The Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters has named Radio Free Hillsdale the College Radio Station of the Year. Scot Bertram, the staton’s general manager, holds up their award. Scot Bertram | Courtesy

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.