Saturday, September 18, 2004

WEIU-FM, r.i.p.

Here’s the text of a letter to the local paper:

Ten years ago, anyone in our community could tune to WEIU-FM and hear music from the rest of the world. Only listeners who knew WEIU-FM in its glory days can fully appreciate the cultural resource that’s been lost in the shift to “Hit-Mix” programming. It’s grimly ironic that a university whose mission statement claims a commitment to “free inquiry” in “a diverse world” should feature a radio station whose main selling point is that every song is already familiar. Familiar to whom?

When I was a teenager, listening to old blues recordings on Columbia University’s WKCR-FM changed my musical life. Many EIU students have been introduced to and have grown to love classical music and jazz via WEIU-FM. Now jazz has been cut to a mere four hours a week. Classical music, indie rock, and hip-hop have been eliminated altogether. And so the cultural life of our community moves further toward bland homogeneity.

The whole point of college radio is to provide alternatives to the commercial airwaves, not more of the same. The “Hit-Mix” format makes WEIU-FM an embarrassing anomaly in the world of college radio.
WEIU-FM was indeed a local treasure: classical music in the morning, jazz in the afternoon, indie rock and specialty shows on weeknights (world music, country-folk-bluegrass, blues, and hip-hop), free-form shows on weekends. No station in the area (and probably no station in the state of Illinois) provided a comparable range of music. Mi esposa Elaine Fine did the classical programming for many years, and I did a weekly jazz show (and an occasional free-form show) for several years, so to me the end of the real WEIU-FM is a very personal loss.

comments: 1

Jason said...

This is a terrible loss, not only for EIU, but for the Charleston/Mattoon community as well. I remember, fondly, sitting in the studio with a friend while he played DJ in the summer of '99. Later, while I lived further downstate, I would always tune in as I drove into the area while visiting my girlfriend, who lived and taught in Mattoon. The variety of music was exceptional, and this station was something to be especially proud of.