A few years back, the student-run radio station at Rollins College, WPRK (as in Winter Park), was in the midst of a campaign to save the radio station. Or more specifically, saving the programming, which was at risk of being consumed by the same boring content that had plagued my own University’s station: a ritual of smooth jazz, classical, and opera. It was a real possibility and WPRK’s campaign was, needless to say, a desperately fierce one. Before social networking websites were around to easily circulate the calls for help, WPRK had offline allies to rally their local supporters since local CD stores were still in business. (Strangely, only the College”s former neighbor, Park Ave CDs, was the only one to survive the quake). Fliers and stickers with the skull and crossbones donning headphones underneath the question as to whether “free radio is dead radio” were distributed and the station survived. And the best in basement radio lived happily ever after.
It’s basically what you want in a college radio station. Something the kids like. Not something that provides the soundtrack to the board of directors’ black tie fund-raising galas. And unfortunately, a lot of public radio’s music content has been overrun by the latter. The former is more like what we’ve always been told real college radio was all about — the kind that made famous guys like R.E.M. and the whole Seattle scene in the late 80s and early 90. And my respect goes to WPRK, who not only survived, but kept the faith long after the struggle to retain their programming. And not in that monolithic manner, either. Bearded folk boys softly strumming guitars may get played, but they don’t dominate. And even the burgeoning locals are entitled to promotion, too. That’s because it isn’t a station riddled with pre-programmed playlists that the DJs are required to play. WPRK DJs are students who auditioned for a spot to share the goodies of their own music collection. And I found a lot of new favorite bands I’d never heard of before because of it.
And now, I don’t have to be in close driving-range of the school to actually hear it all. Since it, like most everything else, lept into cyberspace, to be streamed from anywhere with a decent Internet connection. May it always help them keep the faith.