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Radio connects communities

This is an epitaph for the airwaves, but WOO 91 is far from dead. As I’m sure you’ve heard, this summer WOO 91 lost its radio tower. While I understood how and why this decision was made, Harry Todd ’18, Nick Wilcher ’18, the 17-18 management team and I lobbied hard against it. The beauty of broadcast radio goes far beyond what can be achieved streaming online. Sure, our parents and occasionally our extended family will still be able to listen to the songs we load up into the queue, but that was never why I built my show.

What I will miss about my time at WOO 91 are the strangers. I will miss the emails we received from commuters who pass through every day asking for a track list of the 5 a.m. hour of music because they had never heard something quite like that before. I will miss the calls from people at the local physical therapy center where a Wooster student had left the dial at 90.9. I will miss catching myself before playing profane songs with the thought that its 4 p.m. and school buses full of kids are listening. I will miss the small reminders that we are not simply speaking into a void.

The internet is too intentional to provide that feeling. When I am online I don’t just randomly type letters into a search engine and hope that I’ll find new music. The limited nature of FM radio provides structure for discovery. As music director, even I found new music through WOO 91. Over the last three years we built an automation system with an enormous library of music that we could organize by genre or release year. I found a few of my favorite artists today while listening through that database.

We lost something substantial with that tower. We lost a connection to the greater Wooster community that is rare within student groups. I would venture to say that WOO 91 had one of the largest presences off campus of any club. And now that presence, and any good will it brings, is gone. I know we had consistent listeners in the town, because if we shifted the hour that we played classic rock, we would receive complaints. I know because I’ve tested my listenership.

When I announced gift card giveaways on air, the majority of my callers were not students, but rather Wooster community members. That is what I will remember about Woo91. That is what I will miss.

Sam Royer ’19, this year’s WOO 91 manager, has a tough task ahead of him, pulling WOO 91 out from this tailspin. But I trust him. I trust the entire management team. I am confident they will find a way to maintain Woo91 as a cultural presence on campus.

Now is not the time to abandon this radio station. Now is the time to join. Now is the time to create a new WOO 91, to find ways to connect streams to the community. Whether or not our legacy of automation continues does not matter. What matters is that we maintain a way for students to engage in creative broadcast art. Announcing games, talking through the news and curating music are all tasks that will outlive FM broadcasting in the real world, so let’s make sure they live on at Wooster as well.

Gabe Dale-Gau, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at GDale-Gau18@wooster.edu.

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