By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Delta State University has reintroduced its radio station WDSW and new station manager Stephanie Sandlin intends to make it not just a university radio station but a community one.
A native of the Tri-Cities in Washington state, Sandlin is a radio veteran, having been in the industry since first getting involved with her high school radio station in ninth grade.
Her previous position was with Eastern Washington University’s jazz station as assistant program director and blues host and she jumped at the opportunity to lead DSU’s venture.
“With the opportunity being here and having my love for the blues, and I love the South anyway, so I’m like yeah, I’ll take that,” said Sandlin.
Tricia Walker who did the work necessary to acquire all the station’s licensure, launched Delta State University’s radio station.
“The station went on the air in 2015 and they tried valiantly some different models,” Sandlin said. “It was successful in the beginning, but they never really had a full-time manager.”
Rick Munroe, vice president for university advancement and external affairs, made the decision to turn the station into a priority and part of that vision was finally hiring a full-time manager.
Sandlin got the job and presented Munroe with a five-year plan of where she would like to take the station.
For Sandlin, the university had shown great commitment to taking the station to the next level.
“There’s already a campus audience but when I looked at the station, I looked at how it was operating in the community,” Sandlin said. “I said there’s a real opportunity here for growth. I looked at what radio stations are already here, what serves here and what formats aren’t served here and that’s where we’re going with roots, blues and select classic rock format. All those audiences are unserved here in town, with a little bit of alternative mixed in.”
Sandlin has an extensive appreciation for music and over the course of time will be introducing the new flavors on 88.1 FM.
“We’ve kind of niched ourselves out an audience where we feel we can serve our community from anywhere from hearing The Black Crows to some great pickin’ and to combine that out in a way that really speaks to the South, speaks to our region and the culture we are in.”
WDSW is a non-profit station and Sandlin said outreach will help it not just survive but thrive.
“If you’re familiar with NPR or MPB (Mississippi Public Broadcasting), they’re both community supported and listener supported, so we have to do the same model,” Sandlin said. “We’re going to be coming out to the community in the near future and to business leaders and to individuals saying we are community supported radio station, so instead of buying advertising, you underwrite on us.”
Sandlin also had a vision for an academic component that will start with a radio-broadcasting course to begin in Fall 2020.
Tools that will be fine-tuned in the program will cover all aspects of the radio business from announcing, music, production, sales applications and operations.
“The beautiful thing about it is it’s not just radio,” Sandlin said. “There’s podcasting, there’s YouTube, there’s production skills. Just because you don’t go over terrestrial transmitter anymore doesn’t mean the skills are invalid. The skills are actually still there. They’re just being transitioned into either online services or satellite services or things like that.
“Most importantly, what I’m going to teach is the production values so they understand how these organizations are run. How you produce copy. How do you determine what part of a radio station you’re interested in.”
The goal is to get students involved in all aspects of the station’s operation.
The station’s website, WDSW.org, will launch in the future and will include all support mechanisms as well as the station’s online streaming service.
Sandlin is taking the station at a measured pace as all the paperwork is filed and licenses are finalized but envisions WDSW becoming integral to the community.
“I see personally that as I get more and more integrated and get the station stabilized for where I want it to be that we’re going to be working with the municipalities for a 20-mile radius for announcements, for things they have going on,” Sandlin said. “One of the great things I want to work on as an initiative is have the mayors from our communities come in and talk about things that are going on or share events.
“Since the radio station is reintroducing itself, we reintroduce ourselves in a way that is really inclusive with the positiveness of the Delta and that we connect to the community at large.”