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Campus View: Radio Lives!

Upcoming events show that the campus radio culture thrives

Welcome to Campus View, a new commentary on the world of college radio, brought to you by Radio World and CBI, an organization dedicated to serving student electronic media outlets.

Just a few years ago, it seemed trendy to predict the impending collapse of college radio. Even worse, many of the naysayers were from within the radio industry itself. Fortunately, the rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. College radio is as strong as ever, and getting stronger. This is evidenced by two major events coming up next month.

The first, on Oct. 2, is College Radio Day. Conceived in 2010 by Dr. Rob Quicke, general manager of WPSC(FM) at William Paterson University, in the wake of some high-profile college station sales, College Radio Day unifies the diverse universe of college radio in celebration of the unique, fearless programming college radio provides. The response from stations, listeners and artists has been so overwhelming that Rob’s brainstorm has spawned an international version, a foundation and a record label. There’s even a High School Radio Day, which will be held for the fourth time in 2016.

Later in October is the National Student Electronic Media Convention, hosted by CBI, to be held in Minneapolis, Oct. 22–24. Like College Radio Day, the National Student Electronic Media Convention — CBI-Minneapolis for short — began with an idea hatched in difficult times. CBI had previously programmed broadcast-oriented sessions within a larger, print-oriented student media conference. When that arrangement dissolved, CBI decided to gamble that a convention dedicated exclusively to student electronic media could sustain itself. Also, like College Radio Day, the response was overwhelming. The National Student Electronic Media Convention has grown every year since, attracting college and high school radio stations, student video outlets, webcasters, converged media operations and even some print outlets looking to boost their multimedia content.

A look at the sessions offered at CBI-Minneapolis offers some clues as to the differences between college radio and its commercial counterparts. While many of the sessions — hosted by students, faculty and industry professionals — wouldn’t be out of place at, say, the NAB Radio Show, at CBI-Minneapolis there will be a greater emphasis on multiplatform content (WordPress alone has multiple sessions dedicated to it), community service, working with local musicians and attracting and retaining staff members.

In addition to sessions designed to help improve station operations, CBI-Minneapolis also offers programming intended to help its student attendees prepare for industry jobs, including air check and resume critiques, tours of local broadcast facilities, tips on getting that elusive first job and networking opportunities.

Other highlights of the National Student Electronic Media Convention include the presentation of the 14th annual National Student Production Awards, a keynote address from content strategist Clinton Forry and the Next Generation Radio Project, a week-long multimedia journalism program which teams students with professional journalists, hosted in partnership with NPR and Minnesota Public Radio.

As these two relatively new, exciting initiatives demonstrate, college radio is not only still viable, but flourishing. While college radio, like the rest of our industry, faces its share of challenges, it is more than capable of handling them. Please check back to this spot in the coming months for more on the college radio universe.

Greg Weston is president of CBI and general manager of WPTS(FM), University of Pittsburgh.