After RIT President Bill Destler announced his decision on Wednesday to switch the RIT academic calendar from quarters to semesters, effective Fall 2013, and RITNEWS broke the news on Twitter, “old media” (namely TV reporters) came calling. Ironically, it was another form of “old media”—radio—that proved invaluable.
Rather than holding a news conference, or escorting TV crews one by one up to the seventh floor for one-on-one (and singularly inconvenient) interviews with President Destler, we offered a “media availability” at WITR-FM (89.7), RIT’s student-run radio station, where President Destler would be appearing for his quarterly “Bill Destler Show” later that same day.
Just before 4 p.m.—a little more than an hour before air time—I provided a head’s up to WITR General Manager Ben Isserlis, Program Director Andy Watson and other student managers about the possibility of reporters showing up for the broadcast. “This provides a potential opportunity for good publicity for WITR, too,” I advised them in an e-mail. “So make sure your call letters are prominent in the background in the news booth, on microphone flags, etc.”
The program’s airdate had been set for weeks. Thanks to propitious timing and circumstances, it just happened to fall on the exact day as the Institute Council meeting and planned announcement concerning the academic calendar. Ultimately, WITR hosted its greatest number of listeners ever via online streaming (even more than for hockey play-by-play broadcasts), along with countless listeners to its traditional broadcast signal covering Henrietta and surrounding communities. Live callers were candid—as was President Destler in his responses—and both Arun Blatchley and Taylor Osmonson did great jobs on their exclusive interview, conducted in the limelight.
During the show, WITR Chief Engineer Justin Morse remarked to me and Greg Keyzer-André that the scene outside the station’s main studio, in the basement of the SAU, must resemble one from the 1930s, when listeners would huddle around a single radio speaker and hang on every word. Indeed, it probably was kind of like listening to one of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” (except this president was “WWD,” the Fireside Lounge was one floor up and, well, truth be told, less was at stake than freedom and democracy).
All in all, I thought TV coverage—much of it recorded at WITR’s studios—was excellent. Reporters, treating the story fairly, evenly presented both sides of the debate concerning the switch to semesters. And, for WITR, the positive publicity was a homerun.
Old media, it seems, still has a pulse after all.
Hear The Bill Destler Show (aired Feb. 10, 2010, on WITR-FM)
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