History Page 4
WLTI/WJUL/WUML Station History
Today WJUL is “The Alternative” station in the Merrimack Valley. WJUL presents a wide variety of innovative programs both in terms of music and in public affairs. The staff at WJUL realizes that there is a need to reach out to the outside community as well as involve more student participation in the programming and it’s staffing.
Musically, the new Music Director, Chris Porter, a Political Science major, sees WJUL keeping away from the mainstream and staying alternative by attracting more imported and independent labels. Chris sees WJUL experimenting more into the electronic, avant guard musical field. The result Chris states, “WJUL has become a bite more poppy, we will play some songs that are hit potentials before they become hits, depending on what it is and who it is.”
In expanding the musical programming, Chris mentions a new program that started in the spring on 1985. The first program developed by Chris and Bob Weston, features performances of local bands broadcast live over the air on Monday nights. The program, Live From the Fallout Shelter, starts at 10:00 P.M. and runs until
The early days of Live From the Fallout Shelter.
Chris Porter (holding camera, in reflection)
Bob Weston and Jeff Koritch, May 1985
12:00 midnight. For the first hour, the band would be featured as guest disc jockeys. In the second hour, the band would perform live over the air. As Chris explained, the show has been very successful, and he hoped to continue it over the summer. The band could be heard again on Friday at 5:00 P.M. on Oscillations. This show hosted by Pete Rega, former WJUL graduate, plays only local bands on the show. This gives local groups airtime which would be impossible for them on any other commercial station.
The programming for WJUL today has definitely expanded not only in the musical field but in its emphasis towards public affairs programs. The Program Director for WJUL today Kirsten af Klinteberg, a Political Science major, took over the position
in the fall of 1984. Kirsten views WJUL’s programming as becoming more acceptable to the listener. Kirsten quotes, “People can listen to us easier because we have more variety, although we still play the hardcore radically type music.”
When Kirsten first took over as program director, she realized that WJUL needed some reorganization. Therefore, as her first official task she had the Public Inspection File and the transmitter and program logs updated. This was to insure that WJUL was keeping accurate records. There were two reasons for this and both of them involved the F.C.C. The F.C.C. periodically inspected the stations files to check the accuracy of the daily logs. Secondly, and most importantly, was that WJUL needed to have accurate records in order to renew their broadcast license every three years.
Kirsten then hired Chereyl Milliet, and English major, as the new News Director. Kirsten hoped Chereyl would be able to reorganize the news broadcasts.
Kirsten began to explain what types of programs WJUL was offering its listeners. Musically, Spectrum continued to be successful, although Kirsten commented that she might expand Spectrum to include the weekends also. By combining the weekend with the regular Spectrum schedule will create a more cohesive blend for the program. Kirsten hopes to make this change sometime in the fall of 1985.
Other programs include WJUL’s New Album of the Week, which provides assistance to the listener by presenting a preview of the album and letting the listener decide whether the record is worth the purchase. Also, the Old Time Radio Network provides older listeners a look back into the era of radio in the early 40′s and 50′s. This includes music, comedy, and the days of the big bands.
WJUL has expanded its public affairs programs by including in its schedule a three-minute commentary called ‘In the Public Interests.’ The program, which aired during the news attacks, was produced in Washington D.C. and comments on today’s issues both on a national and international scale. This along with the thirty-minute program on Sunday nights at 6:00 P.M. called ‘Consider the Alternatives’ provides the serious listener with enough background to formulate their own opinions on issues facing society today.
Locally WJUL still broadcasts the Sunshine Hour Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 11:00 A.M. and on Sundays, it’s the Heritage Program from 8:00 A.M until 3:00 P.M. Kirsten hopes to put back on the air the Cambodian Show which she feels has a large audience due to the large influx of Cambodian and Laotians into Lowell.
Kirsten also had WJUL subscribe to the National Gay News Network. This fifteen-minute program is fed live over the phone via San Francisco every morning. It provides gays with news and information concerning gay rights, discrimination and general news within the gay community. As an affiliated member, Kirsten has written for the network providing information on gay political issues within Massachusetts. Kirsten broadcasts the Gay News Network as part of her show entitled Gaiwaves.
Kirsten started the show because she realized that there was not a local commercial station, either FM or AM that was broadcasting gay music, activities, or social events. As Kirsten commented that like other groups, gays have their own music, culture, and literature. Gay music, as Kirsten explained, came out of the feminist movement in the early 70′s, “Not totally but it gave it our start. Subsequently there is more gay woman’s than gay men’s music.” Although Kirsten says gay men’s music has been promoted by musicians like Lou Reed and David Bowie. In fact with gays becoming more open about the sexual preference the openness has lead to more gay musical groups coming out into the record industry. Basically Kirsten explained, “Gay music is about a woman falling in love with another woman or a man hating Anita Bryant.”
