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Tuned In To His Community | Summer 2007 Out Here Magazine

Don Neagle’s 48-year, hometown radio career has landed him in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Each broadcast day offers Don Neagle piles of possibilities

By Mike Nolan
Photography by Jeff Frazier

It's a very good thing that radio exists," notes Don Neagle, a touch of elfish mischief in his eye. "I don't have any marketable skills, but I have a gift for babbling."

Radiating self-effacing charm, he shares his audience-pleasing gift each weekday from 6-11 a.m. as listeners in Russellville, KY, and the surrounding area tune in to "Logan County's Own, 610-AM WRUS." And it's been that way for 48 years.

"Everyone's grown up with him," says Chris McGinnis who shares ownership of the station with his father, Bill McGinnis, and Neagle.

Now a 69-year-old grandfather, the smooth-voiced Neagle was first bitten by the radio bug as a 16-year-old hanging around WLCK in his hometown of Greensburg, KY, 90 miles to the east. Following a brief bout with college, he planted himself at WRUS in 1958 and has flourished in this south central Kentucky town ever since.

"He's what makes the station tick," observes Glen Hatler, co-owner of The Harvest meat and produce market.

Although WRUS is only 2,000 watts — small by industry standards — it's a powerhouse in the community. "Everyone around here lives by it," Hatler adds.

WRUS emphasizes all things of interest to the community.

"We don't play a lot of music," Neagle says, "because that's not what sets us apart." The distinction comes in being a good neighbor — getting the word out about crop prices, road conditions, school closings, and city council meetings.

He passes along best wishes to listeners via "The Happy Birthday Club," conducts a little commerce with his "Tell It and Sell It" on-air classifieds, and is often the first to break news of bereavement in his obituary announcements. He also hosts a free-wheeling call-in talk show hour with guests where the topics can range from recipes to religion.

"Just because this is a rural community, it's not like we only talk about agriculture. We're interested in everything," he says. That's what keeps him rising at 4:15 a.m. so he can arrive at the station early to plan his broadcast day.

He reads emails, checks local news, browses the Internet for national news and other items of interest, and rifles through the many tidbits of information passed along on scraps of paper by listeners. When he signs on, his workspace is cluttered with piles of possibilities.

"It's been a good day (on the air) when I feel like we've added a little bit of something to the knowledge of the community," he says with satisfaction.

For his long-standing service, Neagle has been inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and received the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Mike Award.

He plans to keep at it as long as he's physically and mentally able — although he says with a chuckle that some friends question if the latter isn't already in question.

"I don't fish. I don't woodwork. I don't know how to fix cars," Neagle says. "I can read and I can talk and that's just about it."

And that's just what keeps listeners coming back every weekday morning.

Nashville, TN, writer Mike Nolan got to be a guest on WRUS.