89.1 WBCX Radio Station Management Enhances Opportunities for Student Experience
With plans afoot to expand Brenau University’s undergraduate and graduate programs in mass communication, the day-to-day management of the university’s wide-area, continuously operating radio station 89.1 WBCX now falls under the academic Department of Mass Communication.
Dr. Juli Clay, who became chair of the mass communication department in July, now has responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the year-round, 24/7 operation, including financial administration, personnel management and academic aspects. For the past five years, the university’s Office of Communications & Publications, a non-academic entity, oversaw budget, personnel and other WBCX administrative details.
89.1 WBCX Gainesville, the Voice of Brenau, was created in 1976 and is owned and operated by Brenau University. WBCX is the only FM music station licensed to and located in Gainesville. Unlike many other college radio stations that operate with a lower power signal, its broadcast footprint has about a 35-mile radius, sending strong signals as far south as the North Atlanta suburbs and into the Northeast Georgia mountains. Brenau students and community volunteers have provided programming for the not-for-profit public radio station for 40 years.
Although Clay’s department previously worked with the station as a vehicle for practical experience, she lost little time as the new chair in proposing expansions. Pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Brenau will offer new mass communication undergraduate and graduate degree programs as soon as possible. Having hands-on management authority for the radio station, she says, will help the department provide more learning opportunities for Brenau University students.
“The biggest purpose is to increase the accessibility for our students to gain practical experience,” said Clay. “Our students have always been involved with the station – it started as a student-run station – but keeping it in-house makes it easier for us and more available for our students.”
Jay Andrews, director of broadcasting, said the late Brenau trustee John Jacobs Jr., radio pioneer and founder of Jacobs Media in Gainesville, was instrumental in starting WBCX. As Jacobs reported in his 2009 memoir, Brenau College in 1922 obtained one of the first licenses in the United States issued that year for the new-born radio industry. However, the university lacked funds to keep that first station, WJKAY, operating past 1924. The Brenau station was revived 40 years ago as WBCX.
“John Jacobs Jr. and a bunch of faculty, including former journalism professor Clara Martin, came up with the idea to have a station, a lab on the air, for students,” Andrews said. “Its purpose from the beginning was educational.”
The station, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, had “very humble beginnings,” Andrews said. Its range reached only from the historic campus to the Gainesville square. Currently it is housed in the mass communication department located in the John Jacobs Jr. Business & Mass Communication Building, and has listeners throughout Hall and a dozen more Northeast Georgia counties.
Clay said the change in management of the radio station allows the station to remain a major part of Brenau’s institutional mission. This way, the station is directly tied to academics and student achievement, while still being an external voice for Brenau.
“That’s still a major part of it,” she said. “It’s bridging the gap between the institution and the community, letting the community know about all the wonderful things happening here at Brenau.”
Clay said mass communication students go through at least one practicum rotation with the station. When they graduate, Brenau alumni with mass communication degrees are highly qualified and marketable to enter the radio industry immediately, she said.
None of the programming or personnel at the station will change, according to Clay and Andrews, who called the seamless management transition “a logical switch.”
For more information about WBCX, call the station at 770-538-4744. For a gallery of related images, go to http://photos.brenau.edu/gallery/Mass-Communication/G0000.PhuCmO163g/C0000_jhv3xQEHLo. To download, use the password BrenauPhoto.