The return of the KWU radio
Willamette has a radio for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. KWU Radio is student run, with more than 30 people or duos streaming a variety of content weekly, coordinated through the KWU Radio Club.
Savanna Starks (‘25) is the president of the club and took on the job of restarting shows after the pandemic. KWU Radio originally kicked off as a club in the fall of 2017 but went defunct with the onset of COVID-19.
Sophie Smith (‘21) was a co-president of the club during the 2019-20 school year when the club ended. Smith said they ran their last event in November 2019 and had some technical issues that, combined with COVID-19, ended the club. “No one really had the capacity to be a leader at that point,” Smith lamented. “We all kinda knew before COVID that we had to find some younger students to pass the torch to, but obviously that didn’t happen.”
Starks explained that The Collegian had taken over the radio at the start of last year but wasn’t able to get it running again, so she took the lead: “The Collegian was taking a long time to do it last fall, and so I took it from them, and that’s how it started.”
This year she was able to efficiently split the duties in order to begin broadcasting quickly. Starks handled the tech and copyright side of things while Vice President Ike Turman (‘26) led outreach. “We got it started in like two or three weeks, which is way faster than I thought we could,” Starks remarked.
One new broadcaster, Alyssa Diggdon (‘27), is the host of the LysolCleaningWipes Radio Hour on Monday from 4-5 p.m. They have never done any radio before but joined to try it out and share their love of music. “I’ve always been a very big nerdy little music fan of indie-alternative stuff. [The studio] is a place where I can just talk, draw and also play my music,” Diggdon said.
Diggdon plays a variety of songs and introduces each song before it plays, sometimes giving background context to the song if they know it. “I’ll tend to have a friend in the studio with me, so I’ll chat and have a little side conversation as well,” Diggdon commented.
One difficulty for Diggdon has been technology. For the first two shows of LysolCleaningWipes, Diggdon’s microphone wasn’t functioning properly, but they were able to figure it out. They explained, “I want to learn more about the tech. The way that it works right now is they’ve given us instructions for the sliders and mics.” As the club progresses, there will be more opportunities for tech training.
There are other opportunities for growth too. “I really want Willamette to get a frequency on the radio because right now it’s just online radio,” Starks said. She noted that this brings more rules about what you can and can’t say due to free-speech restrictions on mass communication platforms like broadcast radio, but could be worth it to reach a broader audience. “Another thing that would be really cool is if we had live performances, so like bands come in and play music and then it streams on the radio.”
Keeping the radio consistent has been a little difficult, given that there are over 30 shows ranging in topic from movie reviews to Reddit stories to curated music each week. The “WU Flu" also hit the radio club pretty hard, according to Starks, but the group persevered. “If someone calls out, we just ask the person before them to play a playlist that’s an hour or two long,” she said.
One facet of the club that is different from most is that they don’t meet frequently. They had two introductory meetings to get people signed up and explain the technological side of things. They will also likely have a mid and end of semester meeting, according to Starks.
This can make building a community more difficult. “You don’t really see much of anybody. It’s like, you all come in at your own time,” Diggdon lamented. “It would be cool to see [the club] have, aside from everyone doing their own show, having a radio club meeting here just to hang out and chill and listen to music, or little listening parties.”
If you’re interested in joining KWU, it’s not too late. “We do rolling applications, so every two weeks we send out applications to our mailing list. We have open slots that need to be filled and we’ll probably expand our hours soon,” Starks said. They’re also looking for people interested in audio tech to help out. Listen in at https://kwu-radio.mixlr.com/ and check out their Instagram page @kwu_radio to stay up to date on shows and events!