10,000 Watts, Fake News, & Snake Oil Sales

The call letters of the station are on the hillside. Baker decided that TNT, which stood for one of the world’s greatest explosives would be a good way to boost Muscatine into the world. Later it was believed that Baker said the call letters stood for “Know the Naked Truth”. The station began broadcasting on Thanksgiving day, November 26, 1925. Norman Baker stated “K-TNT was the first station to start the fight for freedom of the air. It was dedicated to farmers, laborers, and the common folks, and was known as the common folks’ station.” Photo from the Musser Public Library, Muscatine, Iowa.
While Steven Smith has posted a few articles here about trusted news broadcasters, such as the Murrow team at CBS, radio has had it’s share of carnival barkers and con men. Radio has carried the voices of the mainstream media, but also the fringe element, including the John Birch Society, as well as the evangelical preachers and faith healers. One of the most controversial, tin-foil-hat wearing lunatics was Norman Baker, of Muscatine, Iowa. His station, KTNT, was eventually authorized to broadcast at 10,000 watts, reaching over a million homes. As his popularity and bank account grew, Baker began attacking local organizations and politicians, using the airwaves as his soap box. After so much of that, his listenership began to fall off. His downfall was a scheme to promote a “miraculous” cancer cure. The campaign made him even more wealthy, but the volunteer patients died off, one by one. Baker took on his nemisis, The American Medical Association, in a lawsuit, claiming the AMA had offered a million dollars for his cure and had sent assassins to kill him. He claimed a gunfight ensued and the men in black were scared off. He lost that case and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Baker hightailed it to Mexico, started another radio station there, and the money continued to roll in.

There is a sucker born every minute.

Baker returned to the United States in 1937, and served only one day for the charge of practicing medicine without a license. Baker made attempts to run for political office, but failed. He was undeterred, and moved to Alabama where he set up another hospital and continued to rake in millions of dollars over the years, continuing to promise a cancer cure. In January 1940, Baker was found guilty of mail fraud, which he claimed was a conspiracy against him. Baker served a little over three years at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Baker died in 1958.

The call letters KTNT were eventually used by the Tacoma News Tribune for their radio and television stations.

Author: Jason Remington

Creator, Admin, & Editor of QZVX.COM, former broadcaster at KAMT/Tacoma, KRPM FM/Tacoma, KJUN/Puyallup, KASY/Auburn, KTAC AM/Tacoma, KBRD FM/Tacoma, KMTT FM/Tacoma, and KOOL FM/Phoenix. -- Airchecks
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6 thoughts on “10,000 Watts, Fake News, & Snake Oil Sales

  1. That is very interesting. I never knew of the station’s sketchy beginnings. My friend Les Cole had worked there when it was owned by the newspaper. And I knew Bill O’Mara when he was doing news in 1972. Sometimes I hitched a ride with him when in Seattle.

  2. I think that KTNT was the second major TV station in the Seattle area? As a child in the 50’s it was always so exciting when you watched the installation of a roof top tv antenna on a neighbor’s home. First we had KRSC Channel 5 (later King TV) in Seattle. That was 1948. Five years later we had Channel 11, KTNT in Tacoma. It was so exciting in 1953 to have a second television station. The new Tacoma channel required a special roof antenna. In the Seattle Madison Park home where I lived our antenna to receive a reasonable picture from Tacoma required an antenna that was so high, we were informed if it was any higher it would require a light to protect it from air traffic!

  3. That’s right Jason! Seattle operated the first television channel in the Pacific Northwest, but Tacoma a much smaller urban area originated the next two stations—KTNT (11) and KMO (13). In those times Seattle viewers wanted choices and only special antennas in 1953 were able to acquire the distant signals from Seattle to Tacoma.

  4. In Bellingham getting a good signal was a real pain. Channel 12 on Orcas came in well, as did channel 2 and 6 from Canada, th get any Seattle stations we had another high antenna on a motorized rotar. So it could be turned from inside. In the end we got King and Komo fair. Never could get Kiro out my house as a kid. Channel 8 sort of came in, forget where it what it was.

  5. CBUT, Channel 8, Vancouver was a great source of mirth for those of us pre-adolescents who found amusement every time the Station ID flashed on screen for “C-Butt”, as we called it. We never could have foreseen Netflix!

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