By: Joshebel Ramlakhan
April 26, 2020
As colleges across the country have switched to distance learning due to COVID-19, college radio stations have found a way to continue running remotely and help maintain a sense of community during the pandemic. Hunter’s own WHCS has adapted to keep shows airing and provide information and entertainment to the student body.
Johanna Kim, station manager at WHCS described some of the changes. “There are zoom meetings now instead of face to face meetings, but I still wish it was face to face… we originally didn’t plan on doing remote shows but John our general manager wanted to continue.”
Where Hunter College Speaks, or WHCS radio, has taken its means of communication completely online. The radio station utilizes Workplace, an extension of Facebook, that allows its members to post updates not only about their ongoing shows but any sources of content they find on the internet.
The streaming of radio shows on the airwaves has continued but been adapted so that users can go live directly from the comfort of their homes. “We’re still using at home services. We’re using the same software that we use at radio, audio hijack… but people have to use their equipment that they have at home. If they don’t have a mic then they have to use their laptop computer.”
Some hosts have opted to pre-record their shows and share them as podcasts on streaming services like Spotify, SoundCloud or even Apple Podcasts. Other radio show hosts use the Audio Hijack software to live stream their shows over Hunter College’s radio waves. With events like open mics cancelled, the station staff have offered links to Zoom dance parties and Instagram live listening parties to keep up the fun atmosphere the radio station offers students.
Some students have made the decision to cancel their shows during this global crisis to focus on rebranding. Tyler Sepulveda previously had a podcast and live show called “Don’t We All Podcast” at WHCS but has decided to take a step back to focus on his theme for the show, changing its name to “Tyler Talks.”
Tyler states that right now he feels “secluded into a box,” where his show is only tailored to a specific kind of audience. He wants to expand his range of topics and focus on transitioning the image of his podcast from a politics-based theme to something more inclusive so that he can talk about different topics.
The radio station consists of an entrance that resembles a small hallway, filled with colorful vinyl records along the right wall. As soon as you walk in, you’re welcomed by music trickling out of the production room. There’s a worn leather couch along the right wall that compliments all the records and usually there are students sharing commentary on the latest album release or telling jokes shamelessly while a show goes live on the airwaves. It’s a welcoming environment and as Tyler stated, there’s a lot of couch talk that goes on. Tyler says the community has helped him create new friendships with people and has offered him a hub of creativity during his time at Hunter. Along with the welcoming environment it’s a place that offers equipment for many of its radio show hosts to use.
When asked about brainstorming at the station verses at home Sepulveda said, “ It was easier to develop ideas for the show… it was also a lot easier to get guests on my show, now that I’m at home it’s a little harder to get someone to come on and upload a video at the quality I want.” The transition has proven how important college radio is not only to its radio hosts but the communities it fosters as well.
Social media has become a dominant way for a lot of college radio stations to remain in touch with their student body. Syracuse’s “The Lingo” podcast has tried streaming the show on Instagram live instead of on the airwaves they usually use for the school because it’s easier to connect to their audience. Co-host Ayaa Mesbah described the transition as hectic but somewhat beneficial because it has provided a creative outlet for her and her co-host during the crisis.
Her biggest takeaway is the sense of community her co-host Omari and her, have fostered not only on the Syracuse campus on WERW radio, but on social media as well with their listeners. “I love that feeling of community with people I wasn’t raised with,” she said. “That idea of chosen family and the idea of spending time with people talking about things we want to talk about. That’s what we wanted to do.”