Things That Have Changed in College Radio

I spent a couple of hours at my alma mater over the weekend last month. It was alumni/reunion weekend, and the radio station opened its doors to any previous radio hosts who wanted to do a shift. Friend Frank and I, who did a show together sporadically over our four years there, teamed up once again to inflict the masses with bad humor, 90s music, and our trademark witty repartee.

Here’s what I learned from the experience:

  • I am old. One of the radio station hosts met us. He said he thinks 90s music is the best, and that he was born in the 90s. My head had to quickly do the math. Every student at the school, save a few seniors, were born in the 90s, two decades ahead of when I was born (mid-70s). Yikes.

  • Radio isn’t dead. The internet took it over. The school no longer has a transmitter. The old 10 watter didn’t power the station past two miles, but now it’s gone all together. If you want to listen to the radio station on campus, you can stream it over the website. The sad part is, the website is in flash. You can’t stream the radio station through your mobile devices. Sad.

  • Digital, Digital, Digital. When we were on the air from 1994-1998, we brought stacks of CDs with us. We juggled them across two CD players and a couple of cart decks for the PSAs and whatnot. We made it work. Today, they still have two CD players, but most of the music comes through the “LapLine.” That’s the wire that goes to the DJ’s laptop/iPhone/iPod. There’s not a single CD, cart, or vinyl album in the studios. There is a turntable over on the side, but it’s not plugged in.

  • Everything is automated. Like all radio stations, there’s a computer hooked up to the station that automates everything. If the next host doesn’t show up, just turn up the volume on the automation and leave the station. It’ll take care of itself. That’s nice. In professional radio, of course, the automation is used to carefully plan for that station’s specific brand of homogenization. The hosts are there to pre-record their bits that the engineer then intersperses with the music to make it seem authentic while always “hitting the post.”

  • Radio, front and center! The radio station moved out of the basement of one of the dorm buildings into the University Center, where you work in a fishbowl. The studio is up front with tall glass windows so everyone can see the DJs on the air. It’s a nice advertisement for the radio station, but I liked hiding behind the microphone in the basement of the dorm building and not being seen while at the station. By the way, and the station doesn’t play inside the University Center at all.

It was a lot of fun, particularly with all the cool toys to play with — mics on swing arms, the mixer board with all the sliders, the automation as backup, etc. etc. I’d love to do it again.

It almost makes me want to podcast again, but there’s no way I could commit to that schedule right now. It’s the same reason that I’d love to have Dragon Dictate on my computer but never will. I use the computer the most in my den/home office/Man Cave after my wife and daughter go to sleep. The den is right next to their rooms. I can’t be talking to myself in there all night or I’d be waking them up. Someday, I’ll get a Cat5/6 cable run down to the basement and be able to plug into the network, rather than use spotty Wi-fi. Then I could theoretically podcast from the laptop. If I was doing a solo show, I could record to my iPhone, for goodness’ sake. I’ve done that before. Time is the enemy of us all, I’m afraid.

But being on the radio is really cool, even when you have no idea if anyone is listening. . .Things that have changed in college radio


 
 
 

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