Then & Now: WMHC Radio
Student-run WMHC had a small staff and a very limited budget, which was often relegated to replacing missing or damaged records and repairing the station’s original equipment, dating from 1951.
The third-oldest college radio station in the country—and the first women’s college station—WMHC increased its bandwidth in 1979 from ten to 100 watts in response to a new FCC policy that also resulted in a necessary change in frequency—90.7 FM to 91.1 FM.
As part of DJ training, students were required to take a written exam that tested their knowledge on equipment, music, basic information, and song logs. Any student who failed to abide by policy—which prohibited cigarettes and alcohol inside the station and had a zero-tolerance approach to missed shifts—was dismissed from the staff.
Frequently played artists included Bonnie Raitt, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, Stan Getz, and Chick Corea. In addition to music, programming included trivia contests; on-air interviews with musicians, students, faculty, and community members; panels on campus issues, politics, women’s issues, and nuclear power; and poetry readings.
Still student run and funded by the SGA, the station has seventy-five DJs who each week host more than thirty shows, including Lipstank Love and Suffering Jukebox.
All student DJs start out as interns, shadowing existing DJs for three weeks in the studio. Written and on-air tests are required at the conclusion of the intern process, and then students are granted their own two-hour shows.
Rock is the most popular genre of radio show, but other programs include jazz, blues, gospel, world/folk, and news/talk shows.
DJs are prohibited from ever using the seven forbidden words—designated by the FCC—but are allowed to play songs that include them during the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Students DJ campus events, including the convocation after-party and the station’s recent sixty-second birthday bash. Extra funds raised cover office supplies, smaller-grade equipment, microphones, and turntable covers. The station frequency is in its third iteration at 91.5 FM. Still operating on 100 watts, the station reaches beyond South Hadley via a live web stream at mixlr.com/wmhcradio.
This article appeared in the spring 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
May 1, 2014