Students yearn for radio station to garner experience in field of study

Paige Stonerock

Students interested in broadcasting know that hands-on experience is key to getting a job.

Some students have expressed interest in launching a radio station from the campus of Washburn University.

“I’d love it,” said senior Steven Combs, communications major. “One of the things I’d wish Washburn to have is a radio program. It is something we lack. I’d like to learn how to be a DJ.”

Trevor Kirkwood, senior mass media major and assistant program director for Country Legends 106.9 FM, says students can learn invaluable skills from working in the daily operations of a radio station.

“Radio teaches people about effective communications and time management,” said Kirkwood. “Those lessons apply to any degree program.”

Charles Cranston, mass media and broadcasting professor, says that the mass media department teaches broadcasting and writing skills that are transferable through radio and television. However, a radio station would have additional benefits for students and the school.

“I think the radio thing has been kicked around here a lot over the years,” said Cranston. “It can become a laboratory for students much like a cable television operation can be. You can have newscasts. You can have the whole gamut of media on the radio station.”

Senior mass media major Jake Lebahn interns at WIBW 580 sports radio. Eventually, he would like to host sports talk radio or be a sports announcer. Lebahn says that the experience has been crucial and he learned everything at his internship. But the main benefit of a campus radio station is that it would get students more involved in campus life.

Senior Michael Gilmore, who came to Washburn with an interest in radio programming and performance, says there needs to be more opportunities on campus for students to get their foot in the door in radio in Topeka. A student-run station could also fill alternative music niches lacking in Topeka. He said that a student-run station could “provide the ability to have news sent out 24-7 in real time about the campus. You’d be able to put out bulletins and class cancellations and have them heard in real time.”

Barbara DeSanto, chair of the mass media department, says there are no plans to launch a Washburn radio station nor a curriculum specific to radio broadcasting.

The process of developing a radio station at Washburn would be a drawn out and expensive endeavor.

“A traditional broadcast station is a six-figure investment for a bare bones operation, seven figures probably,” said Kirkwood.

Then there are months to years of red tape attaining FCC, FAA and construction clearances, licenses, and permits.

“That money could serve the university in a better way, and that depends on whether there are frequencies available,” said Kirkwood.

In addition to the monetary investment, Cranston said agreements would have to be made about who would control the station’s location, structure and management. In order to maintain a station, students would be needed for management, programming and sales staff in addition to on-air talent.

“Overall it’s a great idea, but there are just a lot of obstacles,” said Kirkwood.

Last spring, a handful of students proposed bypassing some of these challenges by starting an Internet radio station or posting regular podcasts to the MyWashburn system. Gilmore says that an Internet station could be run by one person from someone’s dorm with a few hundred dollars of software and minimal equipment.

“An Internet station won’t cost anything – maybe Web space,” said Cranston. “The Internet station is a good idea, but using it in conjunction with the Washburn name would [still] require approval all up and down the chain.”

Washburn students interested in broadcasting can develop hands-on skills through courses such as broadcast writing and by participating in WUCT 13 News, Washburn’s student-run weekly live television news show that airs Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. on WUCT Cable Channel 13 during the fall and spring semesters.

“The main thing that we can do for students who want to go into radio, the only thing that we can do, is to encourage them to seek internships in radio or encourage them to seek part-time jobs while they are in college,” said Cranston. “That’s about the only thing we can do at this stage.”