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Community Radio Rocks!

February 29, 2008

I spent my first two hours on air this morning from 4 to 6 a.m.—first time in my life on the radio as a DJ. It was the most amazing thing.

I’m a former journalist: a full-time newspaper reporter and sometimes editor who last year landed the beautiful job of advising the student media groups at the University of Vermont: newspaper, radio and television. I’ve taught broadcast news but never had to worry, really, about the real-time art of radio talk. To help myself become a better adviser, I began, a little more than a month ago, the process of training to become a WRUV DJ. To my great joy, the students I advise decided I might be worth the effort, and they gave me a “graveyard” slot: an overnight on-air assignment when (it is thought) the fewest number of people are listening. And newbies, like me, can learn to improve our craft.

My preferred genre is blues, and, on the sage advice of a longtime community volunteer named L.J, I didn’t stick with a straight blues format but mixed it up a bit, interspersing world music—in this morning’s case, all from Africa, the ancestral home of American blues—with a majority of classic blues and a half-dozen or so recent blues tunes.

So why am I so wired now, even hours later?

Perhaps it was the performance of the DJ art. That really might be it. Mostly, however, I loved the precarious nature of live local radio: I had the airwaves to myself, and, if I screwed up, we’d have dead air and unhappy listeners across northern Vermont. I’ve done stage work before, playing to a few hundred on a theatre stage, but who knows how many were listening this morning. At 5 a.m., perhaps it was just a dozen folks coming off work or going to—or maybe it was a few thousand. No way of knowing in community radio.

How lovely is that?

Toward the end of my show, I got my one phone call, the wall-mounted light flashing (rather than the bell ringing) so it wouldn’t disturb my show. On the phone was Dave, also a WRUV DJ. He said he’d caught the last 40 minutes or so my show and thanked me for giving him such great blues to start the day.

Actual audience feedback.

In any kind of media—radio, television, newspaper—we so rarely get simple positive feedback. This single phone call speaks volumes to the community that is WRUV.

Before today, I advised the group, and, as of 4 a.m., I was a DJ. That, in and of itself, was awesome.

As of Dave’s phone call, I was a convert.

Thanks, Dave. And thanks, WRUV, for giving me this experience.

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