By BRANDON ROBERTS
HUNTINGTON – It’s almost as if Kindred Communications President Mike Kirtner was born to broadcast.
While growing up in Chattaroy, West Virginia, a small, close-knit community on the banks of the Tug Fork River in Mingo County, Kirtner played in his grandfather’s radio and TV repair shop many afternoons. He used wires and TV parts to pretend he was on television. He was 4 years old. It’s that kind of passion that has earned Kirtner, 64, a spot in the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
It was a desire that only grew with time. While in college at Marshall University, Kirtner often hung out at Huntington’s WKEE radio station.
“I made friends with the nighttime disc jockey,” he said. “The transmitter broke down, and I happened to be in the studio. I was an easy hire.” Laughing, he added, “After two years, I was there when they needed me.”
In 1971 he worked evenings on the air at WKEE as Mike Stevens. After graduating from Marshall in 1973, Kirtner moved to WGNT as a sports commentator. Today, that station is part of Kindred Communications, a company he and his partner, Tom Wolf, founded 23 years ago.
“The Tri-State is fortunate to have retained its local media ownership,” Kirtner said. “Without people like Tom Wolf investing into our area’s future, the community would lose valuable assets.”
At age 27, Kirtner was named general manager of WTCR. When the station was sold, he transferred to Allentown, Pennsylvania, while retaining a district manager role with the Ashland-based radio station. Kirtner later transitioned WTCR to the FM band.
In 1985 he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to work for Capital Broadcasting – a company that started in Charleston. It was there where he teamed with Glenn Beck. In addition to his duties in Louisville, Kirtner became a regional manager. He kept his West Virginia roots by overseeing V-100 in Charleston. He also worked with Fox 107 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Upon his return to Huntington in 1992, Kindred Communications owned two radio stations. Today, the company has grown into a major local broadcaster with six stations – 93.7 The Dawg, 97.9 Hits, 101.7 Big Buck Country, 92.7 The Planet, WRVC-AM and WCMI-AM – eight broadcast signals and The Herd Insider.
Kindred’s long association with Marshall athletics, along with the company’s annual July Fourth Dawg Dazzle Celebration, is what Kirtner considers the company’s way of being a “good corporate citizen,” he said. Last year, Kindred founded Kindred Charities to continue Cricket’s Kids annual toy drive.
In 2013 Kindred Communications relocated to the building which had formerly housed WOWK Channel 13 at 555 5th Ave.
“Broadcasting is an art form that ultimately is a business,” Kirtner said. “I’ve been blessed to do this. I have known all my life that I wanted to be involved with radio. God has given me this opportunity. Now it’s my turn to teach others how to continue within this industry. Kindred is blessed with great personnel to allow this company to continue its success for a very, very long time.”
The West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame is part of The Museum of Radio and Technology Inc., 1640 Florence Ave. in Huntington. Kirtner will be inducted this fall.
(Follow reporter Brandon Roberts on Twitter @brobertsHD.)