These promotional items collected at the Swag Swap and from Tour of Radio K are eclectic and memorable. Before the autumn chill set in, College Broadcasters Inc. convened its membership in Minneapolis for its fourth annual National Student Electronic Media Convention. This year’s event attracted more than 300 attendees, who traveled from 24 states and Washington, D.C., from all over the United States.
Approximately two-thirds of the attendees came from student radio stations, with the rest hailing from other student media outlets including television stations and websites. While it was mostly a college crowd, a handful of high school radio station advisers attended, and one adviser brought a crew of students from high school station WSTB(FM) in Streetsboro, Ohio.
Over the course of three days, there were more than 100 sessions, which ranged from roundtable discussions, to presentations, to panels, to how-to workshops. Topics discussed included social media, FCC regulations, promotional ideas, sports broadcasts, LGBTQ in broadcasting, working with music reps, news, webcasting and podcasting.
This College Radio Day t-shirt was spotted at College Radio Day’s booth at the CBI convention. Many of the sessions provided practical advice from both professionals and students about doing radio, television, and multimedia. Students from SCAD-Atlanta Radio led a hands-on ’zine workshop, and there were special intensive sessions devoted to animation graphics and Adobe Creative Suite.
One of the most compelling presentations was from Ritenour High School’s media adviser and educator Jane Bannester, who spoke eloquently about how her students at KRHS Media, including KRHS(FM), covered events and protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.
Bannester explained that it was impossible to not cover the story, as it was affecting her students and her school. “You can’t hide from these stories” and “you can’t just stay on your campuses,” Bannester said, pointing out that “real learning” happens when one goes out and does reporting beyond the school walls.
A special workshop happening in tandem with the CBI event was an application-based weeklong radio and journalism training boot camp for student reporters. NPR’s Next Generation Radio Project brought six students to Minneapolis for a week of field reporting under the watchful eyes of professional mentors.
Next Generation Radio Project participants and mentors worked on their pieces during the convention. Each student tracked down a story to report on in the Minneapolis area, conducted interviews, edited and crafted a final audio piece, along with additional content for an affiliated website. The week’s emphasis was on non-narrated storytelling, so each story was told through the voice of the subject, with other audio adding to the mood and narrative.
During a Saturday morning listening session, conference attendees were able to hear the completed pieces. Next Generation Radio Project leader Doug Mitchell asked each participant to share what he or she had learned from the experience.
After hearing the engaging pieces created during the week, participant Jason Fuller noted “radio is a powerful tool for those who have been silenced.”
The Next Generation Radio Project pieces can be heard on the CBI website at http://askcbi.org/nextgeneration-minneapolis/.
MEETING AND GREETING
One of the great things about student media conferences is that it creates an opportunity to meet students from other stations and to pick up tips on how things are done elsewhere.
Students gather at CBI’s Swag Swap. CBI’s annual Swag Swap is a fun social event during which students chat with folks from other stations, collecting stickers, buttons, and pens from other stations. The event was as frenzied as usual, and some students held tight to coveted items like beanie caps and premium sweatshirts in the hopes of trading them for other limited edition pieces. Some of the more whimsical bits of swag this year included car air fresheners from KXLU(FM) in Los Angeles; guitar picks from WKNC(FM) in Raleigh, N.C.; water pistols from WPTS(FM) in Pittsburgh, Pa.; keychains shaped like pizza slices from WUOG(FM) in Athens, Ga.; and a cute stress ball character with an Elvis haircut from Lander University radio station XLR which broadcasts online from Greenwood, S.C.
Beyond the Swag Swap and targeted roundtable discussions — for radio station managers, radio sports, advisers, program directors and others — those eager to connect with other stations had the opportunity to partake in some station tours in Minneapolis. A limited number of students had the option of touring American Public Media, KUOM(AM) at the University of Minnesota, KMSP(TV) and WCCO(TV).
Although I couldn’t make the official tours, I traveled on my own to see three college stations in the Minneapolis area, including KRLX(FM) at Carleton College, WMCN(FM) at Macalester College and KUOM(AM) at the University of Minnesota. Because I am fascinated by the early history of college, I was excited to visit several stations on campuses with long radio legacies, in addition to presenting on the topic. Both KRLX(FM) and KUOM(AM) are descendants of stations that date back to the early 1920s, and students at Macalester started doing campus-only radio in the 1940s.
The schedule of sessions on the final day of CBI’s convention demonstrates both variety and depth. CONTENT STRATEGY
The conference concluded with a keynote speech by Clinton Forry, vice president of content strategy at Weber Shandwick. Although he works at a PR agency now, Forry started out as a college radio DJ at KGRK, when it was a University of Northern Iowa campus-only station. After college, he was a host at several radio stations and worked at PRI before becoming a content strategist.
Forry reminded student media participants that “radio programming is content too.” He explained that online content should support a station’s overall goals and reminded the audience that “online content sticks around” and requires regular maintenance to ensure that it’s up-to-date.
Following his keynote, CBI announced the winners of its 2015 National Student Production Awards. Culled from 898 entries (the most ever for a CBI competition), winners were announced in 24 categories, including news, sports, social media, entertainment programming, public service announcements, podcasts and more.
CBI President Greg Weston told me that the awards ceremony was a highlight of the conference for him, saying, “It was great seeing and hearing the best work from student electronic media from around the country and the world — The American University in Cairo was a finalist — and WCCO(TV) reporter Reg Chapman was a great emcee.”
The winning pieces can be seen and heard on the CBI website at http://askcbi.org/minneapolis/2015-cbi-national-student-production-awards-winners/.
LOOK TO PHILLY
A session was devoted to gathering ideas for the next CBI convention, scheduled for Oct. 20–22, 2016.
“We’ve very optimistic for CBI-Philadelphia,” said Weston. “We’re already working with local professionals to secure both speakers and tours for next year. Having the conference in the northeast will make it easily accessible by car or train to many, many schools that have previously had to fly, so we’re expecting increased participation from our members in that region.”
With numerous college and high school stations in the Philadelphia area alone, it should be an action-packed event.
Jennifer Waits is co-founder of Radio Survivor and co-chair of the College, Community, and Educational Radio Caucus for the Library of Congress’ Radio Preservation Task Force. A college radio DJ since the 1980s, she’s volunteered at four stations and has hosted a music show at KFJC(FM) since 1999. She obsessively tours radio stations, which she chronicles on her blog.