WTJU Brings Together College Radio’s Fraternity of Misfits from around Virginia
College radio stations have traditionally been the greatest DIYers in the radio ecosystem – a sort of merry band of DJ’s, or, as WTJU General Manager Nathan Moore likes to call them, a “fraternity of misfits” – who manage to put their stamp on their school’s airwaves before turning the mics over to the next in line. Along the way, they have also become something far more critical – guardians and champions of the music and culture scenes on their campuses and the communities that surround them. That is undoubtedly true at UVA, where WTJU, now in its sixth decade on the air, has evolved into something much more than the number on its dial.
WTJU now boasts its own student-run sister station, WXTJ, and regularly hosts live concert series both on and off Grounds. In 2017, Moore had the idea to bring his team of students together with representatives of stations at schools throughout Virginia for a day of connecting, learning, and camaraderie. “As the flagship University in the Commonwealth, we are in this really cool position at WTJU where we have a lot of resources – because the University has helped us out and because we have made good decisions on how to grow our operations. I want to make sure the media ecosystem for students here at UVA, and around the state, is strong.”
The conference, he said, is about giving students a chance to have facetime and make connections and to remind new generations of students that what they are doing can go far beyond spinning their favorite tunes. “Every few years, we have to remind a new batch of students about where they come from and the history that is here at WTJU and in college radio in general,” Moore said. “It’s important to tell them how college radio has played such a huge role not just in the development of mass media, but in the development of cultural musical taste development.” Students at the conference share experiences and tips across a range of topics, including programming, finance and budgeting, university relations, and more. “There is something really exciting about seeing the students catch the bug,” Moore said. College stations across the country, and here in the Commonwealth, he added, are facing severe financial challenges. “They are being put in the position of having to prove their stations’ value while at the same time, learning how to run things. So, the question becomes,” he said, “how can you not just keep these things alive, but actually help them to fulfill their important missions?” Conferences like this one can go a long way toward that goal.
“A big part of it,” Moore said, “is helping students to understand themselves as a community. I really believe that even as we become much more technologically connected, we still remain socially atomized. The more that we can use media outlets like college ratio and community podcast collectives or the like, the better. These are things that can connect us in real and important ways. Here at UVA, for instance, radio is an essential part of what we do, but we are also running 8-10 house concerts a year, plus our UVA Chapel show, plus an art auction…we are doing so many things that have very little to do with what I once thought of as radio, but it is all a part of it now. It’s a community creation that happens to use FM broadcast as its organizing force.”