Student Guide 2010: Tune in to CU’s student radio station

Elizabeth Miller | Boulder Weekly

Turning the dial to Radio 1190 is like opening a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump would say. You never know what you’re going to get.

OK, so if you checked the online program calendar for 1190, you’d know what you’re getting. But it’s much more fun to just tune to the station on your AM radio or your computer or even through the 1190 iPhone app, and listen to the random sampling, from hip hop to heavy metal, from a live concert to a local musician’s latest EP.

Since Radio 1190 began in November 1998, it has been completely student-run. General Manager Mike Flanagan describes it as “an eclectic college format” — a mix of programming selected by student disc jockeys that produces a somethingfor-everybody listening experience.

“We’re all about exposing new and independent music and being relevant and staying focused and being cutting-edge,” Flanagan says. The station plays lots of new music, a lot of local music and a handful of specialty shows.

All the programming is directed by students, Flanagan says. The students who run the station started as volunteers for the “street team” or for work around the office. After volunteering for 10 hours, a student is eligible for training on how to work the board and run a radio show.

“We have a constant overturn, so it really is pretty easy to become a DJ and go on the air, but there is a process,” Flanagan says. He estimated that around 150 students work at the station at any given time, with 75 to 80 of them spending time on air. They have all learned, or are learning, the rules of FCC broadcasting.

“It’s hardly a free-form thing. It’s a real, legitimate radio station,” he says. “The kids who have been here a long time, a lot of what they do is show people how to keep it going and how to make it run right.”

Any time they open the microphone, he says, they’re probably talking to 1,000 to 1,500 people. In a week, they reach about 35,000 people, mostly 18- to 24-year-olds. Learning to talk to that kind of audience can be a confidence-booster, Flanagan says.

“It’s a community commitment in a strange kind of way, because you’re exposing the artists of the community, you’re bringing them and you’re exposing people to something they may not have gotten anywhere else,” Flanagan says.

Working at a radio station also offers the kind of entry-level opportunity that helps launch a career in broadcast or other media. And while radio is changing, Flanagan says, parts of it are going to stay as a cornerstone of communication. He pointed to Hurricane Katrina victims, on their roofs listening to transistor radios after the disaster. There’s a bond, he says, and in all the audio content out there, what makes listening to a radio different from listening to an iPod is the human connection.

Part of learning to do the job, he says, involves just learning what options are out there for music selections.

“There’s so much music out there now, thanks to the Internet — it’s a jungle once you get in here. Everybody always comes to this place thinking they know a lot about music, and they’re just inundated,” he says. “When [people] want to be led through the jungle of all this, they listen to our DJs, who are becoming more and more knowledgeable all the time.”

So instead of a buzzer, set your alarm clock to 1190 AM and wake up to what your peers are spinning.