In 1978, British band The Buggles famously proclaimed that “Video Killed the Radio Star.” While modern forms of media have since antiquated much of radio’s former glory, Western’s student radio station KUGS 89.3 is proud to be keeping it alive and thriving in the Bellingham community, for 40 years as of this quarter.
“We’re a noncommercial, independent college-run station,” said Specialty Music Director Drake Wilcox.
KUGS’s objective is to build a bridge between campus and the Bellingham community, while promoting campus pluralism, said Program Director Patrick Stickney. While philosophically refraining from playing anything commercial radio would normally play, like top 40 hits, KUGS plays everything from world music, punk, rap and indie, to local and international news.
“Our emphasis is on smaller labels such as 480 Records, Burger Records or Track City Records amongst others,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox and Stickney along with Music Director Nick Thacker, News Director Taylor Saunders and Operations Coordinator Morgan Lanza, work together to make a smooth stream of constant entertainment. The content is first submitted by volunteers who’ve completed the station’s volunteer training and finished their introductory quarter as news readers.
The crew gets together to schedule and edit the programming. After making sure that metal isn’t being played at 6 a.m. and that all content meets the standards of the Federal Communications Commission, the team finalizes the programming package and lets it become the flow that comes out of the radio.
“Whereas with other college broadcasters are part of a specific class, Western is special because we are independent,” said Stickney.
To get involved with KUGS, students with a passion for the radio can stop at the KUGS office on the seventh floor of the Viking Union and fill out a volunteer application, Stickney said. To strengthen their confidence, public speaking skills and ability to be on the air for long periods, volunteers will be first asked to sign up for a news-reading spot where they read the news during hourly slots. After being trained during their first quarter of volunteering, they then progress to a “mock show,” where volunteers record a bit that won’t be aired. They then become member of the general programming section, Music for the Masses.
Music for the Masses DJ’s play music from several genre-specific collections. These collections have accumulated by donations from bands, requests and records labels, and are organized and updated by Thacker and Wilcox. After one quarter with Music for the Masses, volunteers can apply for a specialty show where they can broadcast music of their own choice.
To listen to KUGS, tune in at 89.3 F.M., online at KUGS.org, on Comcast channel number 80 or the smartphone app Tune-In.
“(At KUGS) you feel like you’re a part of something important that has been there for a while,” said Thacker. “It’s a very welcoming environment.”
Editor’s note: Dominic D’Angelo is a part “Borderline,” a bi-monthly international news show at KUGS.