Whale radio gives students a chance to go live

GVL / Hannah Mico. The hosts of Whale Radio's

GVL / Hannah Mico. The hosts of Whale Radio's "Tight Blowhole" are seniors Dave Tomczak (left) and Shane O'Donohue (right). The show airs every Friday from 4-6 pm.

Ben Glick

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Your grandparents listened to radio, your parents watched TV, and as a member of generation Y, you’re likely a web surfer. However, some students at Grand Valley State University are working to preserve the art of radio and promote its value among younger Americans.

Whale Radio, the student-run station at GVSU, has been on the airwaves in some capacity for more than a decade.

“Each student brings their own identities to the station,” said Jamel Watson, general manager of Whale Radio. “When they learn how to operate the hardware and everything, they can run their own show.”

Many of the time slots are occupied by student DJs who play a variety of music for the station. While the expectation may be that most of the Whale Radio staff are broadcasting majors, many of the student DJs study different disciplines and unite their talents to create a student-run media outlet.

“We went to a meeting and they explained that starting up a show was really easy; you just get on (the radio) and do your thing,” said Dave Tomzcak of Tight Blowhole with Shane and Dave. “We are roommates and best friends. We just say whatever comes to mind. We feed off each other.”

This sort of openness toward musical content also extends to the development of talk shows.

“Usually someone comes in with an idea for a show and then we pair them up with another student or they bring in someone they know,” Watson said. “We develop their idea and make it applicable to the radio.”

Whale Radio is a multiple-format Internet radio station broadcasted from GVSU in the Kirkhof Center with between 50 and 60 DJs. The station’s schedule runs every weekday from 8 a.m. to midnight.

“Mondays through Wednesdays we’re on all day usually,” Watson said. “This is the first semester that we’re almost to capacity.”

GVSU has been running its own radio broadcasting service for almost 40 years, and Whale Radio has been a fixture since 2000.

“We were in a tight spot earlier in the decade,” said Watson, who has worked for Whale Radio since the winter semester of 2011. “But we’ve been able to turn it around with DJs who are excited and enthusiastic about their work.”

Shane O’Donohue and Dave Tomczak developed “Tight Blowhole with Shane and Dave” last winter to play anything from pop-punk to indie music for listeners.

“(Dave and I) were walking through (the main level of) Kirkhof and saw the Whale Radio doing their live broadcast,” O’ Donohue said. “We thought, ‘Man, that would be awesome to do.’ We are huge music lovers and wanted to get the music we like out to the public.”

While the show began as a talk show, it has expanded to include live artist interviews as well as ticket giveaways through a partnership with the Pyramid Scheme.

“We went from talking about music and playing it to actually doing something,” Tomczak said. “I think it’s gotten more important to use than we thought it would.”

A major strategy of creating new shows is teaching interested students how to operate radio equipment in order for their show to function.

“We want to be as close to a professional radio station as possible,” Watson said. “It usually takes two shows for people to get a grasp of how the equipment works.”

Watson said he hopes to see Whale Radio acquire its own radio broadcasting equipment to broadcast on the airwaves as well as on its current Internet site.

For more information, visit www.whaleradio.org or contact Jamel Watson at [email protected]