All posts by Russ White

MSU’s WDBM-FM Appoints Alumnus to lead Station into Future

Story and photos by:  Russ White, MSU Today/

Jeremy Whiting

MSU alumnus Jeremy Whiting is the new professional general manager of Michigan State University’s award-winning student radio station WDBM 88.9FM,  better known as the Impact. He’s just the third GM in the almost 30 year history of the radio station, which will celebrate 30 years on the air on February 24, 2019.

A decade ago, Whiting was the student general manager for Impact Radio. He was happily teaching broadcasting and journalism to high school students, but he says of the opening at WDBM-FM: “If there was anything that was going to pull me out of my current job, it was this. I really got to thinking about it. I met with the students, and it was really apparent that it was a really good fit.”

An audio interview by Russ White with Jeremy Whiting available here.

(L-R) Ed Glazer and Gary Reid: the only other general managers in WDBM’s almost 30 year history.

Whiting says the mission of WDBM “really hasn’t changed. We’re still looking to educate students, and we also want to have a professional presentation on the air. We want to sound a lot like commercial radio. We want the average listener to be able to flip through the dial, hear music that is good, hear DJs who are good, and not really know any difference between something more to the right on the dial. Then we want good programming. Diverse programming. Programming that has a set format, but that also provides opportunities for voices from the MSU community and from the Lansing and East Lansing communities to be represented on the air.”

Of the challenges and opportunities facing the entire radio medium Whiting says of the industry’s future: “The Impact is really continuing to evolve as a brand, not just as an FM station. Certainly there’s always going to be a huge audience that is listening to the FM signal, whether you’re driving in your car or listening at home or whatever, but mostly in the car these days. People at home, they’re often listening to our live stream. They’re listening to podcasts. But we’re also producing other content like sports programming, news and content listeners can download from our website or interact with on Facebook. It’s all about that local connection and trying to find different ways that we can get information and content out to our audience that is relevant to them.”

MSU’s The Rock wished WDBM a happy 28th birthday in 2017.

Is Whiting bullish about over-the-air radio’s future? Yes.

“The actual delivery system might change in the future, but the content is still going to be the key. People are still going to want to have a live DJ telling them local information. I think the reason that Spotify and Pandora and some of the other services are popular is because friends can share playlists. They’re looking for recommended songs. They’re looking to hear what other people are listening to. And that’s really a strength of radio. You’re finding out what the masses are listening to. Popularity is often not what we’re going for with at a college radio station. We often discover up and coming talent. I think that’s very valuable to people. You can go on Spotify and find most of the artists that we play on the air, but you’re not going to find many stations like Impact  that are picking those artists and recommending those specific ones to you, often before you’ve heard their name or heard their music anywhere else.”

So what are Whiting’s short and long term goals for Impact Radio?

“My short-term goal is just to get acclimated and to really get to know the staff and make sure they have the resources to be successful. Longer term, though, we want to upgrade the technology at the station. We’re looking at going to the next level for our radio automation system to enhance all the backend technology that helps us play music. We’re making sure we’re spending our student tax dollars wisely and really making sure that the equipment we have for the students to use is ready to work now and well into the future. We really want to stay relevant. We want to find good programming that is going to appeal to MSU students and our broader community and constantly reinvent ourselves when necessary.

“I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel because WDBM has such a strong foundation. The students are fantastic. The students are passionate, not only about radio, but about the Impact brand. It becomes their home, you know? They’re there at all hours of the day and night. We broadcast 24/7, but there are also people working there 24/7 doing other things besides being on the air. They’re all really passionate. Things change. It was weird coming in and seeing that much of the station is similar to when I left 10 years ago, and some of it is totally different. But that’s fine. It’s meant to evolve. It’s meant to stay relevant. If you’re looking for what’s happening in the MSU community and looking to hear up and coming music, Impact is where it’s at.”

Reprinted by permission

Scott Moore: Living the Dream, Celebrating 1,000 play-by-play calls for the Spartan Sports Network

Scott Moore

By: Russ White, MSU Today

MSU alumnus Scott Moore is the voice of Michigan State University hockey and baseball for the Spartan Sports Network (SSN). This past hockey season, Moore called his 1,000th game for SSN.

“It’s been a dream come true, and it’s been a joy for me to be able to do this,” says Moore. “I tell people that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And I have yet to work in the last 26 years.”  Listen below:

Moore reviews the team’s progress during the 2017/2018 Spartan Hockey season and looks ahead to next season. And he talks about the impact new coach Danton Cole has had on the program.

He talks about the success of Big Ten Hockey and discusses the challenges and opportunities facing the entire sport of college hockey.

