KEWU to Sign Off at Year’s End

End of an era for non-commercial jazz radio station

August 29, 2023 By David Meany

Eastern Washington University has made the difficult decision to discontinue its on-campus, non-commercial jazz radio station, 89.5 KEWU-FM, effective at the end of this year.

A phase-out plan will culminate with a grand finale celebration featuring EWU jazz musicians. The radio station has been managed and operated by a mixture of Eastern faculty, students and broadcast communications professionals.

This decision did not come about lightly, as KEWU has been a part of Eastern’s culture since 1950. The move has the support of program faculty and university administrators, who recommend Eastern will be best served by looking at new broadcasting opportunities in the future.

“KEWU has provided quality entertainment as well as classic and contemporary jazz to the Inland Northwest for nearly 74 years, and we are proud of that accomplishment,” says EWU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jonathan Anderson. “With how dynamically the media landscape is changing there will be new opportunities for the university to explore.”

Anderson notes the university will look into other broadcasting options, such as involving students with podcasting, or other creative forms of communication.

During the transition over the next four months, KEWU will maintain programming with pre-loaded jazz music each day. The station will also promote a pre-recorded jazz finale featuring a performance by the celebrated EWU Jazz Ensemble.

KEWU’s illustrious history began on April 7, 1950, when KEWC (as it was originally named) first hit the airwaves. It operated as a free-form student station until 1986, when the station increased its transmitter output from 100 watts to 10,000 watts and the format was changed to straight ahead jazz  ̶  such as big band, swing and bop – as well as the modern and smooth contemporary jazz. Over the years KEWU hosted local artists in the studio to showcase their music.

Elizabeth Farriss, who joined the station as program director in 2004, was twice named Best Small Market Jazz Programmer by Jazz Week Magazine. The same publication named KEWU the best small market station two different times.

“Elizabeth Farriss’ expertise and dedication over the years established KEWU as a leader in jazz programming and a well-respected ambassador of the university,” says Pete Porter, an EWU professor of Film, the program which currently houses KEWU. “Eastern was fortunate to have someone of her caliber at the helm of its flagship radio station for so many years.”