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Dog Teams Dominate the Radio Airwaves

“The year is 1985, and this is Tom Busch with a KNOM Iditarod Moment. Teller’s Libby Riddles led into Eagle Island, two thirds into the race… Only west-coast Alaskans had any notion what Riddles could do… In the statewide press she was hardly mentioned…”

Iditarod coverage is a team sport. In a longstanding radio tradition, new News Director Kevin Fox and his team of reporters update listeners on musher standings, trail conditions, weather reports, and amusing trivia three times daily to supplement regular newscasts.

After each special update, the familiar recorded voice of Tom Busch, KNOM’s first general manager, features historical Iditarod moments straight from the archives.

For example, older listeners could re-live the 1985 finish quoted above, when local musher Libby Riddles of Teller became the first woman to win the race.

Cathy Rubano (right) holds a frozen fish tail as she and Sophia DeSalvo pack food for a local team’s upcoming expedition

This year, special features bring mushing greats of bygone years back to the airwaves. In a feature about women competing in the race, Riddles returned to the airwaves to reflect on her historic victory. She says, “Part of me thinks, ‘What’s the big deal?’ But then over so many years of this, I’ve seen where it really is a big deal and I’ve had a lot of young gals write to me and, you know, I can tell my story has made a difference to them.”

As part of their learning to report on dog-mushing up close, the volunteer fellows spent a day helping local musher Stephanie Johnson. She and her dogs were preparing to set out on a several-day long expedition together with musher Juliah DeLoach and her team.

Sophia DeSalvo recalled the experience, saying: “We packed up over 800 pieces of salmon that will be used to feed the dogs, and that is still only a fraction of the food that will be hauled out with them. Stephanie showed us firsthand that there is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into maintaining a team of sled dogs.”

Image at top: Left: Radio interns Sara Bioff and Imari Bright from Nome-Beltz High School (right) shadow Colin O’Connor (middle left) and Kevin Fox (left) as they update listeners on the Iditarod standings.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.