WNCP Radio takes to the air, sort of
At first glance, this is not your parent’s college radio station.
WNCP Radio, the University’s nascent radio station, is a creation of the digital age. The whole thing can fit in a suitcase and is located in two very small rooms in Old Main.
Andra Hale, program director, and Bethanie Bean, promotions
This is Internet radio. The only radio waves involved in its transmission originate from the wireless Internet network that blankets the campus. Its audience, like the Worldwide Web, is potentially global.
After that, WNCP Radio - The Hawk, is college radio at its best – it is run on a shoestring budget mostly by volunteers. It’s loose, fun and educational.
This enterprise supports the wisdom that everything old is new again. To begin with WNCP Radio’s musical format is CHR or Contemporary Hits Radio. That’s new-age radio speak for Top 40.
“CHR speaks to our age group,” said Promotions Director Bethanie Bean, who has been working at the station for more than a year. Bean combines traditional promotions like flyers with new concepts such as a Facebook page for the station.
“We want to appeal to the widest audience possible,” said senior broadcasting major Andra Hale, who was hired as a work-study student to become the station’s first program director. “We’ve re-vamped this year, and we’re focused on getting out there.”
“Our Facebook group added about 300 friends this year already,” Bean said. “It’s working.”
While aspiring broadcasters like Hale and Bean run the show, Dr. Jamie Litty, chair of the Mass Communication Department, is the faculty advisor. The department also advises a student newspaper, yearbook and cable TV channel, so the addition of radio makes them something of a media conglomerate.
“Nearly everything about the station has been cobbled together on a volunteer basis,” Dr. Litty said. “Even my husband pitched in to help set up the server and write the code for our Web site. Now the Web site is produced by a student, because students need the experience for their resumes more than we do.
“When we started, we had to figure it all out ourselves, from 24-hour automation to tracking listeners,” she said. “I am very pleased with the progress, and we have a good core of volunteers and programming.
“We think of it as a learning laboratory that complements our curriculum,” Dr. Litty continued. “Andra and Bethanie got many of their ideas from our Broadcast Programming and Management class, and from their summer internships at FM stations in this region.
“But students from a variety of majors participate now,” she said. “We plan to revive the broadcasting club, AERho, that we had here some years ago.”
The UNCP community gets a daily infusion of current music and talk, along with traditional staples like public service announcements (PSAs).
Deanna Johnson’s English composition class, which participated in a semester-long service learning project to discourage tobacco use among young people, wrote public service announcements for radio to promote the Great American Smokeout.
“I read each in class, and students voted for the best one,” Johnson said. “The two students with the winning entries recorded their PSA's for The Hawk.
“The PSA project was useful because not only did it tie into our community service theme, but it gave students the opportunity to write a piece similar to something that they might be asked to write in their future careers,” she said. “It was practical, and they really rose to the challenge. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with the results.”
The student-staff is also developing live remote broadcasts.
“We went to UNC-Chapel Hill for the pre-season game between the Braves and the Tar Heels, using our station laptop and some basic audio equipment,” Hale said. “We learned a lot.”
“We will go live for the 24-hours of Relay for Life,” Bean said. “We’re billing ourselves as the official radio station of UNCP’s Relay for Life.”
A check of WNCP Radio’s programs reveals an almost full weekly slate of evening primetime shows during the spring semester with names like Radio-U, Purplegirl from JA, The M.A.D. Show and The Nikki and Rachelle Show.
There were two sports talk shows. Braves’ football player Chris Kennedy had a show and there was Sportstalk with Crawford and Kelley.
Brad Crawford, left, and Robert Kelley are ‘Sportstalk.’
On March 23 before their live afternoon broadcast, Brad Crawford and Robert Kelley warmed up for their show by tossing the football around outside.
“The first shows were pretty bumpy, and we brought a lot of notes in with us,” Kelley said. “Now that we know what we’re doing now, it’s pretty smooth.”
