By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
The sporting world, like much of life, is on hold.
Other than some ill-advised playground hoop games, it’s pretty tough to find athletic contests of any type in the world — much less in Albuquerque.
So how can a sports radio station remain on the air with no games to broadcast or even discuss on talk shows?
Locally owned KQTM-FM (101.7) understands the difficulty but is doing all it can to keep sports alive, and has even expanded its local programming.
Last week, Albuquerque’s ESPN affiliate added “Team Up for New Mexico with Scott Galetti and Joe O’Neill,” a local talk show from 2-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It temporarily is replacing a nationally syndicated ESPN show during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Obviously, our main concern is the health and safety of all of our employees and audience,” said O’Neill, also KQTM’s president. “Historically, radio has been the medium to reach our communities during difficult times. We’re trying to be a voice for the community, so we expanded our local programming to five hours a day, Monday through Friday.
“It allows us more opportunity to bring breaking news on a local level to New Mexicans.”
The new show is an addition to the station’s local “Jim Villanucci Show,” which is airs from 4-7 p.m., Monday through Friday with co-host Sam Hauser.
We are leaving most of the heavy lifting about the latest news and information to Jim Villanucci,” O’Neill said, “and we are welcoming a variety of guests with topics that give people a little bit of a break from some of the heavier issues that arise every day.
“Most of our guests are sports personalities, but we will have others in the coming weeks including local business owners. We had guests ranging from (New Mexico football coach) Danny Gonzales to (U.S. Rep.) Debra Haaland (D-N.M.) last week.”
O’Neill said the show had some “light-hearted” topics last week, including first concerts and brushes with fame, and encourages callers to talk about any topics they like.
Galetti is the former voice of Lobo sports and the station’s primary play-by-play announcer.
KQTM is the only Albuquerque metro radio station that broadcasts live high school sports, UNM baseball and New Mexico United soccer.
With the sporting world on hold, it has created a gap in KQTM’s programming.
“As a locally owned business, we can relate to the struggles of small business and the impact that everything is having on employees,” O’Neill said. “We’ve pivoted to ensure we can maintain normalcy for our staff as long as we can.
“While all our non-on-air staff members are working from home, we are maintaining social distancing in the office and studio.
“It’s all relatively new, and the situation unfolded so quickly, but we’re trying to do all we can to accommodate our employees and our clients.”
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio and has been honored nationally for investigative reporting. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.