WERS will soon broadcast 90-second news packages produced by journalism students.
Students and faculty brought up concerns last spring regarding the radio station’s shrinking news department. In response, the journalism department and WERS management—particularly Jack Casey, general manager of the station, and Tim Riley, an assistant journalism professor—began discussing possible options for getting more news on air.
Riley says that in the past, the journalism department and WERS worked in tandem to produce a daily 30-minute broadcast. Riley said that this news show was nearly impossible to efficiently broadcast on a regular basis.
“It was hard to have a half hour everyday devoted to it and it was hard to fill, and so we kept failing,” Riley said.
Riley’s plan to bolster the journalism department’s partnership with WERS is to start on a small scale. Instead of daily news shows, Riley’s JR103 Digital Journalist class began producing 90-second pieces that will be broadcast on the station a few times a week in the afternoon.
Riley said that the packages cover both national and local current events, including the presidential race and the controversy surrounding the future of Emerson’s Colonial Theatre. He said they are just adapting the assignments from his class to be fit for air.
Sam Amore, a sophomore journalism major, said that knowing her class assignment can be listened to is exciting.
“The work we’re doing isn’t being filed away into a Dropbox folder,” she said. “It’s going to be heard.”
Riley said that while the students aren’t editing their content for the radio, they are making a few production tweaks. Riley said that rather than working with just microphones for their voiceovers, they will be doing some studio work to improve the audio quality.
Aidan Connelly, WERS news coordinator, said he prefers the packages over reporters reading news copy on air because it gives the department more flexibility over what and when they broadcast.
“It gives new reporters the freedom to explore topics they’re interested in,” Connelly said.
Javier Rodriguez, a sophomore journalism major in Riley’s class, already works as a news director for WEBN. He said that the focus on perfecting audio in his class has helped him prepare video packages.
“Audio is the most important thing,” he said. “If you have bad audio, you’ll have a bad video.”
Riley said that it’s taking longer than he expected to get student packages on the air. He said this is because he is trying to find a system that works best for both his class and the radio station.
“We’re making it up as we go,” Riley said.
Connelly said he is excited about this partnership with the journalism department.
“I think it’s great to see faculty working so closely with us to help students bring themselves to a level where they can have their packages aired on a radio station that a lot of people are going to listen to,” the junior journalism major said.
Connelly said that the time was necessary to develop the reporters, as the majority of them are freshmen. He’s heard some of the packages, and said he’s happy with the results.
Riley said that, as WERS turns their focus to busting ratings, news programming is taking a back seat to music.
Riley said his main concern is that his students get experience from having their packages broadcasted.
“My goal is to see that we have a working pipeline, of student journalism, created here at the journalism department, that find its way to that air on WERS,” Riley said.
Riley said that the packages will begin airing as soon as his students put the finishing touches on their packages, though he said he doesn’t know how long it will take. Next semester, Riley plans to enlist the other JR103 classes to create content as well. He said he wants to create an archive of these packages, so that WERS can air afternoon news pieces even when classes aren’t in session to generate content.
Casey was unavailable for comment for this article, but he wrote in an email statement that he will be meeting with Riley to set a date for the debut of these packages in the near future.
“We are pleased with the students’ first efforts,” Casey wrote, “and I am optimistic that these segments will be well-received by our listeners.”
Assistant News Editor Katherine Burns, who is in Tim Riley’s class, did not edit this article.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that WERS General Manager Jack Casey declined to comment. This is inaccurate, as due to a scheduling conflict, Casey was never interviewed.