By Adam Simon, WSPN General Manager, ’19

Well hello there. You’ve found yourself browsing the WSPN blog, and not only that, you’ve found yourself reading MY post on the WSPN blog. Lucky me, and lucky you.

We’re almost two months into the school year — the program has been out for three weeks, going on its fourth. We’ve had some hard times… to mention a few:

  • Black mold infestation right at the start of the year (which took away our nice mood-lighting options…)
  • A mysterious board outage (digital demons)
  • A problematic aux cable
  • A water leak in the station office
  • Computer browser connection problems

Dang, weird to list them all like that — even more stressful that some of them are still on their way to being fully resolved (but on their way, trust me!) Being at the helm of this great beast of a station feels similar to what raising twins might feel like — you turn one way to address one problem, and behind your back another one crops up from nowhere. But within the swirling mayhem, there have also been some great highlights of the year already:

  • The WSPN Block Party which kicked off the year
  • Our new music logging system and digital streaming functions/playlists on Creek
  • Freaking amazing shows, from long-standing community DJS, to returning student DJ veterans, to new DJ visionaries
  • A new autobroadcast system
  • Those lovely new t-shirts
  • A rad team of board members

This past week I was archiving some past program guides that had been lent to me by Godfrey ‘Godfada’ Smith, our longest-standing DJ. I saw some program guides all the way from 1991 to the present, and man, what a trip. At the beginning of some of these program guides, there would be an address from the station manager — as the years went on, these became more infrequent (or more copy-and-pasted). This hadn’t happened in any of my previous years here, so I didn’t know I could do something like that! I am bummed that I didn’t put my word in, but I figure what better place than to take it to our burgeoning blog.

So, here’s a little shpeel about me and about the station and my relation to the station and my hopes and dreams. When I came to college I knew I wanted to get in on the radio — I had always loved digging for music that was new to me and loved the idea of being able to play that for others. On one of my first nights at Skidmore, I saw a freshman wearing a WSPN shirt at an ice-cream social event. I struck up a conversation, and it turned out he had done the WSPN Pre-Orientation program. We ended up co-hosting a show together our first year, and although we’ve moved on and had new shows with ourselves and with others, he is one of my closest friends here.

Every week since that moment, WSPN has been a home for me. Each time my show comes around I am treated to some of my most centering moments. There is nowhere else quite like WSPN — I have seen other college stations and talked to other station managers, and although some are similar, I have never come across one that is as free-flowing and open and fun as the one we have in the basement of Jonsson Tower. You can quite literally do anything except violate FCC rules (which we all know is followed to the T. ha ha, ha , ha  ha). I love that anyone can approach their air time in any way they see fit — whether it’s just sitting back playing your favorite songs, orchestrating a masterfully composed playlist, talking about issues that matter to you, or hosting a friend who has never been on before. There are practically no technical requirements to have a radio show, so we really get the whole gambit here. I’ve spent the last two summers doing radio with younger kids and WSPN was where we’d do our broadcasts; seeing and hearing how 10-year-olds approach the technology of radio is not only a blast (they can do some wacky cool stuff) but I’ve loved seeing how it really isn’t too dissimilar from the way 20-year-olds do the same thing. I think an aux cord, a turntable, and microphone might be the three pieces of technology that have the best luck of bringing together humanity without even trying.

And also I get giddy when I think about all the other ways the station could be used! There is so much more that could happen using this resource! Think about all the programs and podcasts and DJ shows and talk programs and sound art that is / could be / will be aired on the station in the years to come! Truly, the possibilities are endless and exciting.

But, while the free-form energy of the station is what makes WSPN the lovable little space that it is, it also comes with its own handful of difficulties. It’s entirely a community space and a community resource, which means that no one person is directly responsible for how things play out on a minute-to-minute basis (except for me, sorta). There’s no oversight, no Big Brother listening (except for me, sorta). Rather, WSPN is like a child who is raised by the community they find themself in — there are all sorts of varying roles in the care of that child. There are the child’s elders who have kept watch on it for years, there are the child’s coaches who check in as much as possible to make sure all is right, and then there are the child’s good friends who see it every once-in-awhile, have a good time together, and then move on. And, in my eyes, that is fantastic! But it’s also hard. There are times when the child may be more neglected than they should be, and it’s hard to watch. I’ve felt this at times in my years here and I know that community DJs have watched it go down. It’s in those moments when we all have to step up, in whatever ways we can, to keep the child happy and thriving. Maybe it’s working with the board to fix a persistent problem; maybe it’s cleaning up someone’s trash from their lunch; maybe it’s taking the time to write something for the blog, or designing and sharing your own show poster; maybe it’s as simple as just being real and earnest and kind to the DJ after you.

Being the child’s appointed guardian for the year, I’ve been feeling the responsibility, and feeling it hard. I’ve been trying to start with what I see to be most important for the health of the station — I think I’ve been doing alright, but it’s always the case that more could be done (eg, still some emails I gotta send out, and still some FCC files I have to submit). My goal for the year is not only to implement systems that can make the child grow and flourish into its best self, but also to somehow foster a culture of real care for the station. I want people to see the station in the way that I see it, with the same love that I see it with, and with the same immense vision to all the future could have in store — because I, like all the GMs before me, will be moving on at the end of this year. So this change and upkeep is ground-up, and it’s top-down, and it’s side-to-side all at once, and that’s confusing. But it couldn’t be any other way for this station and that’s a beautiful thing.

My other more immediate goal is to make sure that every DJ who is on air now feels like they are at a home that they care for and that cares for them. I want each show they do to be so special and radical that they can’t help but know how lucky they are to be there. I want to do my show and feel like the space has welcomed me with open arms, like a good friend who’s always excited to see you.

If you have any ideas on this, or any reactions to these thoughts, seriously, reach out to me. My email is asimon@skidmore.edu. My show is Monday nights 10pm-12am (shameless plug). My office hours for the Fall semester are Monday 1:30-3:30, Tuesday 11:00-12:30, and Thursday 11:00-12:30. Don’t be a stranger!

Ok, stay blessed. Happy DJing, and thanks for reading.

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