Why College Radio Matters in an Anti-Radio Age

By Hannah Wisterman
Blog Content Contributor

The aux cord might as well have been a noose for the radio industry. Walk into any introductory mass communication class, and the professor can tell you: people would rather listen to their own hand-picked playlists than sit through the same five commercials to hear the same 10 songs over and over. Our little devil-boxes (read: phones) can give us exactly what we want to hear, exactly when we want to hear it, so why does that “tune” dial on our dash even matter anymore?

It matters because college radio matters—a lot. KTSW 89.9 (the station whose blog you’re visiting right now) is one of the largest and top-ranked stations in the nation, and any one of its employees, volunteers, or fans can tell you the reach and impact it has. KTSW’s staff spans over a dozen departments and well over a hundred people, each one dedicated to crafting the best work possible to serve the university and local community. We’re not corporate (staff members can tell you, deadpan, that we’re certainly not in this for the non-existent paycheck), we don’t spin Top 40– we produce and promote media that we genuinely enjoy and care about. Every person at KTSW, and at any college radio station, is there because it’s a passion, a learning experience, a labor of love.

third thursday renee dominguez
A shot from Third Thursday, one of our most prominent events! Photo by Renee Dominguez.

By supporting college radio, you support the education of hundreds of students. A university radio station is a tiny microcosm of the entire mass media industry. Here, students learn how to produce audio, newscasts, effective social media strategies. They learn how to connect with audiences and local businesses alike. They learn editing, writing, web, and networking skills. It is, as KTSW describes it, a learning lab, and one that happens to have a real impact on the surrounding community.

Third Thursday. Rock Your Chakras. Underground Excellence. Harvest Live. Lunchbox Concert Series. The late MR Fest (RIP). Each one of these events is a way for KTSW to support local businesses and resources (like KIVA and Buzzmill), and feed the SanMo culture. Not only that, but consider: a portion of MR Fest’s proceeds went to the Hays Caldwell Women’s Center. For Harvest Live, the Central Texas Farmer’s Co-Op. There’s this idea that liberal arts college kids get a little zealous with activism, but hosting events like these gives us a practical application for it. College radio is a platform on which we can give back, and it has a unique ability to engage specific communities that are sometimes overlooked.

For 10 years, KTSW hosted My Radio Fest (MR Fest) to connect dozens of local bands to the San Marcos community, and in essence, that’s the goal of every college radio station. There’s something super magical and heartwarming about supporting the music of the guys down the road. Getting to watch and listen to bands like Unknown Relatives and The Cuckoos (and you should listen to them, they’re sick) live from KTSW’s Studio C, knowing they’re products of the local scene, is like being let in on an exclusive secret. College radio is like a truffle-sniffing pig—we have a preternatural ability to find the good stuff right away. Sure, you could browse Spotify’s “Recent Releases” playlist, but you could just easily tune in to a local campus station and hear stuff that was literally hand-picked by hardworking students who find the deep tracks that you might never hear otherwise.

I could talk for hours about all the unique work that college radio stations do. They are a bastion of creative freedom and passion, a glittering example of what happens when you put hardworking students in contact with the right resources and the right education. College radio is vital to the education of mass media students, and vital to local, independent artists. College radio, a dark horse itself, is the champion of the underdogs. Can your aux cord say the same?

To support KTSW, stream us online, tune in on the air at KTSW-FM 89.9, and follow us on social media.

Featured image by Madison Tyson.

Asia Daggs

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