Published December 18, 2009
WITR Programming Changes To Be Implemented, Despite Controversy
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Six radio shows face the chopping block starting December 20.
Mike Graae

“We kind of lost control of the situation when somebody found the minutes from the September 27 [executive board] meeting. At that point, we were no longer in control of how this went,” described WITR’s general manager. A fifth year Information Technology major, Greg Keyzer-Andre is a non-traditional student, returning to school after 15 years of experience hosting and managing radio professionally. In his current position, Keyzer-Andre leads the WITR e-board through a particularly difficult transition period as they attempt to shift the radio station’s focus back to RIT students. In recent weeks, their decisions have been the source of a great deal of controversy.

“What we’re trying to do is change the culture of this radio station so that everyone feels welcome here,” said Keyzer-Andre, noting that many students he talks to are surprised to learn that RIT even has a radio station, let alone one that they can participate in. Keyzer-Andre and the rest of the WITR e-board would like to change that. “I think this will be huge for the radio station. As an MSO [Major Student Organization], I don’t think we were doing our job ... We’re an SSO [Student Service Organization], and we’re not doing an adequate job of servicing students if we run into too many people who don’t know that we even exist.”

The policy changes that the e-board has planned were presented to the WITR community in a general meeting on December 6. Over 100 people piled into the conference room in the Student Development Center — students on one side, alumni on the other. Security stood outside the doors, in case things got out of hand.

Changes include:

  • All shows will be limited to two hour time slots, maximum.
  • Specialty shows will make up only 20-25 percent of all airtime, and the remaining time will go to WITR’s core format, Modern Music and More.
  • Student DJs will have priority in creating specialty shows, and in choosing a time for their show. Remaining slots will be opened to the community after students have had their pick.
  • Specialty shows and show times will be evaluated by the program director quarterly, and may change or be cancelled if it is determined that the show does not meet the needs of WITR.

"So all my four years at WITR were for nothing?" said Bethany Choate, class of '06.
Mike Graae

In addition to these changes, Program Director Andy Watson, a second year Game Design major, gave a list of all shows that will continue. These include: Sudden Death Overtime, Bad Dog Blues, Dimension Latina, Whole Lotta Shakin’, Reggae Sounds, Kevbot Save the Universe, Dig This!, Renegade Soundwave, Dysfunctional Noize, Skank On, and Indestructable Beat. Shows that will not continue: The Living Rock, Uncle Samoo’s Zoo, Weathered Steel, HIStory, Jeff and Jeff and Axecalibur. The Answer was also on the list of shows to continue, but due to scheduling conflicts, it is unlikely to do so.

Following the presentation, the floor was opened for questions. Concerns were raised over whether enough research had been done prior to making the decisions. Many WITR alumni were upset that they had not been consulted, noting that they had all faced similar issues and could have offered the current e-board guidance. The most passionate criticisms, however, came from DJs who had just learned that their shows were to be cancelled.

“This e-board has been very — and forgive me for saying this — very passive aggressive. You’ve been avoiding us,” said Will Benson, host of The Living Rock, a Christian rock show, for the past four years. After having approached Watson the previous Friday to ask about the status of his show, Benson was told that he would have to wait until Sunday to hear along with everyone else; it was not until the meeting that he learned that his show would be cancelled in two weeks.

Benson’s voice grew thick with emotion as he expressed his disappointment with the way the situation had been handled. “Have a conversation with me as a person,” he said, looking in the direction of current e-board members. “I’ve given hours of my time. My wife has sacrificed every Friday night for the last four years. That’s worth something to me. And you guys didn’t care. And that’s what hurts. That’s what the worst part of this is. Everyone on this side of the room represents ... obligations we’ve given up on, and we’ve asked our family to give up on. We deserve more than a list on a Power Point.”

