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fan letter from former WTBU college radio DJ. Photo: J. Waits

College Radio Watch: Fire at WTBU, WPSC’s Ukulele Radio, WNYU at Peet’s and More News

I was very sad to hear about the fire at Boston University’s college radio station WTBU on Friday, March 25. A message from WTBU Advisor Anne Donohue written last Friday and posted on the station’s Facebook page reads in part,

Today has been a sad day for WTBU. As most of you know by now, we had a serious fire in the station this morning. Fire officials are still investigating but it appears to have been an electrical fire in Studio C.

Three DJs were on the air in Studio A this morning at 8am when they smelled smoke. When they opened the door to Studio A they were engulfed by thick, black smoke and could not see an inch in front of them. They managed to get out and race down the back stairs to safety. They were treated at Beth Israel Hospital for smoke inhalation. I visited them there this afternoon and despite being quite shaken up, they were feeling OK and were released later today.

Firefighters quickly put out the fire but there is serious smoke and water damage to the station and surrounding classrooms. Many thanks go to the dozens of custodians who were in the building mopping up this afternoon hoping to get the rest of the building ready to re-open on Monday. But it will be a long time before WTBU is ready to operate in that space again.

It is not clear what, if anything, is salvageable from the station. I know there is a lot of memorabilia in there — many old CDs and vinyl albums — and great memories from the signatures on the walls of the Howard Stern Lounge – to the music stored in the eboard office – to the posters in the new performance space. We will try to save anything we can.

What has been most heartening is the outpouring of support from former WTBUers, some of whom graduated 15 and 20 years back, all offering to help with fundraising, technical support and restocking the music shelves. We will be thinking of ways to make some good come out of this mess. If you are asked how folks can help, here is a link to a BU fund that will go directly to WTBU…”

Although programming at WTBU is currently suspended, the station plans to post DJ podcasts for the time being. WTBU is also collecting station memories and posting them on its Facebook page. WTBU DJ Will Tentindo shared his thoughts on the fire in The Daily Free Press, saying that “…WTBU is more than just the beat of Boston University. It is a heartbeat on campus, the pulse of what’s going on and a medium through which talented and overlooked musicians are given a chance. The sooner that heartbeat recovers, the better.”

I visited WTBU back in 2014 and have been thinking about the station a lot since I heard about Friday’s fire. I’m hoping for the best for WTBU as they work to recover from this devastating event and am very glad that no one was hurt. It’s hard to imagine potentially losing so much of the station’s music, equipment, and history in the fire and I’m hoping that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Ukes Galore on WPSC Today

I love that there are many college radio stations out there that are willing to take programming risks. Today, college radio station WPSC-FM at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey is playing all ukulele music from 9am until midnight. According to,

The idea for the day began as an offhand joke from the station’s general manager, Rob Quicke. But according to station manager Risa Pappas, the student management team seized the idea and would not let go of it. ‘Devoting an entire day to one sweet little instrument is admittedly an offbeat concept, but these are the kinds of things that only college radio can do,’ said Pappas, a 2008 communications graduate of the school. ‘Personally, I’m having a great time preparing for this marathon of cutesy righteousness, especially since, oddly, I happen to know a lot of uke players.’ Pappas says the day will be filled with ‘uke tracks, a Tiny Tim tribute and live uke music by local acts — plus uke facts, swapping uke stories and telling tales of uke lore.'”

Listen to a Ukulele Day promo here. Sounds awesome.

WNYU Attracting New Listeners in Campus Peet’s Coffee Shop

In other news, I was happy to hear that the New York University college radio station WNYU-FM is now being played at on campus at a Peet’s coffee shop. In a Verge Campus piece, Valentina Rocha writes,

…the University’s official radio station is not really played anywhere on campus. When you go to Downstein, you’re still more likely to hear “Firework” than you are to catch an original stream of the legendary WNYU show Beats in Space, one of the station’s novelties, which features electro-disco extravaganzas, and regularly makes it to Pitchfork to this day.  It’s always a Pandora station at the NYU Bookstore, too. And, I have to say, I’m no avid frequenter of other campus hotspots, but I guarantee you won’t be listening to us there. There has been a recurring interest, or battle, involving WNYU’s right to broadcast somewhere in NYU. Somewhere where people could reconvene and check more interesting sounds. Enter Peet’s Coffee.”

There’s a thrill that college radio DJs get when they know that the station that they toil at is being piped in to a campus building or a business establishment and it totally makes sense to have college radio playing in a coffee shop on a college campus. When I was in college at Haverford College, our campus-only carrier current station WHRC was played on one side of the dining center during mealtime, which meant that most diners heard the college radio station. We regularly got evidence of this, as students would sometimes walk down to the radio station (conveniently located in the dining center basement) to make requests or to complain about what we were playing.

A few years later when I was DJing at WBGU-FM at Bowling Green State University, we heard rumors about our station getting played in various local businesses, including an independent record store and in the kitchen of a food establishment. Although it’s exciting to know that individual listeners are tuning in, it’s extra special when a station is getting broadcast to a room full of people.

The College Radio “Smallness” Debate

Finally, Matthew Lasar responded to our recent Radio Survivor Podcast in which we chatted with radio consultant Ken Mills. Matthew transcribes some sections of the podcast and adds his take on things, stating, “But ultimately I think that college radio’s problems are political rather than managerial. Colleges aren’t supposed to provide services solely for sale; they’re supposed to teach and offer at least some things that we need but aren’t necessarily willing to buy as individuals. Not a few of the college radio programs I cherish around these San Francisco Bay Area parts are anything but marketable. The question of how to support that sort of fare is a question for everybody, not just for radio station managers, blogger consultants, and us podcasters.” Indeed.

More College Radio News

KFJC’s Record Swap Returning to Empire Seven Studios (Metro) – event this weekend for the station where I DJ and volunteer

Student Bands Showcase Talent in UIC Radio Competition (UIC News Center)

Photo Gallery of Kitten Forever at Radio K (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

KSYM Celebrates 50 Years on the Air (KABB)

Cloud County Community College Radio Students win Kansas Association of Broadcasters Awards (NCK Today)

Palomar College Radio Station General Manager Wins IBS Award (Palomar College)

CBI Accepting Submissions for National Student Electronic Media Awards (CBI)

Montco Radio Holds Alumni Broadcast (Limerick Post)

College Radio Vinylthon on Record Store Day April 16 (College Radio Day)

WUSB Local Music Marathon on April 24 (WUSB Facebook)


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