The right hand lines up the slider on the console. The headphones go over the ears. The lips approach the microphone.
The index finger pushes the red button. And “we’re live.”
It’s a daily occurrence at WPKM 96.3 FM, the college radio station of WVU Parkersburg.
Students and faculty disc jockeys (or radio hosts) volunteer their time and talents to provide entertaining, educational and informative radio to the Mid-Ohio Valley through a variety of programs and genres.
Famous baseball player and announcer Bob Uecker once said, “On TV the people can see it. On radio you’ve got to create it.”
Creation is a go. It’s music. It’s news. It’s interesting information.
WVU Parkersburg’s Journalism Department now has a radio station and a new degree to accompany it.
The official start date of WPKM 96.3 FM was April 1, with a launch party hosted on April 9. The variety station offers music of many styles, as well as news/talk and sports shows.
Turn your radio on and listen to the music in the air. ~ BJ Thomas, southern gospel
WPKM offers 24/7 music and programming. The straight music will lessen and the programming will increase as students are able to develop more shows.
“We’re really excited for this opportunity to allow students to create original local programming,” said Dr. Torie Jackson, the coordinator of the journalism, public relations and broadcast programs at WVU Parkersburg.
Shine. Make them wonder what you got. Make them wish that they were not on the outside looking in. ~ Newsboys, contemporary Christian
Jackson believes the station will be both a tool for the college and a link to the community. “We hope WPKM becomes a voice for our college to the community.”
The goal of programming is that it encompasses the mission of the station to be entertaining always, as well as educational and informative. Therefore the DJs often educate listeners on particular music types or on performers.
To defy the laws of tradition is a crusade only of the brave. ~ Primus, rock
WPKM is one of the first stations in the area to feature electronic dance music that is popular in Europe and overseas.
Other types of music include classic rock, hard rock, metal, gospel, contemporary Christian, bluegrass, Americana (country), oldies, pop and more. This fulfills the block variety format of WPKM, also known as The Beet.
Students pondered for weeks on a name for the station. Nothing seemed to match the call letters or the frequency. Finally, the agreed that music needs a good beat. At the same time, as journalism trainees, they know the value of a beat in reporting. Discussion then ensued about not “beat,” but “beet.” Dwight Shrute’s farm became a topic of discussion, as did the band The Beets from the animation Doug.
Finally, it was decided “Lettuce Turnip the Beet” translated to let us turn up the beat. Remember, Uecker said on radio you have to create it.
Take all or nothing. Life’s just too short to push it away. ~ Tool, hard rock
By variety alone, this college station is not limited to one audience. Aside from music, the students offer a morning show, sports talk, comedy and variety.
As Station Manager Jeremy Harrison described, “Right now we are just trying to catch people’s attention.” That’s why a day on the station can be everything from BB King and Nirvana to Frank Sinatra.
“I tell people to listen to us,” Jackson said. “Tune your dial to 96.3 FM and see what you think. We have such a variety of programming that you are bound to find something that you like.”
Every mistake we must surely be learning —still my guitar gently weeps. ~ Beatles, oldies
WVU Parkersburg applied to the FCC for a license in November of 2014. The FCC granted the request in January 2014. During the next year, Jackson and Harrison, along with the assistance of Tom Taggart of Seven Ranges Radio, combined a list of equipment needed, found a room (had the four walls constructed), and set up a station. It literally was from the carpet up. From nothing … to a station that now gets comments like:
“Discovered a new radio station in Parkersburg. It’s 96.3 run by WVU Parkersburg student radio,” a recent Facebook post shared. “It is by far the best thing to happen in this town in a while. It’s like I traveled to a normal city when I listen to it. I’ll never take my dial off of it.”
The station eventually will offer at least eight hours of live original content daily. Students participating in the station use it as the lab component of a new degree option at WVU Parkersburg — a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration with a broadcast concentration. A 30-hour certificate and an AAS degree in Broadcast will be added next year (Spring 2016 semester).
The new degree is designed to prepare students for the competitive field of radio broadcast and features classes such as Reporting Public Affairs, Sports Reporting, Advanced Radio Production and more.
“We are learning as we go. I’m sure critics can find some mistakes in what we do. Know, though, that we are training and educating students to pursue their dreams in broadcast. What will become prominent in that process is not a mistake every once in a while, but a birth of creativity that will take the station to greatness,” Jackson said.
The life I love is making music with my friends and I can’t wait to get on the road again. ~ Willie Nelson, Americana (country)
On the road … or on air … either one takes funds. Jackson pursued and utilized grant funding to build the station. Now, the search for sponsorships, donations and underwriting begins.
WPKM will also offer 24/7 online streaming of its programming once the licensing for that aspect is secured. A website, www.wpkmradio.com, is available. Online streaming will be essential to the station’s success since it is a low-power station with a 100-watt tower.
Students are excited about the station and the opportunities it provides. “For me, it is a great experience,” said Jacob Adkins, a sports talk show DJ. “I can’t ask for much more. I’m having fun with it.”
He and his cohost, James Liebau II, felt it was time for their in-class arguing on sports to be presented to a larger audience. “We have been doing this for semesters … talking, arguing and discussing sports. So, why not share that knowledge and the spirit we have for sports with the college and the community.”
A similar sentiment exists for the station’s mission. “Let’s share what we do. Let’s let the Mid-Ohio Valley know the great things that are happening at WVU Parkersburg. Let’s let them know about WPKM and that ‘we’re live.’”