The Hillsdale College Marketing Department and WRFH 101.7 FM, Hillsdale College’s student-run radio station, have partnered to produce a weekly podcast called “Radio Free Hillsdale Hour.” The show currently airs on about ten radio stations in Michigan, and the podcast can be found on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Google Play.
The show airs weekly, and the college’s goal, according to the original pitch, is to generate over 25,000 subscribers to the podcast and reach a radio listening audience of over 100,000 people within the first calendar year.
Vice President for Marketing Matt Schlientz said the purpose of the show is “to advance and radiate the mission of the college to radio and podcast listeners.”
Given Hillsdale’s success from talk radio, Schlientz said he believes Hillsdale’s supporters will be “predisposed to listen” to the podcast.
Matthew Spalding, associate vice president and dean of educational programs for Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C., said the program is “the coming together of several things: the great radio program on campus, and the growing world of podcast, radio, and all forms of audio news.”
Spalding said many people collaborated in developing the concept, but Bertram is “the mind behind the organization of the show.”
General Manager of WRFH 101.7 FM and host of “Radio Free Hillsdale Hour” Scot Bertram explained that the marketing team mentioned the idea to him when he first came to campus three years ago. It was not until last summer, however, that he was able to “sharpen those ideas.”
“Nine months ago, I finally had some time to think about it deeply and figure out a format that would be entertaining, repeatable, and sustainable,” Bertram said.
With the help of the marketing team, Bertram developed a program that he said is “largely about highlighting what we do at Hillsdale for the outside world.” He explained that the show has four segments, each of which features a guest.
“None of this is me monologuing,” he said. “I’m there to introduce the guests, ask insightful questions, facilitate the conversation, and find the people that will make for interesting conversations.”
One segment features guests that Bertram called “friends of Hillsdale.” These guests are typically people who have spoken at the Center for Constructive Alternatives lectures or are involved with the The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship.
“They are people whose thinking and opinions we want to highlight,” Bertram said.
One such guest is Brian Christian, author of “The Most Human Human” and recent guest lecturer on Hillsdale’s campus, who spoke on the future of artificial intelligence in the Feb. 22 edition of the show.
Bertram dedicates the rest of the show to “shining a spotlight on things at campus,” such as the faculty, the Kirby Center, and the Churchill Project. One segment usually features a Hillsdale College professor who speaks on current events.
In the March 1 edition, Spalding visited the show and discussed President Trump’s emergency declaration for the southern border.
“The program is about teaching Hillsdale ideas but also applying Hillsdale ideas in contemporary politics,” Spalding said. “Because my visit was recently after Trump’s speech, we discussed the powers of the executive under the Constitution, especially in regards to Congress.”
A third segment features a guest from various departments of the college who educates the audience on the importance of the liberal arts. In the March 15 edition, Hillsdale’s Associate Professor of English Dwight Lindley began a series that will be occasionally featured on the show on basic literary concepts .
Schlientz referred to the final segment as a “wild card segment.” The topic of this segment varies from alumni spotlights to recordings of speeches, recent or historical, that coincide with Hillsdale’s mission. For example, in the Feb. 22 edition, the last segment featured a 1994 Center for Constructive Alternatives lecture given by former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The program makes connections between the different parts of Hillsdale’s national community. Bertram said the show “bridges the locations of campus and the Kirby Center.”
Additionally, it ties in the network of Hillsdale alumni. Bertram has hosted multiple alumni on the show, including Thomas Morrison ’97, who is currently a Republican member of the Illinois General Assembly.
According to the marketing pitch, the plan for the show is to “share the teaching and learning that happens at the college with the rest of America. Success will result in a significant, long-term outlet for the college to reach citizens across the country.”