Students are now broadcasting news stories, political and sports commentaries, and interviews on Hillsdale College’s radio station, Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM.
Although many college radio stations air solely music programs, the assorted content of Hillsdale College’s station — including news, talk, and spoken word radio — will provide students real-world experience in multiple aspects of broadcast media. The station’s general manager, Scot Bertram, said he is excited to help them hone the skills that will equip them for career success.
“We want to teach students how to think, how to speak extemporaneously, how to create the argument, how to make the argument, how to defend the argument, how to deliver news reporting for broadcast,” he said.
Since its launch in July 2015, the college radio station played a perpetual assortment of patriotic music, but Bertram has worked to vary its content since his arrival in January. The station headquarters are in Knorr Student Center, across from the Old Snack Bar. It now boasts a live studio and a recording studio.
Radio Free Hillsdale is airing content in three categories: nationally syndicated shows, audio of campus events, and student-produced shows.
National shows include “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” “The Dennis Prager Show,” “Our American Stories” with Lee Habeeb, and others. Students also have worked with Bertram to retrieve and edit audio files of speakers, commencement addresses, and other campus events to air on occasion.
Student-produced pieces will range from five-minute features to 90-minute shows and include newscasts, sportscasts, weather forecasts, and interviews with alumni and public figures. Comrex Access technology will also allow students on Hillsdale’s campus to collaborate with the Boyle Radio Studio at the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
Right now, student broadcasts are recorded, but eventually, after some practice, they will go on the air live.
Student shows are scheduled from 6 – 9 a.m. and 3 – 5 p.m. on weekdays. From noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, student content will also air. The station will also broadcast student-produced feature segments, newscasts, and weather forecasts between syndicated show segments.
Students of all years and areas of study are welcome to get involved with Radio Free Hillsdale, Bertram said. He said he anticipates that working at the station will encourage students to develop invaluable critical thinking, communication, and technical skills.
Several students said they are already eager to put their mouths to the mic.
Freshman Martin Petersen, who anchors a sports commentary show, worked with Bertram at the station this summer.
“It’s helped me decipher what I want to say, make it clear so not just I know what I’m saying but other people know what I’m saying,” he said.
Sophomore Cole McNeely said is a co-host of a weekly political commentary show.
“Even if you’re not really interested in radio a whole bunch, try it out, if you’re intrigued by it,” McNeely said. “You’ll never know until you try.”
Sophomore Ryan Kelly Murphy, McNeely’s co-host, said she is excited that Radio Free Hillsdale provides students a fresh outlet through which they can express themselves and further their journalistic aspirations. She said she believes it has the potential to become an influential and nationally recognized authority, and its success will be grounded in the backing of the student body.
“In the beginning especially, our station is really going to have to rely on student support, and we want the students to band behind us because it’s so new and so fresh,” Murphy said. “That’s what’s going to encourage us to keep doing what we’re doing and producing shows, and that also will be what really gets our station off the ground.”