I always enjoy reading articles about the college radio scene in different parts of the country. The latest piece "College Radio Stations are Holding Their Own as World Turns Digital," ran in The Daily Herald and is a nice guide to college radio in the Chicago suburbs. It's perfect timing for me, too, as I may be heading to Chicago this summer and need to find a station to visit.
According to the article:
"Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, college stations were the key force that introduced bands like R.E.M., The Replacements and Husker Du to wider audiences and major record labels. Today, music blogs and Web sites like MySpace perform a similar function.
But those who run funky college stations on the left side of the dial say their brand of radio is far from obsolete.
'There will always be a need for us,' said [WONC station manager John] Madormo, who has worked at WONC since 1980, when DJs actually did spin vinyl records instead of clicking digital music files. 'There are other outlets out there these days, of course. But I think music fans recognize that MySpace pages and things like that are self-serving. The passionate fans want an arbiter, something that judges what's really good and deserves to be heard. That's where radio comes in.'"
You've got to take a look at the article to see the accompanying college radio map, which pinpoints the location for each of the six FM stations profiled. Here's a complete list of the college radio stations cited in the piece, which also includes three Internet-only stations:
WETN 88.1 FM (Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL)
Primarily Christian music, also some classical music, campus lectures, sports, and Christmas music during the holidays.
WHCM 88.3 FM (Harper College, Palatine, IL)
This FM-only station used to be available only on campus and still airs only during the school year. Here's a picture of their tower.
WLUW 88.7 FM (Loyola University, Chicago, IL)
The future of this station's programming is a bit unclear after some changes that took place last year, in which community DJs lost shows and the station was said to be transitioning to a student-only station.
An article in student paper The Phoenix in January 2009 said, "Last spring a WLUW task force decided, among other things, that the station needed to create more opportunities for students to gain first-hand experience in radio broadcasting...Plans for the station, which was handled by Chicago Public Radio for the last half-decade, have yet to be set in stone, but its future remains open to possibilities."
WONC 89.1 FM (North Central College, Naperville, IL)
According to the article, "North Central's WONC mixes songs from up-and-coming groups like Art Brut and Blue October with tunes from top-selling acts like Pearl Jam and Oasis. The station also broadcasts the weekly "Local Chaos" show, which spotlights bands from Chicago and the suburbs."
WNUR 89.3 FM (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL)
Great station with a wide range of music, news, and public affairs shows. I visited in November 2008, so take a look at my piece for the inside scoop and lots of photos of the station.
WDCB 90.9 FM (College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL)
Public radio station that mainly plays jazz.
WRBC "The Blaze" (Internet-only, Roosevelt University)
SpartanCast (Internet-only, Aurora University)
CLC Radio (Internet-only, College of Lake County)
As sort of a companion piece, take a look at a similar article about college radio stations from 2008. When I was driving near Chicago in September, I also ran across a few others:
WRRG 88.9 FM (Triton College, River Grove, IL)
They were playing some real oldies when I tuned in, including Judy Garland and Woody Guthrie. And here's a really random link to a picture of their radio tower.
WIIT 88.9 FM (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL)
I'm not sure if I heard them or not, but learned about the station when trying to figure out the source of the sounds that I was hearing on 88.9FM (the same frequency at WRRG).
And, there's also an interesting collection of pictures of college radio (and commercial radio) towers in Chicago on Garrett Wollman's website. He's been capturing images of radio towers all over the country for years. In some cases he's even toured transmitter sites, getting an inside view of the inner workings of radio transmission.
In 2004 he obsessively photographed radio towers and recorded airchecks from a bunch of Chicago stations. Kind of similar to my college radio field trips. He writes, "I somehow got it into my head that it would be interesting to see (and aircheck) all of the little Chicagoland non-comms. When airfares dipped to $150 round-trip, I found the temptation irresistable, and decided to go to Chicago on Columbus Day weekend." Neat!