Year-old Brunswick radio station still a labor of love
BRUNSWICK — Jim Bleikamp hasn't had much of a break since he revived WCME more than a year ago.
And perhaps not enough sleep.
"You've got to love it to do this," said Bleikamp, a radio industry veteran who often works up to 80 hours a week with minimal slumber. "There is no financial adviser who would recommend this as a get-rich strategy."
Bleikamp said WCME, at 900AM and radio9wcme.com, will still require a lot of work and passion before it becomes a profitable venture – something he believes is still possible.
In the meantime, Bleikamp has maintained the Fort Andross radio station's mission: to serve as a Mid-Coast community hub.
On any given night the former anchor for The Wall Street Journal Radio Network can be seen at Town Council or School Board meetings, or any number of other events in Brunswick and surrounding communities.
"If you ask me now, I'd be just as likely to tell you I'm in the community service business than the radio business," Bleikamp said. "... We are reporting a large number of very local news developments that aren't reported by any other radio station. We are making it possible for people all over the Mid-Coast to hear the voices of people who, up until now, they've only read about."
In the morning, Bleikamp co-hosts Midcoast Morning Buzz, a talk show that often features local newsmakers, with another radio industry veteran, and the station's only other full-time employee, Bruce Stevens. Throughout the day, an automated music service is intertwined with hourly news updates programmed by Bleikamp.
WCME also has some shows hosted by local personalities, including weekly play-by-play of high school sports contests, Town Councilor John Richardson replying to Gov. Paul LePage's weekly radio address, and a political talk show hosted by state Reps. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta.
Because WCME still has a minuscule staff – he also employs half a dozen part-time workers – Bleikamp, besides reporting the news, also works as the radio station's advertising manager.
"There is an inherent conflict of interest that I wish did not exist," Bleikamp said, "but the alternative would be no local radio on the Mid-Coast."
Bleikamp said he has not and will not allow advertisers to influence his news coverage, and that he hopes to eventually create a firewall between the station's news and advertising departments.
"I know at certain times my news coverage has very likely put some advertising at risk," he said. "This has been noted at (Brunswick) Town Council meetings: the nature of a small community almost forces some conflicts of interests."
Possible conflicts aside, Bleikamp said advertisers' response has grown over the past year, along with listeners' awareness of the station.
"One of my particular challenges has been making advertisers and potential advertisers aware of the difference between radio as a general medium and more specifically, local radio," he said. "There are radio stations and then a local radio station like this, which is more of a direct agent of community service."
How will Bleikamp know that's he's succeeded?
"I feel as if I will achieve my goal when I get the feeling that there is a substantial number of people in this community for whom the station is really an important part of their lives," Bleikamp said. "It's something that if they were without it, it would be a significant loss in their life."