Getting More from Your College Radio Station

 As it exists today, college radio is a vastly underused resource. It’s a great place to find underground and up-and-coming music, as well as the occasional sports broadcast, but college radio really has the potential for so much more. Radio stations stand at a unique crossroads where they are able to address two groups of people, the campus and surrounding local area, and offer a voice for both communities.  

Student-run media organizations are more important now than ever, with many radio stations being sold by universities to larger entities with the justification that radio is a “dying medium”.

There are many ways that you can work to represent both student and community issues via your radio station.

WCRX Columbia College hosts a number of philanthropic events, such as their yearly “Holly Jolly Trolley Food Drive”, a food drive broadcast on their station which has managed to raise thousands of dollars and food items for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

WOBC Oberlin University hosts a “block party” in a local public park simply to get more involved with the local community

Cross promotion

Student-run media services should be working together. Cross promotion gives each outlet a completely new medium to advertise for their organization. It’s a win-win situation. Many times these three information gatekeepers operate completely independently, yet by working together they can strengthen each other’s outreach, viewership and most importantly give the student community a stronger voice.

The level of cooperation between your three media is completely up to you, but here are some basic ideas to get started:

Radio station announces a sponsorship by the newspaper at the top of each hour, while the newspaper gives a half/full-page ad to the radio station in their weekly publication.

The newspaper/TV station could be given time on the programming schedule to read headlines.

The radio station could announce changes in programming or upcoming events in the newly allotted newspaper space.

Different media outlets should never compete for the attention of the student body, as this only weakens the voice of students and gives more power to the administration.

Campus Community
On your typical college campus, there’s a lot going on, all the time, everywhere. Many good-hearted campaigns and events can get lost in all that noise, yet as a college radio station you possess a platform to act as an information gatekeeper and promote events that you feel would really impact the greater college community in a positive way.

Collaborate with student organizations by offering air-time to voice their cause and campaign.
Announce certain campaigns or causes at the top of the hour.

Connecting to the Local Community
Your college doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there is a surrounding community that could strongly benefit from your station. Getting involved in your local community is a wonderful way to make a real impact on the lives of those who do not have a platform to project their voice and to increase your college and radio station’s repertoire as one of social justice and community outreach. Colleges like Columbia College, Howard University and University of Connecticut (and many, many more) offer great ways to give airtime to the local community.
Here are some other quick examples to get involved:
Offer air-time to community members to air their concerns and opinions

Advertise and organize local events and campaigns

Read local news and public affairs on-air

Hold an event off-campus to gain visibility in the local community

Using Media to Build Student Power

You can make a difference. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.

Student media have been holding their administrations responsible since the beginning of the education system, some great recent examples include raising awareness of sexual assault at Amherst college, holding Harvard accountable for refusing to divest in fossil fuels, and much, much more.

College administrations will not always do the right thing, especially when there is no community outcry over the issues.   With a strong student voice you can make sure that students aren’t being taken advantage of even on the local or national level.

This is where you come in. This is where you make sure they are listening. This is how you get heard.

Further Resources:

Radio Survivor
Discusses all sorts of issues related to radio as a “participatory communications medium”. Really awesome group.

College Broadcasters Inc.
Represents students involved in radio, tv, webcasting and various media.
“facilitates the discussion of issues related to student-operated electronic media; and other community oriented programs.”

Intercollegiate Broadcasters System
Provides information for college radio upstarts

College Music Journal
The Billboard of college radio