by Teagan Hughes
art by Amelia Connelly
[originally published March 25, 2022]
WOBC’s spring semester programming began at 8 A.M. on Monday, March 14th. Staff anticipate that the semester ahead will look the closest to “normal” that any semester has since spring 2020, hopefully bolstering and perpetuating WOBC institutional memory, much of which has been in jeopardy due to the station’s limited operations these past two years. (For more on institutional memory, check out Staff Writer Anna Holshouser-Belden’s article on institutional memory in this same issue.) The COVID-19 pandemic has instigated a number of changes at WOBC that seem here to stay--a new website and remote broadcasting capability, to name a couple. However, it has also required many beloved station traditions and essential operations to go on hold, and WOBC board, staff, and DJs are now looking into which of these traditions and operations can be revitalized.
WOBC received more applications to host a radio show this semester than any semester since spring 2020, an influx that Station Engineer Katie Frevert attributes to the reunification of the entire student body that occurred this past fall after three semesters at limited capacity. “I think one of the biggest reasons we've been able to bounce back in terms of numbers is that we finally have the whole student body on campus again,” she says. “[T]his was the case last semester too, but I feel like the fall ended up being an adjustment period, since first- and second-year students had never been on campus during a ‘normal’ year for WOBC/the world, and many of them weren't as familiar with WOBC as an organization.”
Facilitating the transmission of both new and returning shows this semester is WOBC’s new website, designed by longtime community DJ Dennis Cook in collaboration with the WOBC board. In addition to managing the transitions between in-person shows and the handful of remote shows currently broadcasting, the new website also stores a variety of backup shows that can be broadcast if a DJ misses their assigned time slot. “As the station engineer, I'm super grateful to Dennis Cook for his work on the new WOBC website, particularly the feature that allows for prerecorded shows to play automatically in unscheduled time slots or when there isn't a DJ in the station,” Frevert says. “Before, if a DJ didn't show up to their show and didn't get a substitute in time, we'd end up broadcasting dead air and I'd have to run up to the tech room of the station to turn off the transmitter and prevent us from getting fined by the FCC. Now we have the backup sub shows as a safeguard in place to keep the transmitter on and to keep content broadcasting on WOBC 24/7.”
With dozens of DJs occupying a packed broadcasting schedule, WOBC staff are aiming this semester to revive a number of pre-COVID traditions and operations, all of which will hopefully bolster the sense of community around the station. “The main thing we are looking to bring back and ‘revamp’ are workgroups,” Music Director Emma DeRogatis-Frilingos says. Workgroups at WOBC organize and evaluate the music that gets sent to the station, among other essential operations, and membership in a workgroup is a requirement (and a perk!) of having a WOBC show. “Workgroups are an essential part of WOBC that have kind of been pushed to the side since the pandemic started,” DeRogatis-Frilingos says. “This is at no fault to the staff or DJs, but purely due to the uncertainties that come with COVID.”
Staff are also looking forward to revitalizing semesterly community-building events such as the Coverband Showcase. Frevert points out that this past fall semester brought the first indoor, in-person Coverband Showcase since the pre-COVID days, and says she is excited for the next: “Although I'm glad it stayed up and running throughout the pandemic--entirely virtual in fall 2020, socially distanced in Wilder Bowl in spring 2021, and out on the Tappan Square bandstand in summer 2021--there's no way to replicate the energy of having Coverband Showcase late in the evening at the 'Sco, and it was so exciting to be able to bring that particular tradition back, and I'm looking forward to helping run it again this semester.” DeRogatis-Frilingos says that the staff is also in talks about “bringing back some of the more lowkey traditions” like the WOBC Pool Party.
Overall, WOBC staff are hoping that this semester of broadcasting will foster a deeper sense of community that goes beyond any singular event, opportunity, or obligation. “We also just want to have our staff and DJs feel comfortable being in the station and have that sense of belonging,” DeRogatis-Frilingos says. “I am encouraging staff to make the admin room their own space to do homework and hangout, and it is definitely beginning to feel more like pre-COVID.” Frevert emphasizes the opportunities for connection that this semester has already brought: “We have community members who are back in the station in person for the first time since the pandemic, and it's been great to meet everyone. Part of why I'm so passionate about WOBC is because radio has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people in the Oberlin community, and being able to interact in person again makes me feel like I'm starting off my final semester at WOBC on a good note.”
Between a roster of both new and returning DJs, a new website, and the anticipated revamp of the station’s community-building practices, the upcoming semester at WOBC is shaping up to be a mishmash of new and old, constantly adapting to new capabilities and restrictions all while strengthening community within the station. Though the body of institutional memory associated with WOBC has long been in jeopardy, the spring semester is already providing invaluable opportunities to revive that institutional memory and pass it down to a new generation of DJs.