Montclair State’s radio station, 90.3 WMSC-FM, has won the highest honor, Best College Radio Station in the nation, in the annual awards for collegiate broadcasters. The recognition comes during a year in which the coronavirus pandemic forced the station to improvise and find new ways to broadcast its mix of alt-rock, sports and talk.
The station won four awards at the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System National Awards tele-ceremonies on Saturday, March 6: Joshua Tirado, Best Program Director; Kaya Maciak, Best Business Manager; Best Use of Sound Effects; and Best Station at a college with more than 10,000 students.
It was a year ago this month under stay-at-home orders that the station helped students stay connected, remaining on air with DJs “Zooming” in from bedrooms. In the months since, the station has resumed limited live broadcasts for news and sports from its studios in the School of Communication and Media, and music and speciality shows pre-recorded and scheduled for air.
Tirado, a senior Television and Digital Media major and now the WMSC station manager, says the recognition “is a testament to the hard work we put in, even if we’re not physically at the station.”
“Before the pandemic, you would just come in during your slot, sit down, maybe have a script prepared, go with the flow and trust the soundboard,” says Maciak, a junior studying Communication and Media Arts. “But now there’s no soundboard. It’s you and your computer recording and editing. I think we’ve definitely had to put in a lot more energy and strategies into how we want to operate.”
The new innovative ways of doing radio has allowed the station to take video live to its YouTube page and Facebook, says General Manager Anabella Poland, the station’s faculty adviser. Weekend shows are broadcast over Instagram Live and Twitch social media platforms.
The win for sound effects is also the result of another innovation due to COVID-19. Tirado created the show “WMSC Rewind” to feature songs the station charted over the past few years, mixed with sound effects like whooshes and air bursts and compressed his voice. “I took out the low end and the high end so you hear the crunchiness of my voice,” Tirado says. “The idea was to have a disc jockey backspin. I’m proud of it because I searched far and wide for the radio sound effects, and I was able to create some good ones and mix them all together for the project.”
Tirado joined WMSC as a freshman with an interest in news before discovering production and then his voice. “I think in all aspects and all facets of the station, there’s something for everyone,” he says. “It’s just whether you put in that time and effort to create who you are.”
Maciak is currently the program director at WMSC, and will fill the role of station manager in her senior year. “Once I joined the station, I found all the possibilities and opportunities,” she says. In addition to being on air as a host of The Morning Buzz, the work has included public relations, newsletters, event planning, office management and content production.
As faculty adviser and general manager, Poland has helped the students with branding and streamlining their sound to create a pre-professional station that reflects the details that go into operating a broadcasting venture and the strategic initiatives. Their efforts have increased the station’s visibility not only within the local and campus communities, but also beyond, with WMSC content often airing on radio stations worldwide.
The leadership is reflected in the 12 nominations the station received this year, as well as the 10 nominations it received in 2020, and its place on the collegiate broadcasting conference agenda as a virtual presenter.
“These prestigious awards affirm the hard work and standard of excellence achieved by Anabella and her team of student leaders, even through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” says Keith Strudler, director of the School of Communication and Media. “It’s a public recognition of something we’ve known all along in the School of Communication and Media – that WMSC is truly the best college station in the nation.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren
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