“The X” Marks the Spot. New Student AM Radio Station.

The School of Communications has a new AM Radio Station! WLSX or “The X” is a student-run educational radio station that will allow students to get comfortable behind the mic and learn the mechanics that go into running a station. Students have had access to the student-run radio station – WCKS – The Whale and will now use WLSX as their “lab,” where they will work on their radio personalities and gain on-air confidence in the radio course.

We got a chance to sit down with Dr. Len O’Kelly, Associate Director in the School of Communications and faculty advisor for both student radio stations to find out more information about the new station and get some tips on the broadcasting field.

A quote in the Lanthorn article mentioned that students would have “material to go work in broadcasting” after having experience working in a lab setting such as the WLSX station. Can you give us examples of what this end material would include?
The final project in the class has students apply to me for a job. Their “package” includes a cover letter, resume, and a demo reel. The reel is an edited sample of the work that they did throughout the semester. This package is identical to what an air personality seeking work would submit to an employer. Over the years, we have had students complete the class and send the contents of their final package out to employers – and find work. I’m quite proud of that.

What are some of the things learned in the classroom that students will now have a chance to get hands-on practice with because of WLSX?
I like to tell the students that it’s not enough to simply know how a radio station works – you have to do the work for it to really click. I see the on-air component as a supplement to the classroom work. Likewise, while I can teach the skills needed to operate the station, I can’t teach personality and confidence. That only comes through time over the course of a semester and beyond.

What classes within the program do you begin working in the Radio Station?
Students in CMJ 265 Introduction to Radio do their “lab work” on the station. Students are expected to work on the air for two hours a week outside of class time as an ongoing regular class assignment.

What advice would you give to students interested in broadcasting but are uncertain if it’s the major for them?
I’d say to give it a try. When I started in college I was convinced I would remain my first choice – a pre-medical major. I took the radio course as an undergrad because it was something that I was always curious about/fascinated with. Something clicked immediately for me. I discovered my voice, and I felt comfortable as a communicator. Had I not tried it, I may have never discovered a talent that took me around the world – literally – in a 25-year career.

When will the radio station be available online?
Hopefully very soon! We are working with GVSU IT to make the necessary connections to get the audio signal onto an easy to access stream. I am hopeful that we will see this done within the next couple of weeks. Until then, it’s analog listening on 900 AM on campus. Subscribe now to ensure your the first to hear the station once its available online!

The opening of WLSX has garnered a lot of attention on and off GVSU’s campus. WLNS News, WOOD TV, The Lanthorn, The Holland Sentential, and GVNext have all covered the opening of the Radio Station, and are ready to tune in!

Follow WLSX – “The X” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates!

Dr. Len O’Kelly wins CMA Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award

Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award

Dr. Len O’Kelly, a GVSU Multimedia Journalism professor, was recognized in August of 2020 with the College Media Association (CMA) Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award. 

The CMA Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award recognizes excellence in media advising among advisers with more than five years of experience on the job. The award is divided into categories. The 4-Year Broadcast Award means that O’Kelly is a broadcast adviser at a school with 4-year degrees. There are also 2-year categories, as well as categories for print, multimedia, and yearbook. 

O’Kelly was nominated by Bob Stoll, who up until this past August, was the director of student life and chair of the GVSU Media Advisory Board. Stoll also appointed O’Kelly, adviser of WCKS Radio, in 2010.

Once nominated, letters of support are needed from students. O’Kelly received letters from GVSU graduates Alaina Taylor and Rachel Syrba, previous WCKS Radio managers. 

“They shared their letters with me after they sent them, and they were touching,” O’Kelly said. “Phil Tower, who is the operations manager of WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, and who has served as an industry liaison to the GVSU Media Board, also wrote a strong letter of support.”

Upon finding out he was nominated, he was asked for his advising philosophy in a document. O’Kelly submitted that and then waited to find out if he had won the award.

The award has meant a lot to O’Kelly. He indicated in his statement that the only reason he went back to school and finished his degree was to become a college radio adviser. 