Moore recalls some favorite moments from over 1,000 game broadcasts – like the Spartans’ 2007 hockey national championship. His favorite memory, though, involves having his daughter by his side in the press box for many of his broadcasts.

He talks about how both hockey and broadcasting have changed over the years, and he offers his advice for young people who want to get into the ever-changing communications industry.

(audio courtesy of the Spartan Sports Network)

WKAR’s Elkins Featured in Podcast

Susi Elkins

WKAR’s Russ White recently sat down with Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University to talk about evolving the station’s mission to “serve, educate, inspire and entertain” in the digital age.

She said it’s a great time to be in broadcasting, in part due to the many different ways the audience can consume WKAR content in 2018.

“That means to me that we follow our mission to ‘serve, educate, inspire and entertain’ even more ardently,” she said. “It’s less about figuring out the program schedule and determining when people will hear or watch something and more about thinking about each member of our audience as individuals and providing choices and options for them in content and information.”

The challenges ahead for media organizations mostly all involve serving audiences. Elkins said, “It’s understanding them and understanding what they’re interested in.”

Listen to the interview here.


WILX-TV’s Mike King Interviewed about Television’s Future on ‘MSU Today’

Mike King

By: Russ White, MSU Today

MSU alumnus Mike King is regional vice president for Gray Television and general manager of WILX-TV 10 in Lansing.

King recalls the limited options of the television world in the early ’80s when he entered the business and how the content options for consumers have exploded. “The content is still important,” says King. “The platform has really become more agnostic to us.”

Listen to the interview here:

King says Channel 10 now delivers its content through the web, mobile, Hulu, and Amazon. And local news is still important to people, and it’s something they find more difficult to find online.

“We are really focused on providing local content on multiple platforms. We’ve always been about content. Now instead of having one television signal we have multiple channels that we’re delivering to.”

King says WILX is now a multimedia marketing organization, not only one television signal. The goal is still to sell advertising, but “it’s not just about delivering TV commercials anymore. And consumers want to be reached via multiple platforms.”

King tells how ATSC 3.0 is a new delivery standard for television stations. “It will allow for more two-way interaction with consumers and slicing of the signal so we can deliver even more content over the same amount of bandwidth.

“To simply be in a one-channel advertising-supported business model isn’t sustainable any longer.”

So what and how will we be watching 5, 10 or 20 years from now?

“I wish I had a crystal ball. But as a company – Gray Television – we are going to be in the local news and content business. What I can’t answer is how you’re going to consume our content.”

For young people who want to get into broadcasting and communications, King says to be a good storyteller first and foremost.

“And you do need to understand how consumers are consuming the media. You can’t just go into broadcasting anymore. It’s really about figuring out the news and information people want in their lives and then understanding the multiple channels on which they want to receive that information.

“It’s about standing above the noise and staying on top of the rapid pace of technological change.”

Dick Purtan Highlighted in WKAR’s ‘MSU Today’

(L-R) Russ White, Dick Purtain. Photo credit: Russ White

By Russ White, MSU Today

My first hero in a lifelong love affair with the radio medium was the legendary Dick Purtan, who tells me how he first began visiting Detroit with his father when he was a child. And he recalls fondly his days at the famous Keener 13, his first stop in Detroit radio.

Listen to the interview here:

He says Keener was a fun place to work and a natural fit for his evolving talents.

Then as the Big 8 CKLW began to demolish the competition in Detroit radio, Purtan recalls a time when he had to stick up for himself and the kind of radio show he thought listeners wanted to hear. And he was becoming increasingly weary of the trend to program radio stations from New York rather than locally, like at WXYZ, a station where Dick would eventually work.

Purtan describes how he first started to hone his on air philosophy listening to morning radio in Buffalo where he grew up and then later to groundbreaking morning teams in New York. His goal was to entertain and be informative.

When Purtan retired from radio in 2010, he was already beginning to see what he sees as a decline in local morning radio. It was becoming more about music than locally-based talent, entertainment, and information. So he decided it was time to hang up the microphone and headphones.

While he’s dismayed about much of the current state of radio, he’s optimistic that things will get better someday, especially on local talk radio.

Purtan’s advice for young people who want to get into the constantly evolving broadcast and communications world is to understand and embrace what appear to be the industries of the future.

During our conversation, Purtan references a couple times his decision not to succeed J. P. McCarthy at WJR when that morning radio legend died suddenly in 1995. Here he provides the inside story on how close he came to moving to WJR. Mike Fezzey’s honesty and the fact that Purtan felt he’d already tried the ‘JR thing in Baltimore ultimately led him to decline the opportunity. “It just didn’t feel right.”

Purtan tells me about learning that two of the most famous and successful talents in radio today consider him their hero: Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.

Keep in touch with Detroit radio legend Dick Purtan on Facebook.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.