CLASS OF 1981
When WJAG was founded in 1922 by Gene Huse, publisher of the Norfolk Daily News. the newspaper’s city editor Karl Stefan anchored the station’s first news report. He continued to serve as WJAG’s chief announcer until his election to Congress in 1935.
Born in 1884 in Bohemia, now the Czech-Republic, Stefan’s family came to America settling in Omaha when he was a year old. He attended school in Omaha until age 13 when he went to work in a South Omaha packing plant. After a stint working in the Philippines with the Manila Times, he returned to Omaha and started a family. He moved to Norfolk in 1909 and later became an editor of the Norfolk Daily News until 1924 when he shifted to radio.
During his years as WJAG’s first announcer, Stefan is credited with developing much of WJAG’s programming. In 1922 he created and produced the “Radio Family” whose members, meaning listeners, gathered around a mythical dinner table each noon hour. His noon broadcasts were peppered with local affairs, news from the Norfolk Daily News, the Associated Press newspaper wire, and a bell for sound effects. His charismatic personality endeared him to his listeners.
As chief announcer, newscaster and on-air personality, Karl’s engaging style and friendly voice made him a favorite with listeners for years. Even after he was elected Nebraska Senator and sent to Washington, he would send back transcriptions for airing.
After his 1934 election to U.S. Congress, he won re-election seven times from 1936 to 1950. Radio remained in his blood as he would send speeches and commentary by transcription back to WJAG for broadcast, soon playing on four other neighboring stations as well.
Karl Stefan died while in office on October 2, 1951 in Washington, D.C.
Norfolk’s Karl Stefan Memorial Airport is named in his honor.