This series of posts covers my long, beloved history interacting with the medium of radio, including the music that flowed through the airwaves.
It wasn’t like me to knock on that door, or, more precisely, the jamb around the open door. But I was in my first couple weeks of college, and I was successfully forcing myself to be more adventurous. In my one hundred–level communications course, the professor announced that the campus radio station was offering a modest payment to students willing to spend a day polling passers-by in a nearby community, asking who they planned to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. I had a pitiful balance in my newly opened bank account and was open to any hustle that came my way. The professor instructed interested parties to seek out the radio station’s faculty advisor, whose office just so happened to be right next door to the classroom. So I went to the door, and I knocked.
The advisor, a professor named Jim Haney, broke the news that every position was filled, and then he quickly pivoted. With a wide smile, he informed me that the college radio station had an interest meeting scheduled for that very night. Anyone who wanted to get involved in the radio station — and he pointed out that I clearly did because I sought him out — could show up and learn how they could be a contributor to this fine broadcasting outlet in the Upper Midwest. I was already curious about the radio station and fearful I wouldn’t fit in there. Due to the encouragement he offered in that moment, Jim eradicated the fear.
Without a doubt, Jim changed my life for the better — significantly so — when he pitched the meeting. His ready knowledge of and enthusiasm for the meeting indicated he was an engaged advisor, hardly a guarantee in institutes of higher education. Over the next few years, I moved up the leadership ranks of that college radio, and my initial impression that Jim was engaged was proven true over and over. He walked through the station nearly every day, ostensibly to check the AP wire in the closet of our news studio, but clearly with an eye and an ear to what was happening with the kids chattering into the microphones. Jim was always available to us, never dictating decisions when he could instead lay out the options, all the pros and cons, and trust us to do what was best for the station. While always a booster, he remained stalwart in compelling us to take our responsibilities seriously. We weren’t simply “playing radio,” as he sometimes put it; we were stewards of the public airwaves.
Around thirteen years after I met Jim, I became an advisor myself, taking the role at a student-run radio station in Central Florida. To the degree I was successful at the job, it’s because I was a firsthand witness to someone who did it as well could be imagined.
Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Radio Days” tag.