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Albums at Hunter College radio station. Photo: J. Waits

College Radio Watch: Was College Radio the Best Time of Your Life?

I’ve heard so many stories about how the time spent in college radio was one of the most significant experiences during college for many college radio DJs. College radio alums have joked that they majored in “college radio” and more than a few claim to have nearly flunked out of school due to spending countless hours working at a station. In the Niagara Gazette, Ed Adamczyk writes,

Hanging around the campus radio station all day, speaking into that microphone, addressing an audience of under 20, and all under 20, was my excuse for flunking out in my first experience with college. I corrected that with several eventual graduations, but nevermind: broadcasting, like some nefarious enterprises, never leaves the blood once it infects a victim…I met my wife at that radio station — we are still married, more-or-less happily. I made friends who remain in my life. It reinforced my love of music and my appreciation of pursuing something I enjoy irrespective of a paycheck. And yeah, I eventually graduated.”

It’s a familiar story – an intense love for college radio that sticks with one decades later. And it’s also another reminder that college radio’s impact can be wide-ranging, that it’s not measured simply by ratings or fundraising donations. We broached that topic on this week’s Radio Survivor Podcast, as we had a lively debate with radio consultant Ken Mills about his series of articles on college radio’s “smallness.” The conversation has stuck with me and in this week’s Radio Survivor Bulletin, I invited readers to share their responses to our discussion. What do you think?

Did this Crate Digger Steal Records from Your College Radio Station?

Gino Sorcinelli conducted some interviews with DJs a number of years back and recently highlighted bits from one of his favorite interviews. In a post on Medium, he shares portions of a 2008 interview with DJ 7L, who recounts stealing records from numerous college radio stations in the northeast, including the station where he DJ’d and stations where his friends had shows. DJ 7 L tells Sorcinelli,

I have a few stories of driving home from radio stations with a trunk and car full of records and the muffler of my Oldsmobile breaking. My buddy went to a different college than me and we had a radio show together. We set it up on Friday night. We’d taken a few records, but we decided one night that it was going to be our last show. It was a Friday night on a college campus and every kid in their right mind was nowhere near the radio station, so we cleaned them out.

They had some crazy soundtracks like The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. In the beginning we were being particular about what we took, but after a while we started taking everything. We took the airmail crates that the station got their mail delivered in, filled them with records, and just dumped them in the car. This probably went on for an hour and a half. We were sweating and stressing about getting caught. It was obnoxious how many records we took. I was about an hour away from where I live and my muffler broke early in the ride. My friend was behind me and the whole ride I was waiting to get pulled over by a cop. We actually passed a cop and thankfully he didn’t end up pulling me over. I don’t know why he didn’t stop me, I was expecting him to. Maybe it’s not the best story, but I look back on it with fondness.”

As a long-time college radio DJ and former college radio Music Director, I find this story to be so sad and infuriating. Decades worth of records are collected by college radio stations and it’s painful to think of a DJ just helping himself to these materials. At every radio station that I’ve volunteered at, there have been records that seem to have “walked out the door,” but that problem seems to have quieted down in the years since digital music arrived on the scene. I wonder if DJ 7 L still has all of those purloined records and if upon further reflection he’ll ever decide to return them to their rightful owners? Not knowing which stations he hit, it’s hard to know what sort of impact the thefts had, as not every station has maintained a vinyl library.

Will Your College Radio Station Lose its Personality after Being Remodeled?

Last summer while visiting KWVA at University of Oregon, I had a long conversation with the station’s General Manager about an impending move and what that would mean for the personality of the college radio station’s colorful space. Graffiti-covered walls would probably be no more and even sticker-covered cabinets may get abandoned. This topic came up again this week in an article about a major building renovation at Nicholls State University. In the process, the campus radio station KNSU in Thibodaux, Louisiana is getting some updates. According to Houma Today, “The radio station was mostly a face-lift…Students complained that years worth of stickers from local bands had to be removed.” Have you ever experienced a station move or have to dispense with long-time station decorations during a remodel?

College Radio Documentary in Production

This week I got interviewed for a forthcoming documentary about college radio. With the working title, Dead Air: The Rise and Ruin of College Radio, the feature-length film will take a look at college radio’s past, present, and future. Although the movie will no doubt cover some of college radio’s recent challenges (particularly the trio of high profile FM college radio shutdowns and protests in 2011); I’m hoping that I provided an optimistic perspective, as I believe that college radio is still vital and valuable in 2016.

More College Radio News

Oxy Alum Makes Journalistic Journey from KOXY to KPCC (The Occidental Weekly)

Campus Radio Station WXOU Celebrates 50 Years on the Air (Oakland Post)

Student Fosters Community Bonds through WGSU College Radio Show (The Lamron)

Tune in to Bay State College Radio (VergeCampus)

University of Bedfordshire Radio LaB Nominated for National Award (Bedfordshire News)

Blugold Radio Names Station Manager (Eau Claire Leader-Telegram)

Big Donation to Give Radio Station to UWEC Students (Volume One)

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