Editor’s note: Alisan LeMay helped with the writing of this article.
When Alisan and I first arrived at Simmons College for the annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting Conference on November 16th, it felt like reliving freshman year all over again. We were the new kids: inexperienced, nervous, and (temporarily) lost. Although it seemed intimidating, we had a goal: to learn more about the world of radio. Over the past few months, a number of members of the Lesley community (students, teachers, and faculty alike) have been working to start a new internet radio station. We hope to provide all students with a creative outlet to express themselves, an environment to share their interests and talents with their peers, and the skills that will help them in the future. We’ll let you guys in on a little secret, though. When we started this project, we did not have much experience with radio at all. We never even ran our own shows, let alone starting an entire station. We couldn’t help but wonder who was going to help us make this dream a reality.
Our saving grace has been Lesley Communications Professor Donna Halper. We couldn’t have picked a more well-suited advisor. With over 40 years of experience, she knows radio better than anyone. With her help, we’ve seen the radio come farther than we have ever hoped. However, even with all her help, it was still clear that we had more to learn. She introduced us to the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Conference, and with the support of Associate Dean Bruce Logan, we got the opportunity to go. The conference was a one day gathering of students and professionals from college radio stations in the region, as well as a number of guest speakers. Throughout the day, there were talks and workshops held on various topics involving radio.
One workshop we attended showed us the power radio has to bring people from all walks of life together. We heard a local example of this from Charles McEnerney, the head of marketing for the Jamaica Plain Music Festival. The festival is held in JP and only showcases JP artists. The festival, which started off small, has grown over the last 5 years due to the support of the community and has become a fixture in the community itself. The event was broadcasted live online this year thanks to online radio. Over 5000 people from 30 different countries tuned in at some point or another. People from the Netherlands and Brazil were listening to artists from Jamaica Plains. That’s pretty amazing. It’s one of the reasons we think Lesley needs a radio station of its own. It would be a place for students to tune in to hear what was going on around campus and within the Lesley community.
This wonderful experience ended on a high note that reminded us why we wanted to start this program in the first place. The final speaker of the day, Michael Harrison, is one of the more well-known names in the radio world, and the editor of Talkers Magazine. Unfortunately, from his talk we discovered the sad but true state of radio today. Back in the glory days of radio, not only was there better music (in our humble opinion), but there was connection between the DJs and the audience. For more local radio stations, the DJ is a person of the people. They are from the same hometown or the same college. The DJs speak directly to each individual listener, having a conversation through music and shared interests. Then, you have people, like Ryan Seacrest, who broadcast worldwide and do not know who the audience members really are. Radio is more commercialized and the former small-town stations are now owned by the big corporations. They broadcast the stories they want to hear and only play the same songs that earn them the big bucks.
This is where we all come in. According to another speaker, radio and management consultant Holland Cooke, we have the power to bring the glory days of radio back. College radio doesn’t have to worry about the commercialization of radio. Instead, college radio programs can focus on what is more vital: the students. Our radio program will be part of Lesley University and it will help us continue to build connections among the students, faculty, and staff. We can bond through new music that is not played on the mainstream radio, share our passions, and showcase our talents with our peers. More importantly, however, we can learn new things from one another and help restart the conversation.
Overall, we had a wonderful and enlightening experience. We learned so much about the world of radio and how to make our programs and our new station a success. However, this experience also made us realize there is still so much out there to learn. Making our dream a reality will require hard work and time, but they are sacrifices we are more than willing to make. We are extremely grateful for attending this event, especially to Donna and all the members of the IBS conference. We now feel like we have earned our stripes and are ready to take the next step. At the next conference, we won’t be considered the new kids anymore, and we’ll have our own radio stories to share.