WGTB, the radio station on campus, creates an unparalleled platform for students to broadcast their own musical tastes for the entire world to hear. Student radio hosts center their identities and celebrate their different interests for their intimate, devoted audiences.
WGTB is a student-run radio station with around 125 members who each have the opportunity to run their own two-hour show. Broadcasting from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., shows represent a wide range of diverse backgrounds and interests that provide an unfettered platform for their hosts to share their musical identities over the airwaves.
WGTB launched in 1946 and had its own transmission until the 1970s. Georgetown University President Fr. Timothy S. Healy, S.J., disapproved of the left-wing politics being broadcasted and subsequently associated with Georgetown from WGTB radio shows. In 1979, following vocal commentary supporting the women’s liberation movement and opposing the Vietnam War, Healy and the university sold the station to the University of the District of Columbia for $1. After the sale, the radio struggled to broadcast through direct on-campus radio link and a small AM station, finally switching to an online broadcast in 2001, according to WGTB’s website.
Now, the shows have a broad range of premises that cover everything from niche genres to highlighting student music, making each show distinct from one another and highlighting individual hosts even if genres overlap, according to Julia Yaeger (COL ’21), the general manager of WGTB. (Full disclosure: Yaeger formerly served as a deputy editor for The Guide.)
“We try to pick people who have a really clear vision in mind, and that doesn’t necessarily include genre,” Yaeger said in an interview with The Hoya. “It leans towards alternative like rock and rap because it’s the genre people listen to the most. There are shows that play just house music, indie and Georgetown music and artists of color.”
Even though shows now have more freedom to broadcast what is important to each radio host, shows have a smaller listener base given the online-only transmission format, according to Yaeger.
“The most [listeners] we’ve ever had at one time since we’ve been on the server we’re on now, which hasn’t been that long, is probably 246 at one time.”
However, the smaller viewership also allows hosts to individually cater their shows to the people that do regularly tune in for the show’s two-hour block, according to Yaeger.
“One of my cohosts’ mom listens every week so we also do traffic reports for her,” Yaeger said. “I love getting in the studio and getting to talk and having people call in and getting to talk to my high school friends who are listening.”
The shared time in the studio for a two-hour block can also become a space of relaxation and release for radio hosts, according to Angela Newman (COL ’20), who hosts “ya love to hear it” with her friend Emma Berk (COL ’20).
“We both talk about how our show is the best part of our week. It’s a great way to step back from whatever chaos the semester brings and just enjoy each other’s company listening to our favorite music,” Newman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We have a great time curating the playlist each week, and we love learning about different music tastes from our occasional guests.”
The community that radio shows foster is not limited to only individual hosts and their shows, according to Newman.
“The people who do radio are extremely welcoming and mellow; it’s a great juxtaposition to the stress culture that this campus carries,” Newman wrote.
Likewise, WGTB represents a larger community of creative people who love music and want to share it with those close to them, according to Yaeger.
“It’s such a cool thing. Like it’s a big club, but getting to know all these people who really care about music, art or politics or whatever they want to do their show about, kind of seeing how distinct every single show is is really a microcosm of what is going on in Georgetown, and it’s really great to see that on this scale,” Yaeger said.