I’ve been reluctant to publish my own list of the “best” college radio stations, as it would be an entirely subjective endeavor. Of course I do have some of my personal favorites, but overall, I’m a proponent of all kinds of college radio. I would prefer to expose more people to the breadth of college radio, rather than laboring over a top 10 list that will inevitably piss people off.
Those Ubiquitous “Best College Radio Station” Lists
I write this on the heels of the Best Colleges’ list of the best 50 college radio stations, which I wrote about last week. In response to that, Stanford University’s college radio station KZSU (which didn’t make the list) tweeted, “Hey @bestcollegescom, your college radio list is really bad!” and followed that up with, “@soundtap @radiosurvivor This list is completely bizarre and frankly doesn’t seem worth covering.” Be sure to see KZSU’s final retort, in which the station crafts its own “Objective College Radio Rankings” list.
I generally write about any best college radio station list that I see, although I never 100% agree with any of the lists or contest results that I run across. For years I’ve been critiquing one of the most widely mentioned lists, from the Princeton Review. Numerous college radio stations tout that they are one of the best college radio stations in the country based upon inclusion in that list, even though the list has nothing to do with ranking the quality of a college radio station. It’s actually based upon student responses to the question, “How popular is the radio station?”
So, in reality, the list is just an indication of which schools surveyed by Princeton Review seem to have a student population that is most aware of its college radio stations. As one might expect, there are often schools on the list that have multiple radio stations on campus (for example, a public radio station and a student radio station), since the presence of many radio stations likely increases student awareness.
The mtvU College Radio Woodie is another problematic college radio accolade, although at least it’s pretty open these days about it being a social media competition, more than anything else. In the early days of the contest, rules were changed mid-way through the competition, so I’m still generally skeptical about the process.
Industry-granted college radio awards also garner a lot of attention for winning students and stations, but it’s important to realize that all of these awards are doled out within a closed-universe of applicants. Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS), College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI), and Broadcast Education Association (BEA) give out awards, but you must enter their competitions in order to be considered. Only IBS members and BEA members may enter their respective award competitions, whereas CBI allows non-members to apply for its awards, but they must pay an entry fee. Some awards competitions, including BEA’s, require an entry fee from all applicants. Similarly, the recent New York Festivals competition for “World’s Best Radio Programs” requires that stations and individuals submit entries along with an entry fee (the lowest entry fee is $75 for student entries and the highest is $395 for series). New York Festival finalists and winners can also order additional copies of their award certificates, plaques or trophies for an additional cost (of up to $400, depending upon the award).
And, finally, most college radio listicles that magazines and websites come up with tend to be a rehash of these other problematic lists mentioned above. Often there isn’t fact-checking, so stations that aren’t even run by college students sometimes make these lists as well (such as the well-known former college radio stations KEXP and WFMU).
What do you think? Do you like to see “best” college radio station lists? Do you think that any of them accurately represent the “best” stations? Which stations do you think deserve recognition?
Radio Survivor Podcast Looks at Beats 1 Radio, College Radio Podcasts, CBI Conference & More
On this week’s Radio Survivor Podcast I share the co-hosting duties with Paul Riismandel. We spent quite a bit of time talking about the debut of Beats 1 Radio, including comparisons that have been made to college radio (read more of my thoughts on this topic in a piece that I wrote yesterday). In my college radio feature, I also provide some more details about college radio station WMSE at Milwaukee School of Engineering and its growing list of podcasts. More and more college radio stations are doing their own podcasts or are providing at least some form of on-demand programming. In future episodes of the Radio Survivor Podcast we’d like to highlight college radio podcasts, so if you have some suggestions, please let us know.
Also on the podcast, I talk about the forthcoming College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) conference, which will be held in Minneapolis in late October. CBI is now accepting proposals for panels and conference sessions. The deadline is August 1st. Finally, we conclude the college radio portion of this week’s podcast with a discussion about summertime in college radio. What happens at college radio stations over the summer. Do they shut down? Are there run exactly the same as during the school year? With the diversity of college radio, there’s no one answer. Some stations do shut down, others welcome more community volunteers, whereas others simply alter their schedules with longer shows. In the context of this, I mention University of Virginia’s college radio stations and how the quiet of summer led to an increase in community volunteers at WTJU and ultimately led to the creation of a new student-run LPFM station.
Stolen Gear at KRFH
I was really sad to read that Humboldt State University’s low power FM (LPFM) student radio station KRFH was hit by thieves over the 4th of July holiday weekend. According to Lost Coast Outpost, “Three 27-inch iMacs worth thousands of dollars were stolen from the KRFH studio sometime during the holiday weekend…Two CD players and a live-mixing board were also lifted from the student-run radio station’s DJ booth last week.” Learn more about the theft and view a tour of the station on the KRCR-TV story below.
Advice for College Radio Music Directors from Planetary Group Radio Promoter
Former college radio music director Jesse Wiza (she was at Michigan State station WDBM) is currently a radio promoter at Planetary Group. In a Q&A with CMJ she offers up some advice for college radio music directors. Wiza suggests, “Say you’re a music director. You’re worried about funding, why the DJ hasn’t shown up and where the equipment is for the next in-studio. It’s nice to have a little help filtering through the thousands of submissions to save some time and give the best records your attention. That being said, just because it’s not coming from a promoter/label doesn’t mean you should ignore it! You should be proud to champion the little guy before anyone else. And make sure to give love to the local bands too, you’re a big chunk of the foundation of your local music community.”
New LPFM at University of North Alabama on Hold
According to Flor-Ala, the launch of a new low power FM (LPFM) student radio station at University of North Alabama will be delayed due to the departure of one of its proponents, Department of Communications Chair Greg Pitts. Pitts leaves on July 31 and will be taking a job at another school. Flor-Ala reports,
Pitts…laid the groundwork for a student-run radio station, 107.9 WLNP. The station was set to air in late June 2015, but the station is now on hold due to Pitt’s leaving. ‘Rather than rush to get the station on air, then figure out what to do, I received from the FCC an extension of the construction permit,’ Pitts said. ‘That means UNA has an additional 18 months to get the station going.’ He said he believes the station will air, but students must work hard and take ownership of the station for it to work.”
Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!