Turning the radio back on - Editorial

May 1, 2003

It's been a long time coming, but the students of Johns Hopkins have returned to the (virtual) airwaves. For years, radio at Hopkins, when it existed, was a weak effort compared to the radio stations of other schools. Once a vibrant part of Baltimore's FM radio spectrum, our student radio station was gradually stolen from students and transformed into a National Public Radio affiliate because the administration believed that too much money was being spent on making students making their voice heard.

Following the death of the student-run WJHU-FM, WHSR-AM was born. A carrier-current station, WHSR had poor sound quality, especially for the community members who did not live in the few buildings where it was available. The final indignity came in 2001, when Johns Hopkins sold WJHU to new owners, who renamed it WYPR.

Given this discouraging history, it is nonetheless heartening to hear high-quality streaming audio from the new WJHU. Aside from the fact that it's nice to see those call letters back, the new Internet-only station signals the creation of another outlet of student creativity. We look forward to working with the fledgling station, because we feel that students need as many outlets as possible for expression.

That being said, while Internet radio is a good start, it is just a start. WJHU plays emo, indie, punk and Bhangra -- genres nowhere to be found on Baltimore's radio dial. WJHU's leadership rightly believes that the end goal of the station is to create an FM station to serve the area. We realize that spectrum space is scarce, and things like transmitters, licenses and equipment are very expensive, but just because the goal of broadcasting is far off doesn't mean that the administration shouldn't see the current excitement around the station and give up now.

It would truly be a new era when General Counsel works with WJHU to get a broadcast license and the office of Alumni and Development works with DJs of decades past to raise money for equipment and maintenance. Operating a radio station is capital intensive and requires tiptoeing through a legal minefield -- certainly not a job for students working part time.

The rebirth of WJHU is a chance for the administration to show that it cares about undergraduates and is committed to creating the kind of student life opportunities that are available elsewhere.

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