The Orbiter

Leading, then leaving The Alternation

Ryan Wilkinson, Contributor

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Located just outside the commons is an electronic door that leads to office cubicles. To many other students, this office is just some room they might see once or twice throughout their high school careers. To me, the cubicles mean so much more. They mean a home, they mean a family, and they mean responsibility. This office space is home to none other than our school’s radio station, 88.9 WSTB The Alternation.

The radio station, commonly referred to as “the station,” is most importantly a place of work. Over the years, WSTB has built a reputation throughout the community. Our current staff members work their hardest to uphold, and improve, the name of The Alternation.

I am the operations manager of the station. This means I am responsible for the DJs and the overall well being of the station on a daily basis. I have a lot of fun doing this, but my position can be very stressful. I have to treat it like a professional job because we are held to the standards any professional radio station is held to.

This year, the move to the new school brought us a new place to call home. At first I was very skeptical. For the past three years I had known the radio station as a dark room separated from the rest of the school. Change is always a scary thing, but I knew it was for the best.

Luckily, the transition to our new headquarters went flawlessly, and I couldn’t be happier with where we are today. The new surroundings seemed to give our staff members a boost in morale as well as motivation. This was amazing for me as a manager because it can be tedious to encourage DJs to go above and beyond at times. It’s not easy to get on a microphone and talk to potentially thousands of listeners who could be judging you.

Being a DJ takes a lot of practice. Our staff consists of around 25 members who are constantly improving. They are being listened to not only by other students, but everyone who tunes in throughout the region. This means they have to act professionally at all times.

If we make any mistakes and break a law upheld by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) we could get into a lot of trouble. These include: not having our files up to date, swearing on the air or not having all of the correct licensing. This punishment can be as harsh as a fine of several hundred thousand dollars.

These rules sound intimidating at first, but the station has lasted 46 years without getting in trouble (with the FCC, at least). All the DJs are trained on the FCC rules, and must take a mandatory test before making it onto the WSTB staff.

Not just anyone can join The Alternation. Our general manager, Bob Long, teaches a class once a year called Broadcasting I. It is mandatory for students who would like to try and be a part of 88.9. Broadcasting students can expect to learn a lot about not only the school’s radio station, but the history of radio, as well, from the beginning of rock and roll, to the successful-yet-sad life of Edwin Howard Armstrong, who helped create FM radio as we know it today. Students also do many fun activities while in the class, such as an old-time radio show and managing a radio station of their own.

Near the end of the class, students will take a test that determines whether they know enough about the FCC rules in order to be competent DJs. Those who pass will then undergo an interview process to ensure they will be good and hard workers.

It is not just work at the station, however; we like to have fun as well. We’ve had picnics, and even go to concerts occasionally. The concerts are typically local, and it’s such a great feeling to meet listeners and see the impact WSTB makes on the community.

We sponsor events such as a summer blood drive and Relay for Life in the spring. It’s important to help the community when you have such a big voice heard by so many people.

One of my favorite experiences occurred the other week when I received an email from an avid listener. Her name is Gracie and she calls in almost every week during the Wednesday and Friday song request shows. She’s only 10 years old. She wanted to know if she could take a tour of the studios. I talked it over with Long, and he allowed it. Gracie and her father came into the station the next week and it was such an amazing experience.

I gave them a tour of the station, and even let Gracie go on live to introduce a song. I was able to see firsthand how our music and presence in the community affects people’s lives. Music is a great way for people to express themselves, and that is why I believe we make such a big impact.

Our radio station is commercial free, which means we have no way of receiving revenue from advertisements. This is why once a year we have a membership drive fundraiser. During the drive, we go on air for one week, asking people to pledge money. If they donate, we send them shirts and other premiums through the mail. This drive helps to keep our station running each year.

For me, the station has been a home for the past three years. It has been a place for me to learn as well as grow as a person. If anyone is interested in learning more about the radio station I recommend that you talk to either Long or I.

I could not imagine my high school career without all these people and experiences in my life. It has made me the person I am today. Even if it does not seem like it, the radio station is a big part of our school, and an even bigger part of my life.

 

For more info on 88.9 click here.

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Leading, then leaving The Alternation