Career Feature: Don’t Touch that Dial!
On the hottest day in July of 2012, the new General Manager of the University of Virginia’s radio station, Nathan Moore, found himself standing on top of a mountain using his iPhone to keep the radio station’s signal on the air.
“I forgot to turn on my call forwarding,” Nathan remembers. “Every time I’d get a call, the music would fade out and you’d have to listen to my ringtone for about half a minute.”
Surprisingly, Nathan says this isn’t terribly out-of-the-ordinary at his job, where a “typical” day can be anything from reviewing the station’s budget with University of Virginia (UVa) leadership to hosting a public affairs talk show to soldering wires on equipment when it acts up. In Nathan’s two years in the position and 14 years in public radio, he’s learned that anything can happen.
The University’s radio station, WTJU, has been operating as a non-commercial educational radio station since 1957 and is completely funded by donations and grants. The station’s team consists of approximately 130 volunteer DJs, all of whom are either UVa students or community members (some of whom have been at it for nearly 40 years!), plus four full-time staff. With these volunteers, WTJU produces 168 hours a week of programming. (For you mathematicians out there, that’s 24 hours a day, seven days of the week!)
Nathan first fell in love with radio when he was 16 and saw Christian Slater take over the airwaves from his basement in the classic pirate-radio movie, “Pump Up the Volume.” The first week of his freshman year at West Virginia University, he walked into the college radio station offices and volunteered. His first on-air gig was as a DJ on Tuesday mornings from 3:00 – 6:00 a.m. Exhausted but enthusiastic, he recalls that he became really good at sleeping on benches around campus after his 10:30 a.m. class. His second year of college, he hosted a rock show, co-hosted a talk show, and became the radio news director – and when he went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Nathan produced a one-hour weekly show with a community host.
Nathan received his undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Sociology, and his Master’s degree in Anthropology. He never studied radio – everything he knows about radio he learned on the job. He says the qualities that can make a successful radio person aren’t necessarily academic qualifications, but rather the ability to think critically and observe, the desire to tell stories about our world, and – perhaps most importantly – curiosity. “Be curious. Give yourself space for that,” Nathan says. “Curiosity is a great qualification.”
If you were on the radio, what would you want to talk about? What would you play? Share your thoughts below!