Loss of community shows at WNJR a loss for county

For more than two decades WNJR 91.7 FM had served as an educational tool both for students at Washington & Jefferson College and the Washington community at large. This is because in addition to student-hosted shows the station allowed – and encouraged – community members to come on the air to share their music, their perspective and interview fellow members of the community. That tradition is now over as the communications department at W&J has informed its longtime community radio show hosts that its airwaves would be reserved only for students. This further entrenches the stereotype that the college is siloed from the city and that any and all broadcast media education can only happen for and from those on campus.

My journalism career sparked at WNJR, and without varied and engaging experiences alongside outside voices who hosted shows themselves I doubt I would have pursued this profession. From Johnny Morgan’s Oldies Jukebox (hosted by assistant district attorney prosecutor John Friedmann), to Brad Hundt’s Mixtape (hosted by the Observer-Reporter’s{/em} Brad Hundt), casual chats about blues and jazz and synthwave quickly turned into professional conversations about what was happening in the courthouse and in communities around Washington County. Debates often ensued on and off-air – and interviews with musicians and activists often turned into invitations for them to host their own shows.

There’s probably not much anyone reading this can do. The communications department at W&J has every right and privilege to set policy it sees fit as best serving their students. But it’s hard not to imagine how a richer educational experience could be shared by students and residents alike with an open door inviting anyone who cares enough to volunteer their time to step up to the microphone. In the words of South Park’s Eric Cartman, whose voice often served as an irreverent blip in between radio shows, “That sounds pretty sweet to me!”

Radio is the medium of listening. We need it more than ever.

David Singer

W&J Class of 2010{/em}

Portland, Maine