UNA puts radio station project on hold

Xavier Wherry (left) and Avery King work on their podcast about the University of Alabama vs. University of Tennessee game in the radio production room in the communications building. The communications department planned for a summer launch of WLNP “Lion Pride Radio,” but university officials put the project on hold when former chair Gregory Pitts left UNA to pursue a position at Middle Tennessee State University.

by Staff Writer John Ed Dearman

Previous launch plans for UNA’s radio station left with former communications department chair Gregory Pitts.

UNA’s radio station, WLNP “Lion Pride Radio” is on hold, said Jason Flynn, interim chair of the communications department.

“The project has been in limbo not necessarily because of Dr. Pitts’ departure, but he was the one who initiated it and really wanted to see it happen,” he said.

Before Pitts left, he planned for a late-July on-air launch.

“Dr. Pitts was really the push behind the project,” said Jeanne Baughman, communications department administrative assistant. “Ever since he left, there has been so much uncertainty of what the next step is to getting the radio station on the air.”

Senior broadcast journalism major Rabun Wright said she planned to work in the station as a practicum requirement for her major.

“I was really excited about (the possibility),” Wright said. “In radio, employers want to hire someone with experience. It would be great for UNA to have that so students don’t have to go out seeking an internship.”

The only way the radio station would run at this point is for someone to step up and have 100 percent dedication to running it, Flynn said.

“This radio station project is like a big beast, and there’s not really anybody there to control it,” he said. “Running it is like a full-time job. We would need a minimum of four people to be at the station all the time to run programs.”

Flynn said getting the funds to run it is also an obstacle. Launching the station without a clear plan or leader could cause problems.

“It’s a hard thing to justify spending money on when there is no real plan and no clear person to run it,” he said. “We could launch it, and it could completely fail. Then what do you do? We’ve put all this money in for nothing.”

Assistant Communications Professor Patricia Sanders said she supports getting the station on air.

“I would love to see this university have a successful radio station,” she said. “Whatever role I can play to get that established here, I am more than willing to do it.”

She said there is only a certain amount of time to get the radio station on the air. The university must get the radio station on air by January 2017.

The university has about 18 months to get it up and running, she said.

The communications department held an interest meeting about the radio station at the beginning of this semester, Flynn said. Many students attended, but he said it is important they are truly committed to the station.

“Just because people say they are going to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean they are,” he said.

Baughman said there is a lot of commitment required for running a radio station.

“We have to have someone running it seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Baughman said. “If you just have someone work for half that time, then you’ll just end up with dead air.”

Flynn said the department could focus on other aspects of radio, such as podcasting, for the time being.

“There are so many other ways to do the same thing, but maybe make it more efficient,” he said.

Radio major and senior Elliott Turner said he and many other radio students are disappointed that the communications department put the station on hold.

“(A radio station) is such a great way to get experience, a good way to put your foot in the door and have something before you go in for your internship,” Turner said. “It’s something extra to have there when you go in to apply for a job.”

Senior Jamese Patrick said she wished UNA had a radio station.

“I don’t really listen to the radio that much, but if UNA had a radio station, I probably would tune into it every once in a while,” she said.

Freshman Dylan Rose said he would listen to UNA’s station in the future if it played good music.

“I would probably even have it set so that the radio station that plays when my alarm clock goes off in the morning.”