Getting used to radio – with its “intros” and “outros” – was a steep learning curve for the pair, both journalism majors and both former sports editors for the Pine Needle student newspaper.
These guys know sports, and they have a great time talking about it. This day, they talked about the NCAA basketball tournament, the NFL draft and their regular section on UNCP sports. Crawford was covering UNCP baseball for his internship with The Robesonian, the daily newspaper in Lumberton.
A sports stringer for the Fayetteville Observer, he also did commentary for live Internet streaming of UNCP football and baseball games. Both said the opportunities and experiences they have had as undergraduates are unique and helpful in the job market too.
“It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had at UNC or NC State,” Crawford said. “I’ve been able to build relationships with coaches, players and the media.”
Kelley, who is considering a career in radio (“They pay you to sit around and talk about sports?”), agrees that working at WNCP Radio is a unique experience.
“Being at a smaller school allowed us to have experiences like this,” Kelley said. “They actually asked us if we would do a show, and we jumped at the chance.
“It’s been fun,” Kelley said.
Train Wreck was one of the first shows to go live and was a lot like its name, said Bean, who was one of its on-air personalities.
The Brunch – From left Toy Parsons, Thomas Morrow and Matthew Kennedy
This year, Bean worked with The Brunch, the prime time and highest-rated show. Prime time at UNCP is Wednesday, 10 - 11:15 a.m., during the student activity period.
“It’s a variety show,” Bean said. “We do everything - campus and world events. Lately, we’ve been talking about relationships.”
The March 18 edition of The Brunch was wide open. Hale was out, so Bean stepped in as producer, and Toy Parson was delayed at a meeting, so Thomas Morrow, a.k.a. “The Street Team,” filled in alongside Mathew Kennedy, a.k.a. “Matty Cakes” (“A girl gave me that name,” he explained).
With Bean at the controls, The Brunch started precisely at 10 a.m. and opened with sports.
“Hey everybody in radio land. We’re having a little man-time this morning.” Morrow said.
“I have my Duke gear on this morning,” Kennedy opened, celebrating Duke’s ACC tournament win.
The “guy talk” shifted to sports celebrity Doug Flutie’s appearance on campus the night before.
Morrow explained that he is not on the air routinely but reports on campus news, views and “gossip.” He pitched the live remote of Relay for Life and the April 8 charity auction he worked on.
Toy Parson arrived during a musical interlude and caught up on the show’s progress. She was primed and the energy level spiked.
“Toy is here!” she proclaimed.
“So, Toy have you been training for the radio olympics?” Morrow asked about the upcoming contest between The Brunch and members of another talk show called Mike Check.
“Yes, I did six-and-a-half push-ups over the weekend and ran all the way from my couch to the refrigerator,” Parson said. “How do you train for thumb war and an egg-in-a-spoon race?
“I would like to thank my friend Amber for making t-shirts for us,” she added. “If we lose, we’ll lose in style, and we are going to lose.”
They took a break for more music and checked text messages. A happy feature of college radio is that the only constants are high energy and constant change, and, lately, change is for the better, Hale said.
“We’re getting more organized, and we follow ‘hot clocks,’ like we learned in class,” he said, pointing to a wall chart.
There is a lot of energy at WNCP Radio, and in higher education where there’s energy, learning usually follows.
“Right now, we don’t have any stand-alone audio production courses,” Dr. Litty noted. “In our video production coursework, we teach audio-for-video.
“Our lecture courses have always been half radio, half TV, but the students haven’t had their own outlet to make that learning more concrete,” she said. “We’re getting there.”
Digital radio connects to the world in ways that early radio pioneers never dreamed of.
“My parents can listen to my show on the Internet, and my sister listens every morning before school,” Bean said. “Pretty cool, don’t you think?”
Nonetheless, some things about radio never change.
“No, we’re not celebrities. Nobody recognizes us on campus,” Bean said. “That’s radio; nobody connects the voice with your face.”
Tune your Web browser to WNCP Radio - The Hawk at: www.uncp.edu/wncp-radio/.