Sam Palermo, host of Uncle Samoo’s Zoo, speaks at the general meeting. His show is among those slated to be cut.
Mike Graae

Said Sam Palermo, host of Uncle Samoo’s Zoo, another Christian music show, “I had no idea that my 17 years was being ended until I saw it up there on the screen. For all of you young people who are just starting out in radio? It’s not always like this ... where experience is ignored and disrespected. It’s not always like this, where decisions are being made in secret — and then kept secret — and innuendos and secret little emails and all these kinds of things ... I admire your love for music and I pray that you have a career in it, if that’s what you so choose. If you have this kind of passion, good! Go for it. Because one day you’re going to be alumni. You’re going to be sitting on this side of the room.” A beat passed before a student’s voice called out: “No, I’m not. I’m sorry. I’m going to move on.”

Benson, Palermo and several others walked out at this point. Outside, they shared their frustrations, feeling that Christian shows had been targeted seeing how three of the six cut shows are Christian music themed.

Inside, discussion continued. Heated debate arose over how DJ creativity would be impacted, as well as the possibility of a loss in core listeners. After a comment was made about the lack of constructive questions, Garret Voorhees, a Print Media graduate student, one of the few student members with a specialty show (Dig This! which is a funk and blues show), spoke up in defense of the students. “To say we have not done our homework is a fallacy. Ben [Isserlis] has personally gone through the cabinet and filed every single document he can find going back to the early ‘90s. We have talked to the creators of Modern Music and More format. We’ve really done our homework on that. To say we haven’t done our homework and we’re kids and really inexperienced — that’s showing us a lot of disrespect.”

Although Voorhees and many others hope for a compromise, Keyzer-Andre reiterated at the close of the meeting that the changes presented during the meeting will be made effective December 20, with only minor tweaks to follow.

“Specialty shows are still here; we’re just giving an opportunity for the core of the station to be heard everyday,” said Keyzer-Andre after the meeting. Once the changes are implemented, “I think people will be pleasantly surprised that these changes don’t significantly change what they love about the station.”

Comments

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Sun, Dec 20 2009 @ 9:01 pm
When did RIT become a "Christian" institution? Last I checked it hadn't. Why should a non-church affiliated university have THREE Christian-affiliated programs? It's not about intolerance...it's about overkill. These "Christian" shows should head over to St. John Fisher and start a station there. Start web-based shows. It's pretty easy to webcast these days and the people who are seeking this kind of programming will find it regardless of the broadcast medium. WITR is RIT's station, and they should get to do whatever they want with it as long as it supports RIT's goals and direction.
Josh Katinger class of '00
 
Mon, Dec 21 2009 @ 1:55 pm
When you cut all three "Christian" programs, and make it impossible for the fourth "Christian" show (The Answer) to continue... It was also stated they cut the shows not because of the lyrical content, but because of the "production of the songs"????......excuse me but umm...these people are I.T. and Game Design majors...C'MON MAANNNN!

And did I fail to metion that one of the shows that WAS cut (which was non "christian" by the way) was then re-instated because no one on the board knew the show was being hosted by an active/current student? Another show was re-instated as well...the article failed to mention that. So you do the math and make your own observation.

My point....ingorance and a poorly mangaged (if you even want to call it that) group of people at the finest degree.
zil
 
Mon, Dec 28 2009 @ 8:47 pm
I've been really interested into what is happening with WITR of lately. I am a long time listener to the station mainly due to one great show (SDO) and I would like more information as to what is happening/happened with WITR and what changes are made. Can a follow up article perhaps early in the new year be written to try and explain these changes?

I understand wanting to give the students of RIT more control over WITR but I think this is a hugely lopsided imbalance of control. If the students wanted to become more involved perhaps they could have been worked into already existing programs as DJ's for when the primary DJ goes absent?

And to the people complaining about all the Christia... (more)
Quincy
 
Wed, Dec 30 2009 @ 4:13 pm
No surprise that all the shows that represent Jesus were taken off. If the station really wants to return the station to the students they would use the "older, more experienced" dj's, while not anymore on the air,mentor the new student dj's that would play the same Jesus music.
Mike "The Messenger"
 
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