Katie Whiteside, program director for KHSU-FM 90.5, was a radio junkie at a young age. Growing up in Laguna Beach, Calif., she accessed the world beyond her small hometown via the airwaves.
"I used to listen to two stations as a kid; one was in L.A. and one was in San Diego," Katie says. "I was addicted to the one in San Diego and I would call the DJ all the time. And on the other station there was this late night show I used to listen to—I think it was KMPC. They did this thing where people would call in and they'd hook people up live on the air talking with one another. I just remember the iron lung man making me laugh so hard. He sounded like he might be in an iron lung, but I'm guessing he probably wasn't. So, this guy would call up and say ‘I'm looking for a woman, but I'm in an iron lung.' And it was just really funny so I got hooked every week listening to that."
In addition to radio, Katie had a passion for music and practiced flute for about eight years, playing in her high school band. While attending community college in Southern California, she saw recording studio classes offered and decided to enroll. The classes were interesting and when Katie eventually made her way to Humboldt State to study journalism, she got involved with KHSU.
"When I started at HSU I saw they had a minor in broadcasting so I thought, ‘Oh heck, I'll just try it, why not.' There was a class geared toward KHSU and students had to take this class to be on the radio. I started off like everybody, I monitored the station's broadcast. I also did an after-midnight shift and I practiced talking and I learned how to breathe—it took me a year to breathe right."
Katie continued volunteering at KHSU, honing her skills and learning how to improvise.
"Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong with me in radio," she says. "So I learned how to fix things as quick as I could. I've worked a lot with the radio engineers and I've done a good deal of monitoring."
Experience at KHSU and two years on HSU's student newspaper The Lumberjack landed Katie jobs at the Eureka Times-Standard, KINS-AM 980 and the now-defunct Arcata Union. She kept volunteering at KHSU and eventually was hired full-time in 1995 as the station's Operations Director and morning host. She now serves as the Operations/Program Director and continues to host on-air.
Being an on-air personality in such a small region has its quirks.
"Sometimes there are people who say, ‘Oh, I know you.' And they think that they know me because I'm in their bedroom, their bathroom, I'm in their living room with them—so they think that they know me personally. It's kind of weird. There's a monk in southern Humboldt who, when I'm on All Things Considered, he gets very excited and calls up when I make mistakes because when I make mistakes I giggle and he thinks it's funny. So, I don't know if that's good or bad. But, KHSU is really important because you're communicating with people who are going to work, who need to know what the weather conditions are, how they should dress for the day. They also want to know the news, to know what's going on in the world. So, in a lot of ways, it's an important job."