Radio battled for access to news

In 1981, Haines Fay of KGMI radio was a popular voice on local airwaves.
In 1981, Haines Fay of KGMI radio was a popular voice on local airwaves. HERALD PHOTO

The history of local radio started when the lives of three men intersected - (Lafayette) Rogan Jones, a broadcasting pioneer; Louis Kessler, founder of "Kessler's Voice of Seattle" (KVOS); and a lawbreaking rumrunner named Roy Olmstead.

Lou Kessler began broadcasting in Seattle in 1926 from his apartment on Queen Anne Hill, but the station went belly up after he moved it to Bellingham.

About the same time, Olmstead, a Seattle police lieutenant was using his radio station to orchestrate a fleet of rumrunning speedboats. After authorities nabbed Olmstead, he asked a friend to apply for a radio license with the call letters KXRO. He hoped that the courts would overturn his conviction and he could jump back into broadcasting.

Olmstead's henchman, Al Hubbard, moved the station to Aberdeen, where feds closed it down after catching Hubbard working with rumrunners off of Grays Harbor.

Rogan Jones, an Aberdeen businessman, owned the building that housed KXRO and acquired the station when Hubbard went broke in 1928. Jones turned KXRO into a moneymaker and went looking for other broadcasting companies to buy.

That search led him to Bellingham and Kessler's defunct KVOS (now KGMI). Jones learned his new trade quickly and became a successful and influential radio owner, helping form the way radio does business even today.

In the early days of broadcasting, Associated Press, United Press and International News Press refused to sell news stories to radio stations. When Jones directed his staff to rewrite articles from newspapers, a "news wars" erupted, with the Associated Press accusing Jones of "news piracy."

In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of KVOS. The landmark decision gave radio stations across America access to the same news information that was available to their newspaper competitors.

In 1953, Jones launched KVOS TV 12. The audience for KVOS straddled the U.S.-Canada border; the station's first broadcast, on June 2, 1953, was the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Jones died in 1972.