The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

WMCN Changes With the Times

By Brian Martucci

It’s no secret that Macalester’s radio station, WMCN 91.7 FM, suffers from a dearth of listeners and a weak signal. But new plans to broadcast several weekly shows in Caf Mac during dinner and brunch, and the growing strength of the webcast program launched in February 2005 may give WMCN an opportunity to attract new listeners. While no official tally of the station’s listenership exists, for some time now many students and administrators have questioned the relevance of Macalester’s most expensive student organization.

For this reason, President of Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) Ben Johnson ’06 recently advocated for eliminating the radio broadcast component as a way to save money that could be better used for other student organizations.

“WMCN should switch to sole web casting-it could cut thousands of dollars,” Johnson said.

While WMCN General Manager Linnea Ericsson is not opposed to the idea, she said that current glitches with the web broadcast would have to be fixed first.

“It is the direction I think the station will be going in five to ten years, but not now,” Ericsson said. “Right now webcasting is not working as well as it needs to.”

Ericsson also expressed doubts that dropping the radio broadcast would save any money.

“Engineering, broadcasters insurance-all this stuff that we have-these solid costs would not change,” Ericsson said.

Starting this week, WMCN will be running request shows during dinner on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Talk shows focusing on campus events and issues will air at brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Ericsson also reported that the station is trying to reserve some time each meal for “WMCN-endorsed” CDs and hopes to place a suggestion box in the campus center for student feedback.

In addition, WMCN webcasting is accessible from any internet-connected computer, which station organizers hope will translate into higher rates of listenership over a broader geographical area and, hopefully, among the student body as well.

While it has seen some glitches, Ericsson said the webcast is so far a “huge success,” adding, “we have been getting many more listeners [in general], and so many more international listeners-mostly students studying abroad, families of students who live abroad.”

Ericsson expressed hope that out-of-state and international listenership would increase through word of mouth.

A WMCN newsletter available in the campus center beginning this week should help increase the station’s visibility on campus.

WMCN is entirely student-run, and each semester without fail, prospective DJs send in applications in the hopes of securing a weekly one- or two-hour slot of airtime to say, do or play whatever they wish. By all accounts, the WMCN organization is highly fraternal-student DJs make it a point to listen to their fellow spinners and to publicize the station for Mac students and area residents as well.

According to Charles Edelman ’09, an avid listener of his brother Spencer Edelman ’06’s show “Livin’ It Large” on WMCN (Sunday 10 p.m.-midnight), the new webcast is “so much clearer and much more convenient.” When asked why he didn’t listen to WMCN before he knew about the webcast, he replied, “Because the station doesn’t really advertise itself to the student body.”

Likewise, roommates Colin Hottman ’09 and David Gilchrist ’09 discovered Zack Marley’s “We Have Come For Your Children” comedy routine (Friday 6-8 p.m.) through the station’s webcast.

“I would never have heard that show if there hadn’t been a program list and webcasting feature on [WMCN’s] Web site,” David said.

As a non-commercial “educational” radio station, WMCN holds a Class D LPFM (Low-Power FM) FCC license, which allows a maximum broadcast range of 3.5 miles, or roughly the distance to downtown St. Paul. While this license is easy to obtain and keep, it also forces WMCN to accept interference from stations with higher-class licenses, which severely restricts its pool of listeners. There are currently no plans to push for a better license.

According to the station’s Web site, Macalester college radio began around 1948, broadcasting out of the library as an AM station called WBOM. Aside from a brief hiatus, after which it emerged as KMAC at AM 550, the station gained membership and popularity through the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

With membership at a high in the late 1970s, KMAC decided to convert to FM format, and in the fall of 1979 WMCN was born as a “progressive rock, new wave, jazz and country-rock” station, spinning some of the time period’s most cutting-edge artists.

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