Sunday, February 18, 2007

Arts: Getting Lang on the Air

By Courtney Nichols

Once upon a time, a small and lonely extracurricular club at Eugene Lang fought ferociously to be recognized and funded by the school's administration. Their concept and goal was to disseminate the student’s voice to the public in the form of a bi-weekly publication. Not only would it publish news stories, but student profiles would also be a regular component, and problems facing classes and teachers would be acknowledged. The result is the fabulous document you’re now holding in your hands.

That was four years ago. Now the same predicament that faced Inprint is facing another potentially great Lang institution: a radio station. The New Radio Project was originally conceived by senior Amanda Black in 2005. However, due to what Black considers a lack of interest and poor communication, her idea is only now taking shape, in the form of a course intended to create a business plan for the college's own web-based radio station.

"After two years, we just want to see it through so that one day the radio station will not only cater to the entire university, but also to the entire country," Black said.

As a member of the 2-credit class, I have found that my 20 fellow classmates are eager to create a web-based station, but we do not know where to begin. Issues such as space, Web design, audience appeal and technology/education still need to be worked out.

The course is run by media studies professor Sarah Montague, who admits that the process of organizing a new media venture has not been without its challenges. "We need to be a little more coherent on who we, as a class, are," she said.

Another problem is funding. "At the moment we have no money," Montague said. "We are making the case why we should have the money." Though the exact budget estimate has not been released to the class from the administration, the classroom is indeed setting our standards and wishes high. One advantage is that because the station will be internet-based, it will not have to buy or contract for expensive transmitting gear.

Web-based broadcasting also means that the entire world would have access to the station's programming.

Though many members of the class profess to be passionate about the cause and say they have a broad ambition to get some kind of programming up by the end of the 2007 spring semester, no specific timetable has been developed.

Other students bemoan the slow progress. "Although I understand it's hard to get something so substantial off the ground I feel the class is moving at a snail's pace," one student, who declined to give their name, said. "Some people are idle."

Another frequent complaint: students were not given a syllabus or even a general idea of what the class entailed. Instead, each Friday, the students themselves decide the next action that should be taken.

Over the course of the first two weeks of class, giant decisions have been made and The New Radio Project is starting to take shape...but not on paper. No statistics have been written down and no general idea of financial issues has been documented. The students have decided to begin with a Podcast and gradually ascend to a web-based station since the students and Montague agree that the first step is "to address the things we can handle directly."

More parties and campus flyers will undoubtedly draw attention to The New Radio Project. Exact programming is yet to be determined, but it will definitely involve a mix of original compositions from students, news broadcasts and alternative music.

Many at Lang seem willing to listen but few have expressed interest in working on The New Radio Project. So, at this point, the project is in the air. It may never get off the ground, but on the other hand, it's possible that Eugene Lang students will someday rock out to the sounds of their own college radio station. And hey, if we can make NYU jealous, isn’t it all worth it?

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