On Jan. 4, 1949, KNEX began broadcasting out of a two-story farmhouse; 70 years later, the radio station's call letters have changed but its focus on McPherson-area happenings is as steadfast as ever.

"It was a big deal, in 1949, to have a radio station in McPherson," said Tom Stapleton, account executive at MidKansas Radio. "...I was a kid over on Gildersleeve (Street) when they signed on."

The radio station employed "Cousin Claude" Hughes as its engineer. Hughes and his wife, Porrteus, known as "Portie," lived on the second floor of the farmhouse with the radio offices located on the first floor.

"Claude Hughes was a veteran of World War II. He went to school and got his first class radio license in trade school and came up here," Stapleton said. "He did sports broadcasts, he did everything."

"Back then, there was no automation," said Mark Ekeland, MidKansas Radio general manager. "If you were on the air, there was somebody there."

Though it started out broadcasting as an AM and FM station, KNEX eventually gave up its FM signal until around 1980 when new owners bought the operation. It was then rebranded with call letters KNGL (1540 AM) and KBBE (96.7 FM).

While KNGL airs talk radio from sunup to sunset, KBBE is known for its round-the-clock mix of music, local news and area sports coverage.

MidKansas Radio, which is now owned by Jerry and Diane Davies, moved to its current location at 411 E. Euclid in 2004.

Ekeland hosts "Mark in the Morning" from 6 to 9 a.m. each weekday.

"It's an easy job. You get paid for talking," Ekeland joked.

Having a local radio station is unusual, Ekeland noted, as many stations are part of large corporate groups whose disc jockeys may be sitting in a studio in a different state.

"The local aspect is still there," Ekeland said. "You lose it when you have somebody who doesn't know your town."

Working at a radio station has changed over the decades, Ekeland noted. When his career started in the 1980s, songs were played off of 45 rpm records.

"Now, it's all digital ... we program it all in the computer," Ekeland said.

News and Sports Director Jim Joyner said McPherson's support of high school sports — and the game broadcasts he and sports writer Steve Sell produce — were part of what drew him to move here.

"Anytime we roll back in from a game — around 9 or 10 at night — the phones will be ringing with 'how did the Bullpups do tonight? Who do they play tomorrow?" "Are they any good?" People are just obsessed and that's what makes it unique and fun," Joyner said. "There's not another town like McPherson when it comes to high school sports and the interest that it draws."

Joyner and Sell also talk all things sports on "According to Jim" from 12:30 to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"With our show, it's been a little more relaxed and we're able to have some fun. I think that's what people enjoy the most," Joyner said.

Joyner chose to work in radio after tackling a sports broadcasting assignment in his high school public speaking class.

"With radio, you still get the personality. You hear the inflection and the tone of what's being said. That's what I think is really cool about radio," Joyner said. "You still get to be yourself but there's a little bit of mystery to it."

Though there are more media options than ever for people to consume, radio continues to be popular.

"There's something about people talking directly to you that will always resonate with people and that they'll enjoy," Joyner said.

To learn more about MidKansas Radio, visit http://midkansasonline.com.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.