Student radio produces professionals

By Alexandra Kukulka

The glass doors next to the security desk on the first floor of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building are locked, preventing any chaos or sound from the outside hall from disturbing WCRX-FM, Columbia’s underground radio station.

After ringing the doorbell and entering the station, you’ll see plaques lined up on the wall of the entryway leading to the studio. WCRX has won many awards, including eight Communicator Awards in 2010 alone. In the last year, the station was named one of the top 10 college radio stations by The Washington Post on Oct. 13, 2011 and had eight students who went on to have radio jobs at Merlin Media LLC.

“All [radio major] students must do something at the radio station,” said Cheryl Morton-Langston, director of WCRX. “It’s a good way for them to discover what they want to do eventually.”

As students move in and around the station as part of the curriculum, they have helped garner awards during the last few years.

Most awards recognize the public service announcements, production and on-air personalities that are created by the students, according to Morton-Langston.

WCRX not only creates public service announcements but also contributes to the community. At the end of every spring semester, the station produces “Committing to the Community,” a public service initiative that promotes volunteerism.

“Throughout the entire month of April we promote community leaders [and] nonprofit organizations, and we look for people who really exemplify the spirit of volunteerism and do a show with them,” Morton-Langston said.

To give back to the community, the station has also cleaned a park in the 2nd Ward as part of the City of Chicago’s Clean & Green campaign, a spring initiative to beautify neighborhoods around the city.

Besides being named one of the top 10 college radio stations in the country, WCRX has also been receiving international attention. According to, WCRX has listeners in other parts of the world including Saudi Arabia, India, Italy and Brazil.

The station is very excited and even shocked by this global attention, Morton-Langston said.

“Whatever we put in, we get out,” said Shane Reynolds, assistant sport radio director. “That’s the most rewarding. When we put in a lot of our time through the week, I think that is when it comes out [because] we did a two-hour show and everything went together.”

After graduation and working at WCRX, students look for radio jobs. Not everyone can find them at first. So it was for Christine Fiedler, who graduated from Columbia in 2010 with a degree in radio and had to work in retail before getting a job at Merlin Media.

Fiedler is now the weekend news editor, deciding what goes on air and what top stories reporters should cover.

“When [Merlin Media] first started, we were trying to find our footing and figure out exactly what we needed to be doing,” she said. “Now everything is starting to fall into place, and it’s really exciting to be a part of a brand new radio station.”

According to Barbara Calabrese, Radio Department chair, the seniors in the radio program graduate with a significant body of work to show employers including production experience, on-air work and

writing samples.

“When our students go on to internships, our feedback from internship supervisors is that our students are very well-prepared to go into the industry,” Calabrese said.

Merlin Media is not the only station that has given radio students jobs after graduation. According to Calabrese, Columbia radio graduates have gone on to work for stations like Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Radio, KISS FM, WGCI and even Wisconsin stations like 95.1 FM in Kenosha.

“The caliber of our students [gets them jobs],” Calabrese said. “This is something they want to do, and they give it their all.”