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Student radio station works to build community

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The dominance of of radio, particularly college radio which for decades helped promote obscure bands to stardom, has been steadily declining. This has become a huge problem that impacts community colleges as much as four year schools. While many may know of the popular classical station WWFM that plays on campus, the student station, Viking 89, which offers up a variety of musical genres music, from rap to jazz is struggling to maintain and grow their listening base.

This lack of interest in radio is occurring because of the many alternative ways in which students can listen to music. Communications Professor Mitch Canter, who teaches explains the problem saying: “ Listeners in their 20s have more alternatives than ever for audio entertainment.  Forget WPST or HOT 97, how about playlists on iPods, smartphones and laptop computers?  Streaming Spotify or Pandora off an iPhone or Android device?”

There isn’t much information about the student radio station online making and a VOICE survey of 50 students found that almost half (22) had no idea there was a radio station, while the other half (22) were aware but disinterested and didn’t listen to it. There were only six students who said they listened to the station regularly even though its primary broadcast range is the bustling cafeteria.

The VOICE conducted the same survey at Bucks County Community College to see if students were more interested in their student station, Radio BUX, but the results were even worse. Eighteen students didn’t know it existed and 31 students who knew about it never listened. Only one student who said that they had listened to it on occasion.

Shawn Slaughter, the General Manager for Viking 89 since 2013 says “We are the spice of life, because you can hear James Brown, Conway Twitty, Method Man, Beethoven. We’ve even had talk shows.” This means that the radio station is created for just about anyone, with any kind of musical taste. Slaughter emphasizes that the station plays an important role in helping to establish a sense of community on a commuter campus.

But to make a station work requires a dedicated staff. Slaughter told The VOICE: “When I first came [the station] was really small, not a lot of members… kind of like right now.”

Slaughter thinks there is a way for the station to reach more people. Professor Cantor, as faculty adviser of the station says “ I don’t think that the station can do this on its own, but I think it can be a tremendous contributor to the campus community.”

Professor Cantor says this can be accomplished “If Viking 89 can find the right mix of music programming and public affairs programs that are relevant to students’ everyday experiences here on campus, it can be a powerful combination.”

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