WITR ("Witter") is the student-run radio station on campus. WITR itself dates all the way back to the 1950s when the first broadcasting equipment was purchased. In 1975, WITR made the switch from AM to FM.
Today, WITR is known primarily as an indie station - but plays music from all sorts of genres. In recent years, WITR has been nationally ranked among the top college radio stations. In 2013, RIT's WITR was one of the top ten nominees for College Radio Woodie Award by mtvU, MTV's college channel. Currently, WITR is ranked #27 on the 51 Best College Radio Stations ranking (bestcolleges.com), and #9 in Princeton Review's Most Popular College Radio Stations for 2015 (radiosurvivor.com).
Studio X is WITR's latest addition, and can be found in the main level of the Student Alumni Union on campus. This broadcasting studio opened in March 2015, and now serves as the primary broadcasting studio. On the lower level of the Student Alumni Union, WITR retains an office with a library of music, equipment, and the former broadcasting studio (which is now used primarily for training new DJs).
Kelly is the general manager of WITR (and also my roommate). She has graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview about WITR...
Me: So Kelly, when did you first join WITR and why?
Kelly: I honestly joined somewhat on a whim. A good friend of mine from high school had joined and become a DJ, so I would hang out with her at the station sometimes during her show. After a few weeks of that, I decided I would give DJing a try myself. It was an out-of-character choice for me and definitely pushed the limits of my comfort zone, but it was also empowering. I fell in love very quickly with the energy and people of WITR and have been taking a more and more active role in the station ever since.
Me: What kind of responsibilities and roles do you fill as general manager?
Kelly: As General Manager, I fill a similar role that a President would fill in another club. I more or less oversee everything. WITR has five departments, each with their own director who reports directly to me. My role is to manage these directors as well as our other officers to ensure that the station is both functioning on a daily basis while also progressing in the long-term. Essentially, I steer the organization. I am also responsible for ensuring that WITR is compliant with RIT and FCC regulations.
Me: Recently, I saw that it was College Radio Day. Can you explain what College Radio Day is?
Kelly: College Radio Day is a nation-wide celebration of college radio. Stations across the country participate and host various events to educate and get people excited about college radio. This past week was the 5th Annual National College Radio, so we were outside of the SAU hanging out, broadcasting WITR, giving away stickers and t-shirts, and poorly dancing along the Quarter Mile. Basically, we were trying to give RIT students a little bit of a taste of the fun and craziness that is WITR. This year, College Radio Day also introduced a new 24-Hour Marathon comprised of 24 radio stations from all over the U.S. WITR was selected to participate, so we hosted a special edition of our local music show, Rochester Sessions.
Me: What is the process like to become a DJ? Do you have a DJ name?
Kelly: The process of becoming a DJ takes a few weeks, and we've recently revamped our training process now that we have the capacity to use our downstairs studio as our primary training facility. Students who want to become DJs start off shadowing one of our DJs during his or her show. Then they are each assigned a DJ trainer who works with them for an hour each week to teach them the ins-and-outs of using our equipment and crafting a good show. To become an official DJ, trainees must pass a written exam and also a live one-hour show demo. After some practice in Studio A, DJs can move up to our main broadcast in Studio X.
A DJ name can come about in really any part of this process. I personally had some serious DJ name commitment issues. I DJed for a semester under my own name before I finally chose a DJ name. I go by Kiddie Cup now, which is an inside joke / nickname courtesy of my friend, Caleb. Most of the time, members choose DJ names that are a pop culture reference or some kind of word play with their name.
Me: Kelly, what is your favorite part of being in WITR?
Kelly: There is a certain spirit of college radio that is hard to define, but it's my favorite part of being in WITR. I love the underdog mentality and the sense of potential. It is empowering to be a part of something built from decades of student initiative, ambition, and passion. Most of all, I love that WITR provides a home for students to express themselves and grow as individuals. WITR has been invaluable to my personal growth.
Photo credit: Anna Dining, WITR