an active Facebook page. In the future, McK­ibbin said, he hopes the station can also interact with the com­munity through live appear­ances at fairs, fes­tivals, and other events. 

In addition to serving a new audience, the signal split allows for more oppor­tu­nities to broadcast sports games. Before WCSR split formats for its three signals, it would have con­flicts with car­rying mul­tiple sporting events. Now, the station can increase its cov­erage of local sporting events while still car­rying Detroit Tigers games on 92.1 FM.

The split pro­vides more options for local lis­teners and also pro­vides for more oppor­tu­nities to interact with the com­munity and Hillsdale College, McK­ibben said.

“Having another signal also helps us train young people,” McK­ibbin said. “Hope­fully, we can be a spring­board for those who want to be in broad­casting at another level. I’ve only been here since Feb­ruary, but I really look forward to more col­lab­o­ration with the college in the future.”