The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Behind the scenes at WTJU

A dialogue is taking place behind the airwaves that many students and community members may be completely unaware of.

WTJU 91.1, "The Sound Choice in Central Virginia," has been struggling to maintain its combined roles as a student radio station, a local radio station, and a combination of the two ever since the 1970s.

WTJU 91.1 is publicized as the University's radio station and is owned by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. Some students who work there, however, say the station needs more student involvement.

The 43-year-old station is owned by the University, and was an exclusively student organization for many years. But when the station's coverage expanded to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the station had to hire some non-students to help.

"So they shared it," said Chuck Taylor, who has been the station manager since 1993. "The percentages have moved back towards students in the past couple years. They're still around 50 percent. It's a cross between University and public."

Taylor, a business manager and an underwriter, runs the station, and community and University volunteers make up the rest of the staff.

Kerry Price, fourth-year College student and rock director, said she is frustrated with the station's role in the University community.

"It's supposed to be the liaison between the community and the students," Price said. "But it's publicized as the University radio station."

Franz Bauer, fourth-year Astronomy graduate student and electronica director, pilots the show on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 4 as the "Mad Scientist." He said he would like to see more students working at the station.

"The student part of it is being slowly evacuated," he said. "Ten years ago, rock was played 50 percent of the day. Now, it's only played 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m."

The station features many different shows, including jazz, classical, indy rock, rap and hip-hop, folk, world, reggae, electronica and Latina music. For all these diverse genres of music, however, Price said student programming interests are not being adequately represented.

"Students should have a choice of what they want on the station," she said. "But we have a bunch of 60-year-old men telling us that the most diverse music is classical because it's been around for thousands of years."

But Taylor said one of his main concerns is to ensure diversity on the airwaves.

In the jazz, classical and folk departments, there are a total of five student volunteers, Taylor said. Yet classical has twice as many hours during standard listening time, Price said.

"Students don't have a voice in what is being programmed," she said. "It's problematic that students don't listen to WTJU and don't have access although its supposed to serve students."

Students in music programming are vying with other departments for daytime hours to broadcast over WTJU's 60-mile radius. Taylor said that two of WTJU's five departments are student-run.

Taylor said he enjoys having students involved with the station.

"Public affairs and the news department is completely student run," he said. "I like it better with student involvement."

Some said the station's playlist is problematic because students tend to expect that the University station would play mostly rock.

"I thought it [the University station] was 91.9," said fourth-year College student Mallary Congleton.

Taylor said his top priority, however, is providing a constant source of good music to his listeners, he added.

Liza Douglass, a third-year College student and WTJU's news director, said her efforts to become involved with the station paid off.

"I asked if I could start [the news department] and initially they said no," she said. "But then they beefed up their efforts."

She acquired a daily show at 1 p.m. because she was persistent, she said.

"It was a lot of work, because I was the only one with any radio experience," she said. "But it's amazing."

Douglass has reaped the positive rewards of involvement in WTJU by serving the University.

"At the Nobel Peace Laureate Conference last year we brought back sound and edited sound bytes from the Dalai Lama and all that for a 5 o'clock broadcast," she said. "We beat everyone else because we were the closest. It was cool."

She added that more airtime offers a chance for Douglass to hone her skills in radio journalism for her special studies in voice.

Students have pursued jobs at WTJU due to a lack of other outlets and resources for students interested in communications.

"A lot of my friends and people [who are] pissed because there's no communications department are writing for me and helping out," said Douglass.

Bauer said he gains a great deal of satisfaction from his job because of his love for music.

"The show runs the gamut of musical genres with an underlying basis of electronic music," he said. "I was mixing random noise with Elvis at 2 in the morning on Monday night when some 40-year-old lady called in to tell me that she loved it."

After starting with an early-morning 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. shift, he worked his way up. As he became more involved, he heard more about how students wanted a greater say in the station.

"Changing things can be a task; it's like pulling teeth," he said. "We're trying to rejuvenate, but a lot of people are stodgy and set in their ways."

Douglass and Price said they urge new student volunteers to get involved with the station. Taylor said he is impressed with the quality of the new student volunteers they have received.

"We've got a lot of excellent student announcers," he said. "Everyone pulls their own weight"