A Glimpse Into Interning At A Listener Supported Radio Station
Throughout my undergraduate career, I've worked and interned in three branches of radio- college, commercial, and listener supported.
All of my experiences have taught me valuable lessons, made me a stronger radio host, create content I'm proud of, and built strong relationships.
Out of all those branches, I benefited the most from interning at a listener supported station. For those who don't know there is a major difference between working in commercial radio and listener supported radio. The major aspects are money, content, and space.
Here's some examples of what makes a listener supported station different:
At a listener supported station, there is no money coming from corporations, music labels, or any type of businesses. The funding comes from its audience. That means the station has to raise $60,000 each fund drive four times a year.
You know the on air sign that lights up when there is a live show in progress? At WBAI, we had to make sure the door was closed and looked out for red Christmas lights.
There is no promotions department nor a station van. There's merchandise. A canvas bag, bumper sticker, flash drive, and water bottle with the station logo. Update: A station tee shirt.
Let's talk about the content. What Top 40 station has shows dedicated to the current state of politics, art, science, health, news, public affairs, etc.? These are discussions that need to take place, things we need to know, and content worth our attention.
My term there taught me that having a microphone in my hand and a social media platform is NOT enough. Neither is knowing what's happening in pop culture. I have to start the conversation on what's taking place in my community and culture, because that's what my listeners care about. It is my duty to discuss gentrification, police brutality, the representation of black and brown actors in television and film, mental health in the black and brown communities, and more. Shout out to everyone I interviewed and worked with on The Corner. We made history!
I love the community at WBAI. The station manager, hosts, and directors mentored me. We would have deep conversations about radio, politics, college, life, whatever made me think, and challenged/liberated my mind. They even invited me to speak on their shows.
Most of the interns I worked with are family to me. We plan yearly hangouts and have an active group chat. I thank WBAI for bringing us together.
One of the greatest things about WBAI is as a former intern I am always welcomed to come back to volunteer and visit. While I was interning at two media companies this season I sent an email to the station manager asking him to teach me the business aspect of radio. There I learned valuable tools I should have learned when I was an intern.
Honestly, it feels like home. I worked for two other campus radio stations and interned at a commercial cluster station and nothing can top the atmosphere at an independent radio station.
The interns and I would joke that I would be the manager of that station.
Only time will tell.