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WFCF Radio With a Reason: Then and now

Jan 13, 2010
by Lauren Belcher, Student

Dan McCook stepped into the Flagler College Communication building on Aug. 13, 1993. The newly hired station manager, McCook had plans for Flagler College’s radio station: WFCF 88.5 FM. “Slim Whitman,” McCook said. “That was the only recording in this building.” He explains that Whitman was the artist whose singing killed the Martians in the movie “Mars Attacks.”

“We started with a staff of 30 students and about 10 community volunteers,” McCook said. The station originally broadcasted 12 hours a day, seven days a week. It went to broadcasting 17 hours a day, six months later. And then, about six years ago, it started broadcasting 24 hours a day.

Flagler College alumna Nancy (Demato) Thompson, ’95, was an on-air personality for WFCF from 1994 to 1998.

Thompson said the differences between WFCF now and WFCF in the mid to late ‘90s are vast.

“It was much simpler times,” she said. “We started out with a small inventory of CDs. We used vinyl. I don’t even know if the station has a record player anymore.”

Thompson hasn’t been to the station in over a year and half but can still recall the look of the old station. “It’s much fancier now than it was then,” she said. “It looks more professional, but I think it always sounded professional.”

Some things will never change. Thompson still recalls how professional the radio station was from the very beginning. “I thought, ‘Wow this guy [McCook] is for real. He’s going to run this like it’s a radio station and not a bunch of kids playing whatever they want,’ ” she said. “We always knew it expanded past the college campus. So we always treated it as so.”

Flagler College radio station, WFCF 88.5FM has acquired a hefty fan base. One of those fans is actor Bill Murray, pictured here recording a station identification spot for WFCF.

Today, WFCF: Radio With A Reason, is on air 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. “It does not stop,” McCook said. “Students stay over the holidays. Students stay over the summer – for no credit hours at all – to get broadcast experience.”

That dedication has pulled off for WFCF, people are listening.

“[WFCF is] huge for a college radio station,” McCook said. “We are 10,000 watts, reaching a potential listening audience of a half million people. Our latest ARBITRON ratings put WFCF’s listenership at 42,000 listeners a week. This is real over here.”

Tyler Grimes is one of WFCF’s music directors. He is in charge of the music department. Grimes is a senior communication major and advertising and history minor. He has been working for WFCF since Spring 2008.

“We run the music library,” Grimes said. “When we get music into the station from record labels and bands, we review the music and then we decide whether or not we’re going to play it on air.”

Grimes said there are many different factors in choosing a song to go on air. “If it’s right for our station, if it’s cohesive to our sound,” Grimes said. “If we feel it’s going to be popular for our audience. If it’s clean, no profanity, no excessive violence.”

WFCF will not play songs with excessive violence or profanity. They have the technology to edit the songs, but they try not to do that too often.

Since starting at WFCF, Grimes has seen a few changes in their sound. “We have tried to make the station a little bit more contemporary, more of a mainstream sound,” Grimes said. “Before, we played a lot more independent music. A lot of it is good, but we changed in order to stay competitive. This is what they want. We are a lot more selective.”

McCook credits two main reasons to the creation of WFCF: “We’re an aide to the communication department – education; secondly, public relations for the institution.”

The radio station allows students to fine tune their radio presence. Several skills are needed for radio and the station’s students are some of the most skillful.

McCook said, “organization is paramount” in the music department. There is also a promotions department where students promote the radio station.

For on-air presence there is one must-needed skill: “The gift of gab – being able to communicate with that listener,” McCook said. “Learning to talk to the listener and not at the listener.”

“Production – the art of recording,” McCook continued. “Creativity is what radio is all about, boring don’t sell. How do you communicate to a listener in 30- to 60-second time increments a message? Do it in a way they’re going to pay attention to it.” Students that are working in production gain a wealth of knowledge from the radio station.

Students who are interested in sports broadcasting in particular, need to know the sport. “They paint a word picture for the listener of what’s happening at the game,” McCook said. “You got to have enthusiasm and action. You got to get in there and tell them what’s happening so they actually think they’re at the game.”

According to McCook, Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr., has always wanted the college to have a radio station. “Dr. Abare has very adeptly put that a radio station for a COM department is like a gymnasium for an athletic department,” McCook said. “You put into practical application what you learn in the classroom.”

As for the future, McCook is not worried. “Fortunately, we have the support of the administration so it’s not like we can’t pay the light bill so we have to shut down,” McCook said, “My prognostication is that AM Radio will stay what AM Radio is. FM Radio – which traditionally, because of a clearer signal, is music – will go mostly talk. And that’s already happening.”

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