Many people in the Flathead share a morning routine: pour a cup of coffee, then turn on 1180 AM KOFI, one of the oldest radio stations in the valley. It’s been broadcasting news, talk radio, and oldies music since 1955. And though its listeners primarily hail from the Flathead, some KOFI listeners tune in from as far away as Salt Lake City and Washington State.
Holding the reins of this 15-person operation is Dave Rae, general manager and owner at KOFI. Thirty years ago, he moved to Kalispell from Glasgow, Montana, where he began his career in the radio business. He had been in a rock band, but when it dissolved, he found that he still wanted to be on the radio and figured out his own way to get on the air.
At KOFI, he also oversees two other radio stations, 94.3 The Lake and 103.9 The Monster. The Monster, which was established in 1988, before Dave’s 25-year-long tenure began, plays classic rock hits. The Lake, which Dave developed in 2012, is dedicated to country.
“We hit everyone from age 25 to 64. We target the 45-plus age group with the AM show,” he said. “Country music is for the younger generation and then Monster is classic rock.”
Though Dave could broadcast from anywhere he chooses, he prefers Kalispell and the Flathead Valley.
“We’re living in God’s country,” he said. “This is where it’s at—mountains, skiing, hiking, biking. It’s just such a great place to live for families, for raising kids.”
As the local population and economy has skyrocketed in recent years, so has the local radio industry.
“Back when I started working here, there weren’t as many radio stations,” Dave said. “The valley has grown, business has grown. There’s more people and reach for advertisers.”
Still, KOFI has remained a local staple. That’s in part due to some legendary broadcasters, like Montana Broadcasters Association Hall of Famer George Ostrom, who joined the team months after KOFI went on the air. A local icon, Ostrom worked as a smokejumper and served in the U.S. Army before finding his way into the news. He later joined the Pulitzer prize winning Hungry Horse News, and became an award-winning writer.
Even after Ostrom left the station in 2008, though, KOFI has continued on a steady track. Dave, who is committed to keeping his programs relevant, “has made it a goal “to grow with the community, and grow with what’s going on in the valley. That’s what radio stations do, be a voice.”
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