Video may have killed the radio star, but there is still a devoted group who carry out the craft of talk radio in the modern world. They often go without a face, just a name. They do this not in a faraway place, but right under your feet. From the basement of the New University Union, these disciples of frequency modulation live to be heard. They’re a little group called WHRW 90.5 FM, Binghamton University’s own free-format radio station.
WHRW is a place where students can learn the conventions of broadcasting in a sandbox of their own creation. For the listener, it’s an opportunity to experience a type of media that isn’t accessible outside of college campuses, capturing the essence of college life: eclectic, challenging and unconventional. In addition to music, the same spirit can also be found in its lineup of Public Affairs (PA) programs.
“WHRW’s mission is to let students and community members to broadcast free-format radio,” said Carole Dore, PA director at WHRW and a senior majoring in economics. “This means that students can play whatever music styles they want, without any sort of commercial pressures.”
But what are “public affairs”? Basically, they’re programs that focus on relevant media often found in the talk-radio format. WHRW’s PA programs air from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Some shows have become staples to the lineup, like the nightly news, “The Religious Panel,” hosted by Rachel Freedman and “Sustainable Binghamton Radio,” hosted by Susan Lee. Whatever your interests, no matter how varied, WHRW seeks to provide a show for it. With a weekly lineup that includes topics on female empowerment, sports, biology, comedy, cinema and literature, WHRW’s PA programs try to educate and elucidate by offering a worthwhile educational experience perfect for a college campus.
In recent semesters, WHRW has launched several new shows into the lineup with varying themes.
On the Monday lineup, Ray Futia, hosts “This Week in Biology” from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., a newer show that explores areas of important biological research, often accompanied by biology graduate students and biology professors alike. For those with more than just an inkling of interest in serious science, this show provides news not often found on the radio.
On Tuesdays, Connor Daniel, Phil Hazen, Cory Ray and Bobby Black host “The Grassroot” from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. New to WHRW this semester, “The Grassroot” focuses on local political news, perfect for the budding Broome County politician in us all. Like it or not, local politics do affect the lives of students, and it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to be more informed. Also a new show as of the spring, “But Seriously,” is a conversational talk show hosted by Raaga Rajagopala and Victor Tarantino from 5:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., which covers a wide range of topics from humanitarian to political issues.
“Whether we’re challenging people’s opinions, challenging our own opinions or just simply talking things through, we believe our show will be the perfect platform for everyday issues that directly or indirectly affect college students,” Rajagopala, an undeclared freshman, wrote in an email. “We want students to call in, talk to us and uninhibitedly agree or disagree with what we have to say.”
“Below the Radar,” broadcast on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and hosted by Kane Sauchuk and Ian Anderson, is a news program that follows one story per week, often focusing on stories that have gone largely unnoticed. From 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. is “Grrl Power Hour” hosted by Deirdre Sullivan and Hannah Pollick, members of the Women’s Student Union. In line with Dore’s goal of producing important educational programs, Dore hopes to have more programs like this one, where student groups educate the student body with their own talk shows.
While time slots for PA programs can be competitive, WHRW seeks to give motivated students, with genuinely interesting and unique ideas, a platform to share their ideas and thoughts on the air. It isn’t always easy, but the experience proves rewarding to those who put themselves out there.
Alex Baer, a senior majoring in psychology, is a co-host of the returning animal and ecology talk show, “Wet ’n’ Wild World” (Fridays from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
“Though none of us were strict organismal biology majors, we all bring the best qualities of our studies to the table,” Baer wrote in an email. “I think the show appeals to anyone with a love of the animal kingdom, but I also believe that it has a wider reach to anyone with an interest in the world around them.”
“Wet ’n’ Wild World” is a great example of an entertaining and educational program that was born out of interest and love for a subject, not just hard academics. The PA programs are a place to explore one’s passions, and share them with people on the air.
“Often done live, DJs and show hosts need the ability to think on their feet,” Dore said. “It takes energy, skill and preparation to be a part of WHRW’s broadcast. As a show host myself, I know that some shows seem to go better than others. You learn from both your successful and less successful shows. I think it’s an invaluable lesson in self-awareness and self-improvement to host a live show.”