MSU alumnus Jeremy Whiting is the new professional general manager of Michigan State University's award-winning student radio station 88.9FM WDBM better known as the Impact. He's just the third GM in the almost 30 year history of the radio station, which will celebrate 30 years on the air on February 24, 2019.
A decade ago, Whiting was the student general manager for Impact Radio. He was happily teaching broadcasting and journalism to high school students, but he says of the opening at WDBM "if there was anything that was going to pull me out of my current job, it was this. I really got to thinking about it. I met with the students, and it was really apparent that it was a really good fit."
Whiting says the mission of WDBM "really hasn't changed. We're still looking to educate students, and we also want to have a professional presentation on the air. We want to sound a lot like commercial radio. We want the average listener to be able to flip through the dial, hear music that is good, hear DJs who are good, and not really know any difference between something more to the right on the dial. Then we want good programming. Diverse programming. Programming that has a set format, but that also provides opportunities for voices from the MSU community and from the Lansing and East Lansing communities to be represented on the air.”
Of the challenges and opportunities facing the entire radio medium Whiting says of the industry's future "the Impact is really continuing to evolve as a brand, not just as an FM station. Certainly there's always going to be a huge audience that is listening to the FM signal, whether you're driving in your car or listening at home or whatever, but mostly in the car these days. People at home, they're often listening to our live stream. They're listening to podcasts. But we're also producing other content like sports programming, news, and content listeners can download from our website or interact with on Facebook. It's all about that local connection and trying to find different ways that we can get information and content out to our audience that is relevant to them.”
Is Whiting bullish about over-the-air radio's future? Yes.
“The actual delivery system might change in the future, but the content is still going to be the key. People are still going to want to have a live DJ telling them local information. I think the reason that Spotify and Pandora and some of the other services are popular is because friends can share playlists. They're looking for recommended songs. They're looking to hear what other people are listening to. And that's really a strength of radio. You're finding out what the masses are listening to. Popularity is often not what we're going for with at a college radio station. We often discover up and coming talent. I think that's very valuable to people. You can go on Spotify and find most of the artists that we play on the air, but you're not going to find many stations like Impact that that are picking those artists and recommending those specific ones to you, often before you've heard their name or heard their music anywhere else.”
So what are Whiting's short and long term goals for Impact Radio?
“My short-term goal is just to get acclimated and to really get to know the staff and make sure they have the resources to be successful. Longer term, though, we want to upgrade the technology at the station. We're looking at going to the next level for our radio automation system to enhance all the backend technology that helps us play music. We’re making sure we're spending our student tax dollars wisely and really making sure that the equipment we have for the students to use is ready to work now and well into the future. We really want to stay relevant. We want to find good programming that is going to appeal to MSU students and our broader community and constantly reinvent ourselves when necessary.
“I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel because WDBM has such a strong foundation. The students are fantastic. The students are passionate, not only about radio, but about the Impact brand. It becomes their home, you know? They're there at all hours of the day and night. We broadcast 24/7, but there are also people working there 24/7 doing other things besides being on the air. They're all really passionate. Things change. It was weird coming in and seeing that much of the station is similar to when I left 10 years ago, and some of it is totally different. But that's fine. It's meant to evolve. It's meant to stay relevant. If you're looking for what's happening in the MSU community and looking to hear up and coming music, Impact is where it's at.”
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