I had a great time at the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) conference in Minneapolis last week and was glad to have had the opportunity to speak on two different panels about college radio history and culture.
Michael Lupica from WPRB and I did a college radio history panel together and hopefully inspired more stations to take a closer look at their artifacts and histories. I also did a solo presentation about my college radio tours and I really enjoyed bombarding the audience with photos of all of the strange items that I’ve seen at college radio stations (including skulls, stinky couches, and purloined U.S. mail tubs). During that presentation I also inadvertently learned that the majority of college radio stations (at least those who attended my talk) possess life-size cardboard Ron Burgundy signs. I had no idea.
It was great to meet people from college and high school radio stations from all over the country and I also picked up some amazing radio station swag at the conference’s annual swag swap. Some of the items spotted included T-shirts, sweatshirts, buttons, air fresheners, stickers, water pistols, sunglasses, and caps.
Congratulations to all of the students and stations who won awards during CBI’s National Production Awards. Goshen College station The Globe picked up a few awards and you can listen to all of the winning entries on the CBI website.
Storied College Radio History in the Minneapolis Area
No trip out of town for me would be complete without some radio station tours and I was particularly excited to visit some of the historic college radio stations in the Minneapolis area. I managed to visit three stations and of course I have regrets about not seeing more. As it turns out, numerous colleges in the Minneapolis area were launching college radio stations as early as the 1920s. University of Minnesota did radio experiments as early as 1912, broadcast football games by Morse code in 1915 and received a license for broadcast AM station WLB in 1922.
At nearby Augsburg Seminary, an amateur radio station began in 1916 and students started doing experimental broadcasts in 1922. A licensed station, KFEX, launched in 1923. Just south of Minneapolis in Northfield, Minnesota, St. Olaf College began doing radio experiments in 1918, did voice transmissions in 1920, and launched licensed station WCAL in 1922. Also in Northfield, Carleton College received a license for its station, KFMX, in December, 1923, with the station launching in 1924. And, finally, Macalester College in St. Paul launched campus-only carrier current station WBOM (for “Broadcasting over Macalester”) around 1947-1948. I’m not sure if there were radio stations on campus prior to that.
So what has become of these pioneering stations? Today, University of Minnesota station KUOM still broadcasts using its historic AM license. Augsurg College station KAUG streams online and broadcasts over very low power FM within a 2-mile radius of the college. St. Olaf has a campus radio station, KSTO, which broadcasts over low power at 93.1 FM. A sister station at St. Olaf, WCAL-FM, was licensed in 1967 and was eventually sold to Minnesota Public Radio (for use as “The Current”). Carleton College launched a carrier current station in 1948 (KARL) and its FM station KRLX began in 1974. And, finally, Macalester College’s current FM station, WMCN, launched in 1980.
Touring Radio K
The three stations that I visited in the Minneapolis area included Carleton College’s KRLX-FM, Macalester College’s WMCN-FM, and University of Minnesota’s KUOM-AM (and FM). As mentioned above, all three colleges have long radio legacies on campus, so it was great to see how each station recognized its storied past. On Wednesday, I shared my first field trip post, describing my epic 3-hour tour of KUOM (aka Radio K). I’ll also be featuring some audio tidbits from that tour on the Radio Survivor Podcast next week, so definitely stay tuned for that.
On The Podcast: Under the Needle + Community Radio Station Recruits College DJs
On this week’s podcast (episode #21) I share news about the launch of KEXP’s “Under the Needle” series over various college and community radio stations. Additionally, I talk about the efforts of a community radio station to attract DJs from the colleges in its area. My College Radio Watch segment starts at around the 49 minute mark this week.
More College Radio News
Death and College Radio
Is Radio Slowly Dying?
An opinion piece in the Daily Athenaeum asks this question on the heels of college radio station WWVU-FM’s recent awards. The author writes, “Instant access to news and music is now possible through the Internet and television broadcasts, which has unfortunately demoted radio to long car rides and fishing trips.”
Radio isn’t Dead Yet
Paste Magazine weighs in with a college radio anecdote, saying, “…the local college radio station greeted me with classical music, a lush arrangement by an unidentified composer. It fit the moment perfectly. I felt cliché, but in a way you enjoy, like head-banging at a Gwar concert. It’s comforting to hear good-old-fashioned radio sometimes. Other times it’s just annoying.”
Did NPR Kill College Rock?
This article in the New Republic requires WAY more analysis (stay tuned…), but suffice it to say that it argues that NPR played a part in changes to college radio. I’d suggest that commercial radio stations played an even bigger role, as they brought more and more formerly “alternative” artists onto their playlists. We also can’t ignore the rise of mp3s, digital music, Napster, and blogs. The article states, “Claiming they were a detriment to broadcasting, NPR lobbied aggressively to destroy these small-fry noncommercial competitors, who were often forced to disband or convert to closed-circuit (campus-only) format. By the early nineties, college radio was squeezed to pathetic micropower status.” Well… there are still powerful college radio stations and campus-only stations have a long history dating back to the 1930s, so they were influencing campus culture way before NPR was ever on the scene.
Upper Iowa University Launches Internet Radio Station
Geek and Gamer Culture on WPCD
According to the Prospectus, Parkland College radio station WPCD-FM in Champaign, Illinois has a roster of pop culture-oriented programs that focus on video games and geek culture, including “Geeking with Geiken,” “Afternoon Delight,” and “the Rugged Nerd.”
Christian College Radio Show Host Talks about his Hobby/Ministry
According to the Kansan, KBCU DJ “RockinRon” hosts a long-time Christian music show/hobby ministry over the Bethel College radio station.
Reviving Radio Theater
Q&A with KPSU’s GM
In advance of its trip to Portland, Oregon for its first regional college radio conference (see the schedule here), CMJ chats with the GM of the Portland State University radio station about both the station and the Portland music scene.
Hillsdale College Dedicates New Station
Although it’s playing a loop of music now, it’s expected that students will be doing shows over WRFH in Hillsdale, Michigan by Fall, 2016, according to the Hillsdale Daily News.
More Power For KRUX
New Mexico State University reports that the new 3,000 watt antenna was installed for KRUX on October 1.
A Glimpse at Student Radio in Russia
Thanks to Rob Quicke for sharing this article about college radio in Russia. If you don’t read Russian, head on over to Google Translate to translate.
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