Dog River Radio has been a voice in the Norwich community for decades. Behind the FM signals going out over campus, a lot of things are going on behind the scene.
“Listeners of WNUB only hear what goes into producing our own live shows,” said Colin Tarpey, 23, a political science major from Cohasset, Mass. “Unlike big time stations, we are fully responsible for managing every aspect of our shows, which can be a challenge.”
Norwich students have long been responsible for managing and operating the radio station. Students are expected to voice track, record promos, and record commercials, complete class projects, and fulfill their weekly live show time slot. It’s a lot of responsibility and work but it also provides a lot of opportunity to be creative.
“The students may create, produce, and execute their own weekly two-hour shows however they wish so long as they stay within FCC and station rules,” said Doug Smith, an adjunct professor from Grantham, N.H. in the Communications Department who is WNUB-FM faculty manager. “I inform them of the FCC regulations that we must live under plus my own rules and guidelines.”
Students are taken through a step-by-step process in order to prepare them for their own shows. Operating the equipment, cutting and editing tracks, and being aware of the regulations they must comply with are just a few of the parts of the process.
“Obviously, when I signed up for the class, I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Tarpey. “Professor Smith has really helped me develop an on-air personality and made me aware of what goes into DJ-ing.”
New students to the class are often hesitant about being live on the radio. The fear of speaking to an audience for the first time all while following specific guidelines can be a tough task, but the curriculum that Smith has laid out for the students provides tips and lessons on how to get over their fears and excel as college radio DJ’s.
“At first, I wasn’t too excited but once I realized how much fun it is, it became less daunting,” said Tristan Pilch, 19, a communications major, from Anchorage, Alaska. “What I’ve learned about operating a board, voice modulations, and quick thinking has become invaluable.”
Once the students overcome their own personal fears, they need to be aware of, and respect, the consequences the FCC can sanction on WNUB for any transgressions.
Amateur disc jockey’s have to pay attention to requirements for station ID’s, copyright infringements, and using appropriate language.
“You really have to watch what you say while you’re live or could be live,” said Tarpey. “You never know if the mic is actually off so being aware of your words and subject matter is important.”
After the DJ’s are able to become generally aware of the regulations they must abide by, developing a personality on the air is the next piece of business.
Every member of the broadcasting techniques class is able to choose their own DJ name, live show theme, subject matter, and talking points.
“It’s largely trial by fire. After their initial orientation to the equipment, they just go for it,” said Smith. “Their first shows are often a bit shaky, scary, and nerve-wracking but they quickly catch on, and by the second or third week, they are mostly in their grooves.”
Students on air personalities fit into a wide scope. They can choose from anything they can think of, which makes for an entertaining show.
“I go by DJ C-Tank on the ‘Monday Nights are for the Boys’ show,” said Tarpey. “We cover everything from sports, to sororities, to special interests. Anything the WNUB listeners need, we cover it.”
Other radio hosts take a different approach to their shows.
“The theme of my show is cats,” said Pilch. “I figured, hey, why not.”
The wide variety of show themes that occur weekly bring in a Norwich University audience. Many of the DJ’s friends, families, and classmates tune in to WNUB to listen via streaming live on the web.
“The live shows are funny. I really enjoy listening to them,” said Spencer Duhamel, 21, an English major from Manchester, N.H. “’Monday Nights are for the Boys’ is probably my favorite show. Their content is funny and they do a good job.”
The livestream option to listen to WNUB is something that has been developed recently which allows friends and family who are not within the station’s signal to listen to their son or daughter on the radio.
“The livestream is actually how we get most of our listeners,” said Tarpey. “I have friends in South Carolina, Texas, Washington, California and Florida who all listen. My parents also listen from Cohasset, Mass. It’s cool that they are able to hear my show every week.”
Promoting their shows is a huge part of not only the class, but also professionalizing their live shows and sounding like a big-market commercial radio station.
Students in the broadcasting techniques class are required to record voice tracks, or “voice overs,” to fit a two-hour time slot once a week.
The voice tracks are required to be between 30 and 60 seconds and promote Dog River Radio, as WNUB is known. Students have taken in voice-tracking with open arms and had some fun with it.
“My voice tracks are pretty much the same every week,” said Tarpey. “I mention WNUB then talk about the Patriots, Tom Brady, and ‘Monday Nights are for the Boys’.”
The promos the students are required to record involve much more time and effort than voice tracking. They need to be at the peak of their creativity, while still staying on task, and all within a time limit.
Pilch notes that recording promos is “always pretty difficult.” “Staying creative and getting my point across in exactly 30 or exactly 60 seconds is a hard thing to do,” he said.
WNUB has seen its fair share of changes during Professor Smith’s tenure. Upgrades to computer software, programs, display boards, and other radio gear have made the DJ’s job a lot easier. “The control board in the on-air studio was installed in the summer of 2009, the board in the production studio 1 is a couple of years newer than that,” said Smith. “The automation computer and all three production computers were replaced with brand new machines this fall. The fourth-floor Jackman Hall transmitter was installed new in 2003 and the antenna atop Jackman Hall was replaced in 2005.”
In comparison to other big-budget stations, WNUB has comparable, if not equal, equipment, according to Smith. “Ours is superior in some ways and theirs in others,” said Smith.
WNUB has been a mainstay in the Northfield community for decades and has found its own small niche. Students at Norwich take pride in WNUB and see it as something they can call their own and the DJ’s are there not just to get a good grade, but to please their audience.
“Well, obviously I want to do well so I can get a good grade in the class,” said Tarpey. “But there is a certain sense you get about when everything is clicking, you just want to put on a good show.”
Students outside of the broadcasting techniques class are able to participate and hold their own time slot on WNUB if they pass muster with Smith, who interviews the candidates closely.
“If there are any shifts remaining open after all have been filled by students in the class, then I will interview and consider any interested student, staff, or faculty member,” said Smith.
“I know at least three or four people who would kill to have a live show on WNUB,” said Duhamel.
The future of WNUB looks bright based on ideas that Smith has laid out and he hopes to expand the station’s network and develop a stronger platform in the Northfield community. “I’d like to involve more of the campus community in terms of producing and/or participating in educational, informational, and cultural programming,” said Smith. “I’d also like to see us broadcast certain Northfield High School games on a regular basis.”
This would allow students to earn valuable experience in others areas of broadcasting for sportscasters, community journalists, meteorologists and news anchors, which would add to their knowledge and resumes.
“Interacting with people outside of Norwich would be cool,” said Pilch. “We are allowed to use the phone, but if we could actually get out there and broadcast in the community, it would be nice.”
“I definitely think that we could improve on what we’re doing here at WNUB,” said Tarpey. “Our equipment is good and we have enthusiastic students, so if we are able to get out in the community and cover some local events, I think that would be really cool.”
“There’s been slow but steady progression over my tenure as faculty manager since August of 1999. I’m pleased with the equipment we have and proud of what I’ve been able to do with the station with the help of volunteers like Dex Rowe and Jacque Day,” said Smith.
“Campus ITS has been instrumental in assisting with the technology end of things. Given that the faculty manager position is only a 1/4-time appointment, I feel that I’m doing about as much as I can with and for the station within those confines.”
To tune in, here is the link: icecast.norwich.edu:8000/wnub.mp3