Radio station gives students hands-on experience

Alayna Walker, a senior mass communication major from Dallas, works her shift at KSAU 90.1 The Axe. 

Photo by Hope Feaster/ The Pine Log

While switching from pop station to pop station and country station to country station, those in the Nacogdoches area may stumble upon something a little more alternative.

Fans of SFA’s radio station, KSAU 90.1 The Axe, have been listening to the angsty sounds of alternative rock and the charming voices of those manning the station for years; however, while the radio personalities may seem expert already, they’re actually students.

“The campus radio stations, most of the time, are used as a training facility for students in the radio/TV program. In our case, it’s the mass communication program with an emphasis in radio/TV,” Sherry Williford, faculty adviser of the radio station, said.

Once the radio and TV major was offered at SFA, the department set out to create training facilities for students to gain hands-on experience working in their major. So after applying to the Federal Communications Commission for a radio station, the station went on the air in 1975.

Williford helps students with running the radio station, staying within regulations with the FCC and reapplying for their license every eight years, but the students are the ones on the air.

Students in the MCM 212 Audio Production class and the MCM 420 Broadcast Practicum fill each radio shift during the semester. The station manager, typically a graduate student, helps Williford train the audio production students who work in pairs to run the shifts at the station. Of course, once they reach the practicum, they’re on the air solo.

“I remember my first day in the studio. I was just sitting there getting ready to read the weather, and I’m reading over the sheet getting my mind ready, and it totally snuck up on me,” said Isaac Niedrauer, a senior mass communications major from Winnsboro.

“Suddenly there’s a live mic in front of me with an audience of listeners, and it felt like being thrown into the deep side of a swimming pool. Sometimes it’s unpolished and cringe- worthy, and other times I’m like ‘man, I sound great today.’ You just keep swimming and get a little better at it every time.”

The Axe is unique in that it is a noncommercial radio station, so instead they play student-made PSA’s, self- promotions or sweeps which are short segues between songs to identify the station.

“As a noncommercial station, or as a public station, we provide
an alternative 
in the area. So, we’ll never play country music, for example, because there’s lots of country stations around,” Williford said. “We usually provide something that’s not already provided around, so the alternative rock.”

The Axe is not solely a campus station broadcasting within the borders of SFA but a station that broadcasts 35 miles out or, depending on the weather, 40 miles out, serving a large part of the community.

“Man, there’s just some great music on that station,” Niedrauer said. “Half my personal playlist comes straight out of the KSAU programming.

“I think a lot of people would be regulars if they gave it a shot. There’s so much variety on there and tons of forgotten older music that you’ll hear and remember that time in your childhood where you heard that song.”

Students have different shifts on the radio from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. The hours they’re not there they play the prerecorded commercials and music. In addition to the music programming, students also read the news and weather. Some of the practicum students can also have their own specialty programs.

Being on the radio requires the host to be more relaxed and conversational; it takes personality. As explained by Alayna Walker, a senior mass communication major from Dallas, people can watch someone read off a script, but it’s a lot less interesting to listen to someone simply recite lines.

“I’ve always thrived more in front of the TV and just being able to say what’s given to me, a script, so it took a long time to get comfortable being conversational and informal. Because I have family who listen to the show when I’m on who were like ‘that doesn’t sound like you, it sounds like you’re on TV and not the radio’ so it took a long time to separate the two,” Walker said. Students take calls from listeners asking for song requests, wondering what that last song that was played was and even stranger things like relationship advice or criticism.

“I welcome all comments, positive or negative so I can improve,” Walker said. “It’s really cool, and schools that don’t have a station are missing out because it’s an awesome experience.” 

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