I’ve been thumbing through a couple of bound editions of IBS’ The Journal of College Radio from 1970 to 1972 and it’s an incredible look at college radio in that era. Concerns of the day included potential policy changes for carrier-current broadcasters, questions about the FCC’s rules on obscenity (not much has changed!), and excitement about the potential of cable FM. Women were still a college radio novelty as were people of color (there were token articles about each).
One area that I’d love to dig into more is the role of college radio in covering student protests in the 1960s and 1970s. For that reason, the April-May, 1972 article, KZSU Develops Technique in Covering Campus Disturbances, piqued my interest. Written by KZSU‘s Seth Neumann, the article not only outlines how the Stanford University station reported on protests, but also references occurrences at other stations.
When political militancy reached the point of direct action at Stanford in the spring of 1967, KZSU was in the almost unique position of having a plant ready made to deal with this new task in reportage. KZSU had an established network of remote broadcast lines and equipment designed for broadcast of speeches and sports events. Fortunately, most of this gear proved adaptable to crisis coverage.”
In addition to outlining equipment suggestions (including small remote boards, CB walkie-talkies, phones, and police scanners), best practices for sources, and safety tips (including “carry a gas mask or legal equivalent”). Neumann cautions:
One thing to watch is your own safety. When things get thick and the tear gas clouds the air, both sides (‘people’ and ‘pigs’) are likely to assume that anyone that they cannot identify belongs to the other side. That is not a ‘safe’ assumption for you. Radio KALX at the University of California at Berkeley had a man arrested that way last year. We have had numerous incidents (one involving the author) in which police officers have chased or beaten KZSU reporters or confiscated walkie talkies from them.”
Neumann also mentions a cautionary tale based on an incident that happened at University of California at Santa Barbara’s station KCSB, saying:
KCSB-FM at the University of California at Santa Barbara was shut down by order of the police in the spring of 1970 because of suspicions that radicals were getting information about police movements from KCSB-FM broadcasts.”
These radio stations in California weren’t the only college radio stations covering student protests in the late 1960s and 1970s. I’m aware of a record produced by Harvard University’s radio station WHRB called Strike: Confrontation at Harvard 1969, which documents the student radio station’s reporting of campus protests. 5/13/15 UPDATE: Listen to the audio here.
If you know of other examples of college radio stations covering student protests, please let me know.
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