In 2014, TEDTalks attract just as many—and oftentimes, more—views as many Top Forty music videos on YouTube. Keeping that in mind, it should come as no surprise that WVKR is developing the Campus Current, Vassar’s sole news and talk show, with equal zeal as they do with their shows dedicated to music.
At 5 p.m. every Tuesday evening, one can tune into WVKR to listen to the Campus Current, Vassar’s sole news program. Rachel Vogel ’13 created the program in 2011 as a biweekly news, arts and culture talk program. Since then, the Campus Current has grown largely in both the number of people involved as well as the amount of material covered. And in 2012, the show became a weekly element of WVKR’s program lineup.
But—perhaps keeping with the apparently impenetrable and often complained about ‘Vassar-bubble’—the Campus Current will not exactly enlighten its audience upon the war in Syria or polarization in Washington. “In past years, it’s been more of a narrative program than just objective news. This year, every week we will try and pick a theme and find stories that fit with that theme or that we think are interesting and relate in some way to Vassar,” Lars Odland ’17, WVKR’s News Director, said. “It’s a news program in that we’re talking about real things—except for the short stories because they’re fiction. So I guess those don’t count as news in any sense.”
Keeping Campus Current’s traditional, narrative format in mind, this year marks a new age for the radio show. Lars Odland ’17, WVKR’s recently elected News Director, will be rejuvenating the Campus Current by adding a slew of fresh voices and innovative programming into the hour-long programming. “The first show we are doing is under the theme, ‘New Beginnings,’ so we have three freshmen doing stories about that,” Odland said. “We also have Jack Conway [‘17] and Matthew [McCardwell ’17] talking about the transition from being roommates last year to now, not being roommates. We are also going to have a little weekly short story section, so if anyone writes a short story and wants to put it on the air, we could do that. The goal is to have weekly things but with varied content.”
“Every single episode of the program will focus on a specific theme. “Themes may be as specific as ‘The Untold Tales of Vassar’ or as broad as ‘Food,’ yet all segments featured on air must relate to Vassar in some way,” said Stephanie Muir ’15, who served as WVKR’s News director from 2012-2013. “I find that more unusual themes result in more interesting and fun shows. The process of finding connections between an obscure concept and Vassar encourages you to explore corners of the College you never otherwise would explore, often shedding a new light on your own Vassar experience. The themes also enable us to find exciting stories or talk to amazing people that otherwise might not be covered.”
While the News directors of WVKR hold traditional ties to Campus Current, this year’s program has drawn in people from many different sects within WVKR and elsewhere. Jack Conway ’17, who serves as a co-music director for the station along with Asprey Liu ‘17, will serve as a major contributing force to Campus Current this year. “I just kind of joined, not because of my affiliation with WVKR, but because I’m truly interested,” he said.
After spending the summer listening to NPR, Conway came back to campus inspired by the high-quality talk-radio shows he enjoyed hearing over his car’s radio. That being said, Conway found a few problems when listening to radio this summer. “One of the things that is really bad about it is the ads. If the DJ says ‘this song is going to be next,’ you have to wait through fifteen minutes of commercials before the song comes on,” said Conway. “So one thing that’s really great about WVKR and one of the reasons why we are always asking for money and not always getting paid is basically because we are 100% commercial free.”
Besides the economic implications of going commercial-free, WVKR’s decision to hold programming without ads means an increase in the quality of their programs. Conway said, “It’s great to listen to a ton of music with our music shows, and it also allows for our talk shows to be literally and actually an hour of talk, instead of an hour of four songs, four commercials, and a little bit of talk. Because of that platform given to us, the ability to have an hour of us really giving whatever we want, a talk show is really perfect for that.”
An hour of ad-free radio means 45 minutes on the chosen topic of the week, plus little vignettes through which individuals are given total creative control over the content. Conway said, “One kid reads a lot of The Onion and wants to do a satire for five minutes. Matthew [McCardwell] wants to do an art five-minutes. I’m personally kind of interested in [short] fiction, so I’m thinking of doing a short-story five-minutes. People can come in and read their stuff.”
This year’s planned programming of the Campus Current truly departs from past years. This lies in the future of each episode: “What’s really [more] exciting about this platform then previous platforms is that, first of all, we will be playing it in a prime-time spot. And then we hope we can record it and put it on SoundCloud or something like that, that would be cool and a great way to improve listenership,” Conway said.