As for the Administration and student response towards her show, Kirsten says she hasn’t heard anything negative. “Dean King probably doesn’t know or if he does, I haven’t heard anything negative about it. He’s pretty accepting.” As Kirsten explained, she is president of GOALS (Gay Outreach Association of Lowell Students) here at the university, so a gay radio show shouldn’t really present a problem to the Administration. As for the student population and the local community, Kirsten hasn’t received a crank phone call yet, though she quotes that there are, “A few shocked callers who are surprised to learn they made a request on a gay radio show, but again nothing malicious.”
Kirsten feels that there is a need for the show on-campus. “The heterosexual society bombards gays with music, advertisements, etc.,” in addition she adds, “There are no local stations that would run a gay show.” Kirsten sees Gaiwaves providing gays with information on counseling centers and hospitals which could assist gays and non gays on treatment facilities for anyone contracting AIDS, which effects both gays and non gays. Kirsten views the show as the only local program to provide gays with club events and activities which they can join and participate in.
In the sports department headed by Bob Fish, WJUL had broadcast every home football game, every hockey game both home and away and over 65% of the basketball games during the 1984-85 sports season. With the acquisition of the Remote Pickup Unit (RPU) in 1981, WJUL can now broadcast live any event within a ten-mile radius. This eliminates the cost of placing looplines at Cawley Stadium (football), Tully Forum (hockey), and Costelleo Gym (basketball). With the competitiveness of the basketball team and hockey’s move to Division I, the “Chief Voice of U-Lowell Sports” should be heard louder than ever.
Under the newly elected New Director, Cheryl Milliet, WJUL has become more responsive towards broadcasting, on a more regular basis, national and local news, sports, and weather. Cheryl reorganized the news department and started to schedule twice a day WJUL’s News Attack. The News Attack would be broadcasted at 12:00 high noon and again at 5:45 P.M. Monday thru Friday. During the summer, she said the news would be broadcast only at 5:45 P.M. By having the Associated Press and ABC Voice news sources, in addition to Sports Central and the U-Lowell Meteorological Center (24 hours of continuous weather), WJUL provides the campus and community with the latest up-to-date information.
Ironically though, Cheryl also feels that the News Department needs to update its news sources (ABC Voice and AP Newswire) which she feels are biased. She said that during the summer she will be looking into other liberal news sources which the station might consider. Chereyl also wants to produce some local NewsBlimps (local news events with music in the background), similar to the national NewsBlimps.
As for new projects, Cheryl explained that there are some in the trial stage and should be going on the air this summer. For example, on of the projects is a talk show created and hosted by Mara Benetez, a student at Lowell University. The talk show will cover local topics and issues concerning Lowell and the surrounding community. The other project is a mini-phone talk show of local authorities who are experts in a field concerning certain national issues, like nuclear war, the economy, or government.
Cheryl also mentioned that WJUL has become more involved with political activities. For example, WJUL was the only station to broadcast live, in its entirety and free of charge, the Democratic Senatorial Debate (Oct. 1984) from Durgin Hall. This experiment was the idea of Mike Wilkins. WJUL also experimented on campus by broadcasting live a Student Council Meeting. Unfortunately, the Student Council Meeting was not very successful as Cheryl pointed out because simply stated, “It was boring.”
In conclusion, WJUL certainly is progressive both in its music and in public affairs. The future direction of the station would appear to be to expand to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Something which has been done only for the first time during the academic year 1984-1985, as Chris Porter informed me. As Chris mentioned, he is trying to keep WJUL from going off the air during the middle of the day. “It’s only happened two-three times last summer (1984.) Which is very good for a college radio station during the summer, but for WJUL even that is too often.”
How has WLTI/WJUL influenced students towards choosing a career in broadcasting: the so called “success story” of WLTI/WJUL? “Success story” can be looked at through two different perspectives. First, some of the members of the station found careers in the broadcasting field they never dreamed of. And secondly, the experience of being part of WLTI/WJUL.
In interviews with some of the students, most admitted that radio as a career was the farthest thing from their minds, especially in the early 1960′s and 70′s. Most of the people who came down to WLTI/WJUL just thought it was a fun place to hang out. People who did go on to careers in broadcasting, whether it be in front of the mic as a disc jockey, or behind it, as an engineer, usually didn’t make that decision until their senior year. As Pete Rega, General Manager in 1981-82 commented, “They were just talented people who slipped into radio when the opportunity presented itself to them.”
