Friday, May 23, 2008

Chicago Station WLUW to Change from Community to Student-Run

I am continually amazed by all the different permutations of college radio stations, especially in terms of the involvement of students and community members. Some college stations are public radio affiliates and are run professionally by paid employees. Others are student-run and preference is given to undergraduate students when awarding shows. There are also college stations that function like community stations, where very few DJs are actually students.

So, it is with interest that I read a post on the Audiversity blog about Chicago station WLUW 88.7 FM changing from a listener-supported community station to a student-run college station on July 1st. Loyola University is taking back control of a station that they severed financial ties with in 2002 (and simultaneously turned over control to public radio station WBEZ). You can read more about the details in this piece in Chicagoist from last summer when the initial news of the format change became public. An alternate perspective (from a former volunteer) on the situation at WLUW is chronicled on the WLUW Watch and Fear Channel blogs.

Michael Ardaiolo is a community-member DJ/Music Director at the station and will soon lose his show. He writes on Audiversity:

"On July 1st, WLUW will no longer be listener-supported community radio; instead it is reverting back to Loyola's student-run station, and most likely with it, all of the downfalls and short-sightedness of college radio. As solely a community member, I will no longer be welcome to contribute. There is no animosity, it's just the reality of the situation, and I am ready to move on to bigger and better things. What exactly is this bigger and better thing? It is the Chicago Independent Radio Project!"

It's unfortunate that WLUW will no longer include community member DJs on its staff. I wonder why they made this decision? According to the Loyola website, "The University realizes that WLUW is an under-utilized asset, and one that Loyola is looking to leverage for educational purposes." It's too bad, as the current community-oriented station sounds pretty cool. According to the current WLUW website:

"WLUW is a progressive, community-oriented radio station, committed to social justice and independent thought and expression, and to giving a voice to those who too often go unheard. The station is dedicated to offering a broad array of music, news, and issue- and arts-oriented programming that cannot be found elsewhere on the radio."

I'm also am curious what the specific "downfalls and short-sightedness of college radio" are in this particular instance. I can guess that community members fear that college student-run stations don't have the same continuity, consistency, and institutional history that community stations may have. And, I certainly agree with that point ( college station's record library was sold off by a staff that didn't care about the history of the place).

As this post also points out, when stations aren't fulfilling the goals of their staff or listeners, industrious folks can move to the web or apply for a new FCC license. For this reason, The Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) will be interesting to watch.

What role do community members play at your station? Are they banned outright as it seems they will be at WLUW or are they allowed to participate equally with students? If you're a "community" member of a college station, what's that experience been like for you?

1 comment:

Tony said...

I'm another WLUW community volunteer, exiting the station at the end of this month.

I don't think the community volunteers will be shown the door, or explicitly excluded. I do expect that we will be made to feel more and more unwelcome, and that many more will eventually leave.

It's a sharp contrast from the welcome-with-open-arms policy that was in place when Michael and I joined.