24 October, 2002
A WALT Diagnosis
m a t t g r e e n e
Why isn’t the radio station bigger here at Davidson? WALT is stuck between the neglect of the student body and the neglect of the administration. Students don’t listen to the station because there aren’t enough DJ’s and the signal is shitty; students don’t DJ for the station because there aren’t enough listeners and the signal is shitty. The problem looks like this: college radio isn’t bigger at Davidson because college radio isn’t bigger at Davidson--and the administration won’t give them any more money or support until it gets bigger. Something has to break. And since it’s unlikely that, after years of competent, dedicated management, a spate of students will suddenly tune in to the station or sign up to DJ, it’s clear that the boost is gonna have to come from the administration.
About a decade ago, some students made a strong effort to go FM, which, unfortunately, ran into the brick wall that was our administration; more recent efforts have been similarly parried. Maybe our administration doesn’t realize how inferior our station is to stations at other schools--Wesleyan, for instance, whose 1,500-watt transmitter allows the station to be received in most of central Connecticut and where freshmen enthusiastically sign up for the 3-5 a.m. slot because it’s the only opening in the schedule. Or maybe they don’t realize what a successful station has to offer a college campus. It’s true that, at their worst, college radio stations can devolve into cliquish, self-directed units that equate obscurity with quality and program for a hopelessly narrow audience. But a well run station with considerable program variety provides students and professors with a powerful vehicle for expression, offers an alternative to corporate radio (where identical playlists, handed down from the top, are distributed across the country), and exposes students to new music and new ways of thinking.
Of course, Davidson radio doesn’t have to be just for Davidson students. A WALT spillover past Main St. and Concord Rd. would foster a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding community. Not only would the surrounding youth population have access to a unique cultural medium, but Davidson College would thereby gain access to the youth market that colleges appear so eager to reach. The administration is no doubt aware of this potential. Why, then, is no one scrambling to get WALT a better antenna? FM bandwidth? Streaming signal on the web?
Perhaps the college harbors fears that amplifying WALT’s voice would disseminate an unwanted image. After all, why broadcast atypical Davidson kids playing loud, angry music? Aren’t we already reaching everybody we really want to with 89.9 WDAV? It’s hard to overlook the fact that we’re more interested in establishing a relationship with the Lake Norman 45-to-80-year-old upper-middle class than in getting our name out to a young, college-bound, culturally literate demographic. Perhaps there’d be more diversity at Davidson if we offered more cultural inroads to those outside the Davidson bubble.