Off the air: Student voices go silent on WNUB after course is cancelled

Norwich FM radio station WNUB has no live student broadcasts now because the spring  broadcasting course was cancelled for low enrollment.

Norwich FM radio station WNUB has no live student broadcasts now because the spring broadcasting course was cancelled for low enrollment.

“This is WNUB 88.3, Dog River Radio.” Every hour, an automated recording of a past student’s voice reminds listeners that their local radio station once rode the airwaves with student talk shows and playlists.

But this spring, Norwich University’s radio station WNUB continues on the air in the Northfield region without any student disc jockeys. Due to low enrollment, the radio production (CM 351) class this spring semester was cancelled – the first time that has ever happened in his 15 years teaching the class, according to Prof. Doug Smith. As a result, students miss opportunities to talk while broadcasting live and to learn important communications skills, according to Norwich students.

Having been a part of NU since 1967, WNUB is owned and operated by Norwich and the radio station is used by the radio production classes in the communications department. As a part of the class, each student performs a personalized radio show, according to Dominic Davis.

“I had a radio show every Sunday for about two hours, me and my buddy we would just, we had a good time and we enjoyed ourselves. We pretty much created our own talk show. We had a good time doing it, we made each other laugh and I believe that the Northfield audience got a few laughs from us,” Davis said. “I think (listeners) pretty much enjoyed the music that we played because it was something different. It wasn’t like the same old country genre, or the same old techno genre that has been played in recent years. We kind of switched things up and we decided to go a little R&B and a little old school rap and we even threw in a little bit of soulful music, so my experience on air, it was pretty good.”

“Communications majors are affected by not having the radio class,” added Davis, 20, a communications major from Miami, Fla. “Without the radio class you don’t get a chance to gain that experience of radio production and how to be on air and work with the type of equipment that is affiliated with, you know,radio.”

Smith said that there have been no students on the air since the end of the fall semester and won’t be again until September 2014. But on the positive side, the station plans to begin streaming audio no later than June 1, and has just had its FM license renewed for another eight years by the Federal Communications Commission.

For Nicolette Gosselin, 21, a communications junior from Barre, Vt., not having the class available really affects the students who have an interest in radio. “Students who really want go into that career path are affected,” she said. “I know there’re kids in my class who wanted to do more (with) radio than television, now they don’t really have that opportunity.”

For some students who took the class before it was dropped this spring, WNUB opened career opportunities. Randy Laprade, 22, a communications senior from Barre, Vt., said that the class was more than just a part of getting the communications degree, it is another part of the professional communications field. “It’s another aspect of the communications world, being part of the radio station,” Laprade said. “It certainly was an eye- opener for me when I was there.”

WNUB has not only offered experience in the field of radio, but opportunities outside of the Northfield area. “I started here at WNUB,” Laprade said. “I got an internship over at Froggy 100.9, a couple of years ago and now that’s where I work, that my part-time job,” he said of the Barre station.

Besides providing possible internships, WNUB opens the door for visits to other radio stations, such as Vermont Public Radio. “WNUB presents to a lot of broadcasting opportunities, you’re in a class and you take a field trip to other radio stations in the Vermont area and you get the feel of what really goes down behind the scenes in a radio station,” Davis said. “So the class really gives you a lot of the experience and it could lead on to internships with radio, you know other radio stations within Vermont.”

Even though it is a required course for communications majors, it is not just those students who are affected by the lack of a radio class, Laprade said, it also affects the surrounding area.“I think it effects the community because it’s a small radio station that was built around the students,” he said. “It gives some of the local people something different to listen to, different to some of the commercial radio that you can get in town.”

The radio station not only serves the campus, but the surrounding community as well. According to the WNUB web page, “WNUB-FM serves the campus and greater Northfield communities year-round as a non-commercial, educational FM station.”

Students like Gosselin say broadcasting live teaches how to make quick, split-second decisions. “I never knew how to use the actual board and going on and off the air,” Gosselin said. “If something goes wrong you’re live on the air, (the class/experience) teaches you to be able to handle those kind of situations.”

For others, like Davis, WNUB offers more personal lessons. “It is pretty much taught me how to bring out character, because when you are on air you really have to have a certain ‘swagger,’ a certain type of character,” Davis said. “No one wants to listen to a radio host that is monotone, because after a while it gets boring and people start to get uninterested. Radio pretty much taught me to have a character and speak out, to have that voice, and really try to engage with the people around you, try to engage with the audience.”

WNUB has been around for more than 46 years, and has been run every year by students, according to Norwich’s website.

“Established in 1967, WNUB-FM provides a training ground for Communications students interested in pursuing careers in radio broadcasting and audio production,” said the Norwich website. “The station is staffed in the fall by students enrolled in Broadcasting Techniques (CM 211) and in the spring by students in Radio Production (CM 351). Students record and manipulate audio with the ease and proficiency of professionals using Adobe Audition Software.”

The radio broadcasting courses should continue, say Gosselin and Davis. It shouldn’t stop because there were too few students this semester that wanted to take the class.

“I think we should have a radio class,” said Gosselin. “It’s unfortunate that these students who wanted to participate in that aren’t able to because there weren’t enough people that signed up for the class. But I mean it’s also a chance for them to keep learning to be able to go into that career path.”

“I believe that we should continue to have a radio class because it’s original,” added Davis. “What other school do you know that has a radio class that has an actual radio station you can operate and have your own on air show and you get to play your own music? I don’t think many other universities have that opportunity for students. Here at Norwich I think that having a radio class is well needed, especially for communication majors.”

According to Prof. Smith, students typically do a weekly two-hour block Monday through Friday somewhere between 12 and 6 p.m. and also perform one live 2-hour evening show somewhere between 6 p.m. and midnight. For now, the only live weekly broadcasting currently being done is by community volunteers Mark Albury and Joe Zuaro on Saturday mornings, 7 to 9 a.m., he said.

 

Comments

  1. Stephanie Hyland says:

    I graduated with a communications degree from NU in 1990 and the radio station was a big part of our curriculum (along with the Guidon and TV studio). Students should still be encouraged to have radio shows and how to work in or run a radio station. Also, we had communications students doing it that weren’t in the radio production class. I would suggest seeing if the non-communications students want to do it. I remember Forest Platt and Pablo Aymerich doing their shows. The communications department should communicate that they need help with this and not just give up having students on the air.

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