The “success stories” throughout WLTI/WJUL’s history were numerous, but there were two people who represented real success. One was a disc jockey, the other was an engineer. The first individual was well known for his revitalization of sports broadcasting in the late 1970′s. The general public knew him as the “Chief Voice of U-Lowell Sports”; WJUL knew him as Rockin’ Bob McCann. Rockin’ Bob attended U-Lowell in 1976 as an English major and graduated in 1980. While he was with WJUL, he became the station’s first Sports Director. While he was with WJUL in 1980-81, he worked for a station in Lawrence, WCCM 800 AM. While at WCCM, Rockin’ Bob was reading the daily sports and also hosting a long running show at WCCM called “Let’s Talk Sports.” While he was working for WCCM, he was introduced to Curt Gowdy, who hired him to produce Curt’s syndicated sports talk show. This talk show is broadcast over the entire country through the CBS radio network. In 1982 Rockin’ Bob landed a job in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently working as a sports talk show host for the station WGST Atlanta, Georgia.
The other individual almost didn’t join WJUL. When Pete Rega introduced him at the station, he was initially scared off because he never did radio before. But he soon changed his mind when the sports department was desperately seeking help. He was one of the individuals who joined WJUL after the “Infamous Meeting” of the sports broadcasting team. James Oliver joined WJUL in 1980, became its Chief Engineer in 1984, and graduated that same year with a degree in Electrical Engineering. While he was going to school he got jobs working for WLLH and WSSH, both AM stations in Lowell. He also worked for two stations in Boston, WHDH and WCOZ. When he graduated in 1984 his experience at WLLH and WJUL made him a very marketable individual. He accepted a job at WEEI in Boston engineering and producing the New England Patriots home/away football games. He gets to travel, sit, and eat with the owner Billy Sullivan and the members of the Patriots team. As Jim commented on his new job, he enjoys his work, and for good reason. Each game Jim engineered was received by over forty stations in seven states. To which he quoted, “When I worked for WJUL, if we made a mistake, it was alright because there wasn’t a large listening audience. But now everything has to be perfect because your audience is much larger.”
Of course many of the students who graduated did pursue careers in broadcasting, people like Bill O’Neill and Dave Gillis who are disc jockeys for WCAP 98 AM in Lowell, Joanne Doody, who DJ’s for WFNX 101.7 FM, and Nancy Quill, also a DJ for WMJX Magic 106.7 FM. Pretty impressive considering that the University of Lowell does not have a Communications major nor does it offer any courses related to the field of broadcasting.
With the merger of Lowell Tech and Lowell State in 1975, WJUL began to shake its image as a club that only technical people with an engineering background could join. Today, in 1985, WJUL has a mixture of both technical and liberal art students. For example, the Program Director, Kirsten af Klinteberg (Political Science), and News Director Cheryl Milliet (English Major), are all liberal art students. It shows that WJUL has progressed in its need to reach out and attract students from all majors. That is why WJUL was able to broadcast twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week during the 1984-85 academic year. According to Chris Porter, WJUL had over sixty people participating with the station. Both accomplishments were something WLTI/WJUL has never been able to do in its thirty-two year history.
Of course there are still many alumni members who continue to come back to WJUL just because they fell in love with the place and still either enjoy broadcasting or engineering. The “grandfather” of WJUL today, Tony Janeczek, known at the station as Tony J., started with the station in 1972 when it was Lowell Tech and the call letters were known as WLTI. He graduated in 1976 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Tony J. has put a lot of hard work and desire into WLTI/WJUL, making it the kind of station that it is today. It is work that other students don’t see. In fact, the only other recorded history of WLTI/WJUL prior to this report was a twenty-minute tape which Tony J. produced on October 31, 1976 just a few days before the station changed the call letters to WJUL. Tony’s dedication towards preserving the history of WLTI/WJUL represents a true love for what has been accomplished by him and others who in various ways, shapes, or forms helped build WJUL.
Other alumni include Dave O’Leary, who also started with the station when it was known as WLTI in 1973 and finally graduated in 1980 with a Management degree. Dave is still seen regularly at WJUL, engineering shows and doing remotes of anything and everything. Tommy Hood who started with WJUL in 1975, graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree in 1979, and is still doing his show entitled “Strictly Acoustics,” which can be heard on Sunday night at 10:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M. Pete Rega, who joined the station in 1979, graduated with an Industrial Technology degree in 1982, also has a show called “Oscillations,” a show dedicated to local music, which can be heard every Friday from 5:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Many alumni can be heard or seen down at WJUL.
Graduated Students still participate because they haven’t lost the desire to stop coming down to WJUL. But even if they do stop, they realize that somebody else will just step in and replace them.
WJUL can be proud of what it has accomplished in its first thirty-two years. Its history was made through the efforts of countless individuals who sacrificed summers, time, and even grades to produce a station which, in the words of James Oliver, “has the best technical equipment of any station north of Boston.” That exemplifies the character each student put into the station, something the University of Lowell, its student body, and community can be proud of. Let’s hope WJUL continues to Rock ‘n’ Roll. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.