by Nicole Ault and Sutton Dunwoodie
The Michigan Association of Broadcasters named Hillsdale College’s radio station, Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, the 2019 College Radio Station of the Year on Wednesday.
“It’s really satisfying to be recognized among a pool of very talented schools,” said Scot Bertram, general manager of the station. “The students who work here want to be good, so that certainly shows up in the final product.”
Bertram and the students received the award at the Michigan Student Broadcast Awards ceremony in Lansing — the second radio awards ceremony members of the station attended in five days. On Saturday, five WRFH participants attended the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System Media Awards in New York City, where junior Ben Dietderich won first place for best news interview for an interview with then-United Nations ambassador John Bolton. Seven other Hillsdale students were finalists for various awards from IBS, meaning they finished in the top three to five percent of all submissions, depending on the category.
Colleges competed nationally for the IBS awards.
“These awards are open to any college radio station in the country,” Bertram said. “There are a large number of very well run, very successful college radio programs among the finalists.” This is WRFH’s third year of operation.
At the Lansing ceremony on Wednesday, MAB also honored students for individual awards they’d been notified of previously — including three first-place awards for Hillsdale students. WRFH placed in each of the five categories it entered (out of eight categories total), Bertram said. Last year, the station entered fewer submissions and received five awards total from MAB.
Individual awards included first-place recognition for sophomore Stefan Kleinhenz’s “The Hillsdale Interview: Ajit Pai” in the current events program category, 2018 alumnae Chandler Lasch and Sarah Schutte’s “What, What Happened?” in the on-air personality team category, and seniors Ben Dietderich and Jenna Suchyta’s “American View” in the talk show category.
Dietderich also received a second-place award in the current events category for an interview with former U.S. senatorial candidate John James, and Suchyta won second place in the daily newscast/news feature category. Senior Ryan Kelly Murphy took third place for a newscast, and senior Cole McNeely and junior Martin Petersen took third for sportscasting.
“As a young program —it’s been here less time than I’ve been here —to see us go from zero to best in Michigan state in three years is a testament to not only Scot’s expertise and direction but also something special about Hillsdale students,” said Shadrach Strehle, program director of WRFH.
Bertram and Strehle agreed that WRFH’s focus on talk shows and newscasts helped it succeed; most other college stations focus on music, they said.
“We just have so much more mic time,” Bertram said. “It’s like sports — the more reps you get, the better you are. The more time you spend in front of a mic and the more time you spend putting shows together, the better you are going to get.”
Dietderich has been a part of the program since its first year and credited much of its success to Bertram and the effort of students.
“I think we have a lot more shows than we did when we first started, and the experience of people running the shows has obviously improved,” Dietderich said. “A lot of people have taken Scot Bertram’s radio courses,which I think are really helpful if you want a career in journalism. We’ve also come a long way in our news programming.”
Strehle said Bertram’s focus on quality and students’ daily hard work has allowed the station to develop in such a short time.
“At the end of the day, the awards were points-based, and we had to put out good content,” Strehle said. “Quality comes down to the good individuals putting in the work.”
Dietderich said he hopes to attract professional guests from all over the nation and reach a wider audience. With that in mind, he recently changed the motto of his talk show to “Where Hillsdale Meets the Nation.”
“Professional guests out there are really willing to talk to Hillsdale students,” he said.
Bertram said he expects the station to continue to grow and set the bar even higher.
“The hope is that we keep getting better and take home even more awards next year,” Bertram said.