WIDR began as an experiment in 1952 to see whether students could operate a radio station through their part-time efforts. That experiment has evolved into one of the most successful student organizations on the 22,000 student campus of Western Michigan University. During its eighteen years of operation, Western's Inter-Dormitory Radio has seen four major changes in its physical setup and major changes in its organizational structure. Beginning in an Army barracks shack, it now has an established place in the newest building on campus.
WIDR is operated by the students, independent of any academic department. Its entire personnel, including the advisors, serve on a part-time basis. Its financial support is derived from a small social fee from each residence hall occupant and from revenue from advertising sales. It operates during the fall and winter semesters, twenty-four hours per day, on a carrier-current to resident halls housing approximately ten thousand students.
Western Michigan University is located in Kalamazoo, which is in Southwestern Michigan, midway between Detroit and Chicago and fifty miles from Grand Rapids. As a result, it is influenced by some of the major broadcasting markets in the country. Students who have worked at WIDR frequently move into professional broadcasting in one of the major cities of the area, and some work simultaneously at WIDR and the commercial stations in the greater Kalamazoo area. Experience at WIDR is considered excellent training for professional employment. At any time, day or night, one can sweep the radio dial and hear a D.J. or newsman who got his start at WIDR. Since it has this close liaison with area stations, WIDR can expect professional standards from its personnel.
As WIDR has undergone its changes, it has endeavored to profit by past experience. In organization, it has been found that the executive board type of management is far superior to the centralized manager type of administration.
WIDR is governed by an executive board composed of the General Manager, the Program Director, the Chief Engineer, the Marketing Director, and the Business Manager. Two advisors are actively involved: one faculty member of the Communication Arts and Sciences Department, and one residence hall director. Departments under the executive board are news, sports, traffic. music, production, record library, public relations and alumni relations.
In its physical plant. it has discovered that, in its early stages. far too little space was allotted for offices. The stereotype that a radio station consists mostly of studios has been discarded. In its present quarters in the new Student Services Building, the ratio of offices to studios is three to one, and decentralization gives each department an opportunity to function without interfering with others.
In February, 1970, WIDR moved from the University Student Center where it had been located since 1957 into the new $2,000,000 Student Services Building, placed in what will soon be the middle of the University's main campus. In addition to WIDR, the Student Services Building houses the student newspaper, yearbook and offices for many of the campus organizations.
WIDR is located in the lower level of the three-story building; the station has three air studios and five oftices in addition to the record library, engineering lab and storage facilities. Arranged in a straight row, the studios and offices branch off from the main corridor of the station. The offices have been newly furnished since the move; also, the broadcasting equipment in the air studios has been purchased largely since 1967.
WlDR's engineering staff of four firstclass and two second-class engineers has been hard at work converting WlDR's carrier-current system of signal transmission to a new system called BRAJc, a variation of induced hellical radiation. Instead of feeding radio frequency into the electrical system, RF is fed into cables which have been wrapped around the steam pipes in each building. The live cables act as miniature transrnitting towers within the residence halls, providing WlDR's listeners with a signal free from hum and buzz-far superior to that produced by carrier-current. In addition to excellence of signal, the system has several other advantages-most notably the ability to feed several complexes of halls from one transmitter, where previously as many as three transmitters were necessary.
Although basically a TOP-40 station, during its 24-hour broadcast day, WIDR plays large amounts of soul, jazz, progressive rock, folk, blues, and broadcasts Kalamazoo's only regular AM presentation of the classics; WIDR also has a weekly interview program with someone of importance on campus or in Kalamazoo. Now in its third year, the popular Westem Speaks provides the opportunity for listeners to express their concerns over the air in a talk show forum. Play-by-play coverage of WMU athletic events are included in the broadcast schedule. Continuing a tradition begun in 1967, WIDR airs weekly episodes of old radio dramas; this year, the LONE RANGER and friends ride onto campus each Sunday evening.
WIDR also provides public service announcements for all of WMU's student organizations, and WIDR is frequently used to help publicize the events sponsored by campus clubs. WIDR is also proud to help contribute to the Kalamazoo community as well. In past years, WIDR has been instrumental in the raising of money for local charities during the holiday season. Since 1965, the students of WMU, through their radio station alone, have contributed over $6,000 to such worthy causes. In October, 1970, WIDR received a Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association for its participation in the Christmas Seal Fund Drive.
WIDR broadcasts large numbers of newscasts each day to help keep WMU students informed; through the courtesy of WAOP Radio in Otsego, WIDR has the use of the American Information Radio Network and broadcasts network news every hour on the hour; WIDR Total Coverage News - a newscast specializing in campus and local newsis aired every hour on the half hour.
During the past year, the station's record library staff completed a project placing the library filing system on computer. The system is designed to provide an alphabetical listing of each song title on every album in the library, in addition to album title and artist listings.
At the close of each semester, the station staff is honored at a station-wide awards banquet; standing awards are given for length of service to the station: two, four, six, and eight semesters. Also, the designations of Most Improved Announcer and Most Valuable Staff Member are announced. Not only does the awards banquet highlight the semester socially, but the awards system in general encourages pride in the station as an entity, and is a factor in WIDR's excellent continuity of staff and the fond memories of its alumni.
WIDR has found wide acceptance within its community. WMU's vice president for student services, Thomas E. Coyne, said: "WIDR provides for Western Michigan University student residents both an entertainment and an informational function. The University considers it a prime source of rapid contact with a large segment of the student population and views its balanced and professional news coverage as an important asset in combating the rumor mills which operate on any university campus about any subject. The high listenership it enjoys in the residence halls is evidence of its audience appeal."
WIDR will continue to strive to live up to a 1969 statement by Campus Media, Inc., that WIDR is "one of the finest campus stations in the country "