New York Times Piece Captures ‘Positive College Radio Vibe’

A New York Times feature on student radio has the media-verse abuzz, providing a glimpse of the evolving “ethos, content, and vibe of collegiate stations.” Amid the gloom-and-doom backdrop of increasing station sales and alleged confusion over college radio’s future, the picture presented is surprisingly (and refreshingly) positive.

Student staffers and station managers are described as passionate and proactive about digitizing and expanding upon their terrestrial base.  They are compiling podcasts and YouTube video reports; interacting with fans on Facebook; and updating station websites.  One station’s communications director: “We call ourselves a radio station.  But we’re really a multimedia content provider.”

The increased multimedia push seems to be part of a larger effort to compete with the online options tapping into college radio’s decades-long ‘undiscovered music’ niche.

As the Times write-up notes, “As mainstream radio in the 1980s and 1990s became more focused on profits, and hence more risk averse, college radio became one of the rare broadcast venues where new sounds could be introduced . . . [Yet, now] the power of these stations has been diluted because music blogs like Pitchfork and social networking sites, which [a former student DJ] calls ‘word of mouth on steroids,’ are offering those same opportunities to discover new music.”

Interestingly, according to the Times report, one of the most pronounced campus radio shifts is an increased desire to understand and cater to its audience.  DePaul University’s faculty station manager: “College students don’t want: You listen to what we tell you.  They want two-way communication.  They want to feel that their voice is being heard.”

College radio expert Jennifer Waits praises the Times for capturing “a bit of that positive college radio vibe, as it highlights the passionate people behind college radio.”

Waits recently interacted with oodles of college radio-heads at New York City’s CMJ Music Marathon and the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention, which partners with College Broadcasters, Inc.  (She was also nice enough to stop by one of my sessions at ACP/CMA to say hi.) :)

A portion of the synopsis she posted on Radio Survivor:

As I learned at CMJ and CBI, the “crisis” isn’t top of mind for most college radio DJs. At the beginning of the “Saving College Radio” panel at CMJ on October 20th, moderator Ken Freedman of WFMU asked the audience how many people were afraid their stations would be sold. Only a few hands were raised. A similar situation occurred during CBI’s “The College Radio Crisis (and How to Survive)” panel that I was on. When asked the same question, only a couple of hands were raised. Although only a small number of DJs expressed their fears publicly, a number of private conversations revealed that many college students are eager to fight for their stations’ futures.

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