I enjoyed listening to Nikki Marra’s radio documentary, “The College Radio Road Trip” this week. Although she released it last fall as part of College Radio Day‘s on-air festivities, it’s getting some renewed attention after receiving a finalist certificate at the New York Festivals’ International Radio Program Awards in the editorial/viewpoint subcategory of the larger documentary category.
The hour-long piece chronicles Marra’s drive across the country, with stops at 7 different college radio stations from New Jersey to Washington state. She includes interview clips as well as some sound bites from her travels. I’d never been to any of the stations that she visited, so it was interesting getting glimpses into some vastly different radio stations. One of the most intriguing to me was KAFA-FM, the cadet radio station at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Marra points out that KAFA-FM is more of a creative outlet for cadets, versus a path to a particular career. In the documentary, one cadet states, “I really love music, but as a freshman here at the academy we weren’t allowed to listen to music and so it was nice to be able to come here and do that…and see what’s new.”
As Marra approaches the end of her road trip, she arrives at Central Washington University, where she was taking a job at college radio station KCWU 88.1 The ‘Burg’s Program Director. After seeing a variety of stations (from cash-flushed KGLT at Montana State University to freeform KUOI at University of Idaho, which she said was “too stuck on tradition,” and where she felt like she’d “stepped back into the 1970s”), she was happy to land at KCWU, as its philosophy and student training program seemed to be a perfect fit with her own perspective on what college radio should be.
At the conclusion of the documentary, Marra ruminates about the state of college radio and finds fault with the fact that there are no common “best practices” that all stations share. She calls for stations to come together, which was an appropriate rallying cry for a documentary that was made available to stations for College Radio Day 2014.
Last fall, Marra and I sat on a panel together at the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) convention in Seattle. We both talked about what we had learned from our travels to college radio stations, with Marra sharing tales from her road trip, while I offered up insights from my 80+ radio station tours. My main points were that college radio takes many forms, is incredibly diverse, and isn’t always what you think.
A Unicorn on FM: Commercial College Radio
A few years back I remember mentioning a commercial college radio station to someone else in the college radio community. He asked me, “How is that possible?” College radio stations with commercial FM licenses are so rare, that many people are perplexed by the possibility. In this week’s Radio Survivor Bulletin exclusive, I delve into the handful of commercially-licensed college radio stations and talk about the historical context for their existence. Our weekly bulletin is free (subscribe here) and also a great way to keep track of all of our weekly articles.
Radio Survivor Podcast #3: KEXP Under the Needle + High School Radio Tidbits
We released our third Radio Survivor Podcast this week and in my college radio segment (it begins at around the 47 minute mark) I talk more about KEXP’s forthcoming “Under the Needle: the KEXP Sessions” series, which is being made available to college radio stations. Additionally, I share some tidbits about the history of high school radio and about Judd Apatow’s high school radio past. There are so many parallels between high school and college radio stations, so I think it’s important to track the achievements of both types of stations. We release our next Radio Survivor Podcast on Tuesday and I will, as always, talk about some of the latest college radio news.
More College Radio Stories
WSOU to Host “SoMetal: Heavy Metal and Social Activism, a Creative Collision” Panel and Live Remote from South by South Orange
Seton Hall University’s WSOU will broadcast live from the South by South Orange festival in South Orange, New Jersey on Saturday and will host a panel on heavy metal and activism from noon to 1pm Eastern time.
Western Carolina University Granted Construction Permit for New Station
As we wrote last month, the school has been in the running for a new license for several years and just got the go-ahead from the FCC on June 23. It already holds the license for WWCU-FM.
CMJ chats with WVFS‘ Music Direction about the growing collection of archived live performances at the Florida State University station in Tallahassee.
On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, a profile of University of Texas, Austin’s college radio station, which airs terrestrially from 7pm to 7am and online 24/7.
Student Radio Winners at NY Festivals Radio Awards
A University of Sunderland (UK) lecturer won the Gold Award for Best Student Radio Drama at the New York Festivals’ International Radio Program Awards. In the Best Student Radio Station category, the school’s student radio station, Spark FM also won a bronze award. The other best student radio station winners were Birmingham City University’s Scratch Radio (UK), which won a silver and Columbia College Chicago’s WCRX, which won a bronze. See the other student winners for sports, drama, journalism, and more on the New York Festivals website.
The author writes, “I was able to connect with perhaps the greatest people I’ve ever met by participating in my college radio station throughout college. All of us station-folk came from backgrounds where music helped us survive high school, and we identified with each other based on our mutual love of rock.”
More on the WUML DJ who won the “best college radio DJ” award from the International Radio Festival, with some revelations about his DJ Dad persona.
Members of the band Otis Infrastructure were brought together by the University of Maryland radio station and recorded their album there. Member Dan Singer (hey! I saw him perform when I toured WMUC) states, “WMUC was kind of this liaison that got all of us together.”
We cover the culture of college radio every Friday in our College Radio Watch feature. If you have college radio news to share, please drop us a note at EDITORS at RADIOSURVIVOR dot COM.