Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why College Radio Is So Important

(reading time:  90 seconds)

I love College Radio.  My career started there and I am still a big fan.

My first radio job ever was in the summer of 1967 when I found myself at American Legion “Boys State” at the SUNY campus in Morrisville NY.  How I ended up during the “summer of love” at a military indoctrination program in upstate NY is a another story, but suffice it to say I skipped most of the week-long program when I found that the dorm I was in was home to WCVM, “The College Voice of Morrisville”.

While my fellow Boys-Staters drilled with the Marines and underwent indoctrination sessions on the value of the Vietnam War, I was holed up in the radio studio reading the news.

A year later I arrived at Lehigh University.  By second semester freshman year I was Program Director of one of Lehigh’s two carrier-current radio stations, the then-Classical WLVR.  Within months we changed format to Progressive Rock and the rest is history.

I was a DJ, newsman, did remotes, wrote copy.  There was no Broadcasting major at Lehigh and we barely had a faculty advisor.  We were on our own in the best and worst sense of the word.

At Lehigh I won my first Major Armstrong Award for documentary excellence, “Old Friends” which captured in interviews and music what it was like to grow old.  That was the only independent-study credit I ever got for my college radio work which had become a seven day, 40 hour a week job.

After graduation in 1972 I launched a professional career at WLIR / Long Island, but kept in touch with my College Radio Roots by joining the Board of Directors of IBS, the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. I served there until 2000 when it was time to pass the torch to a younger generation.  (I also served on the Board of the Major Armstrong Foundation at Columbia University until it dissolved.)

A lot of College Radio is unlistenable, self-indulgent and sloppy.  But occasionally you find a station with great kids, a professional sound and yet none of the commercial mimicry that used to frustrate me so.

In my mind, College Radio should program what other stations can’t or won’t.  It shouldn’t imitate the hot commercial format du jour.

College Radio gives kids a chance to learn the medium, to experiment and fail.  Most will never go on to careers in broadcasting, but all will have a better sense of the medium and the responsibilities one has with the privilege of being on-air.


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