It’s the 10th annual World College Radio Day! And once again, we’re proud to be a sponsor.
This year, we’re spotlighting a school station that exemplifies the creativity and freedom that makes college radio so special. KJHK 90.7 “The Sound Alternative” is the campus station affiliated with University of Kansas. In November of 2019, we spoke to Sophie Johnson, a then-senior who was serving as station manager, about KJHK and their programming.
“KJHK 90.7 is the college radio station for University of Kansas – we play alternative music (no Top 40) and do live events and sports coverage. We used to be affiliated with the journalism school, though they disowned us several years ago because they thought radio wasn’t a good investment. However, we were able to hang onto our FM license, and now we’re an independent entity within the school.
In terms of music, we have a volunteer staff of over 100 DJs to keep us running 24/7. In addition to music, though, we do a lot of different special programs, from live DJ sets at remote locations to live sports coverage. We also do more than just FM – we stream online and through our app, and we have a content department that develops podcasts and music videos.
Our station is entirely run by student volunteers. Applications are always open on our website, and students don’t need to have any prior experience – we do rounds of training, and then set them up with their own show that works with their schedule. But people can also volunteer to work on our staff. It’s a great way for us to learn the technical side of producing radio, but also how to produce podcasts and other content.
Our sports team uses our Comrex ACCESS to do live coverage on our FM station of basketball and volleyball games, but because most of our content is alternative music, the switch into live sports can feel a little jarring. We wanted to come up with more live programming that fits into our alternative feel, to make the sports coverage feel more natural and to spice up our offerings.
While my fellow staff members and I were kicking around ideas, we decided that we wanted to do a late night segment that was both fun and kind of weird. We thought – what if we reviewed all-night breakfast food places?
We’re in Lawrence, Kansas, and there aren’t any places nearby that are open all night. So we drove to Kansas City and found a Denny’s and a Waffle House that were willing to let us do our segment there. (We initially thought we could make a couple bucks off by promising to promote their business, but they said…no.) We only have one ACCESS, so we set up two groups, one at each location, and our arts and culture director drove back and forth with the Comrex. While she was driving, a friend of ours back at the station played breakfast-themed songs to fill the time while the Comrex was being moved between locations. We used a portable WiFi hotspot to connect, and were able to set it up easily enough to not have any dead air. We played breakfast-themed games, talked about the food, and shared bits of trivia about the restaurants. It was a lot of fun!
We also use our Comrex to do live DJ sets from different events to raise money for the station. We recently did one at a local farmer’s market, where we played music and did interviews at the actual location. We also did one during recruitment at the beginning of the year when all the students were moving into the dorms, and did an interview with the chancellor of the school. It’s been a useful way to show people who we are and draw interest to the station.
In my role as station manager, my job is to promote creativity at the station. We have a ton of ideas for new live segments – we were planning a live talent show that could be simultaneously streamed online and on our video platforms. It’s the kind of thing that could be a hot mess, but maybe that’s the point.”
In radio, we talk a lot about coming up with the next big thing to keep radio vital and vibrant. College radio is where the newest generation of radio professionals are growing – it provides a platform to try things and fail, and it’s where some of the best ideas come from.