“I figured no one would hire a dropout, so that was my motivation to get back to school and finish,” O’Kelly said. “College radio made my career, and it is very important to me. This award serves as a nice reminder that what I am doing is hopefully making a difference in a student’s life. I’d like to think that they’ll leave GVSU and look fondly on their time in radio just as much as I do mine.”

 The broadcast category award has only been awarded 16 times in the last 30 years, and no one from GVSU has ever won it. 

In standard years, there would be a ceremony at the Fall National Media Convention. This year’s CMA convention was a virtual event, and the ceremony was a presentation done by video due to COVID-19. 

“I’ve worked in radio for 33 years now, with time spent at some legendary radio stations,” O’Kelly said. “The station that I am most proud to be a part of, though, is our student station. I have learned so much from the students who have worked here over the last ten years, and hope that they’ve picked up a few things as well. I’m glad I went back to school.”

National Radio Hall of Fame Inductee Discusses Five-Decade Broadcast Career

John Records Landecker discusses his book with Assistant Professor Len O’Kelly in the Pere Marquette River Room on February 8. (Photo: Eric Harvey)

For a time in the 1970s, John Records Landecker was among the most listened-to voices in the country. As the nighttime DJ for Chicago radio station WLS, Landecker’s voice was broadcast over a 50,000-watt clear channel signal to millions across the country.

Landecker was 25 years old, and his career was just getting started. WLS was one of the premiere Top 40 stations in the country during Landecker’s tenure, and he was named “Radio Personality of the Year” by Billboard magazine three times during the 1970s.

Landecker was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November 2017.

On Thursday afternoon, Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Len O’Kelly, himself a veteran radio broadcaster, brought Landecker to Grand Valley’s Allendale campus to discuss his career.

Landecker, who attended what was then called Grand Valley State College in the 1960s, chatted energetically with O’Kelly and read excerpts from his recently re-issued autobiography Records is Truly My Middle Name

Reflecting the book’s title, Landecker explained the frequent confusion about “Records,” which, he asserted, is not a nickname, but a family name that his parents gave him as a middle name.

While attending Grand Valley in the 1960s, he recalled, he noted that all of the on-air personalities on Chicago radio had nicknames.

“Hey look! My middle name’s Records! I’ll use that!”, Landecker laughed.

Landecker related other stories from his book, including a prank that he and his Grand Valley friends pulled in which they picked up and moved a VW Beetle into a neighbor’s living room under cover of night, and a late 1970’s publicity appearance with Welcome Back, Kotter‘s John Travolta at a mall in suburban Chicago that he described as “bedlam” when 30,000 screaming fans mobbed the television star.

Landecker never graduated from Grand Valley, which O’Kelly noted during the talk. Immediately after this revelation, however, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Frederick Antczak appeared to present Landecker with a Bachelor of Science diploma from the University.

“You are now a college graduate,” O’Kelly proclaimed. “A 2017 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame and a member of the Grand Valley State University class of 2017.”

CLAS Dean Frederick Antczak presents Landecker with his GVSU diploma. (Photo: Eric Harvey)

Listen to an interview with Landecker about his Hall of Fame induction and his daughter Amy’s work on the award-winning Amazon series Transparenthere.

GV students win student media awards for TV, radio

GVSU students won several awards at the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Student Media Awards.  This year, student radio and television both were recognized with awards for news programs for the first time in their histories.

TV awards:

Hard news – Honorable Mention: “GVSU Walkout Protest” – Blair Thompson, Regan Blissett, Kyle Bindas, Montez Fennick

News feature – 2nd place: “Greek Philanthropy” – Jeana Gondek and Kyle Bindas

PSA – 1st Place – “Flint Water Crisis” – Olivia Smith

Radio Awards:

On-air personality or team – 2nd Place – The Shady Bunch – Patrick Mast, Logan Church, Maitlynn Mossolle, Cierra Prosser

Daily newscast/news feature – Honorable Mention – “Questioning Student Initiatives at the White House” – Meghan McBrady, A.J. Bedard

Sports Play-By-Play – 1st Place – Paul  McPherson, Nate Dreyer, Jacob Farah (This is the 3rd year in a row that GVSU is best in state in sports play-by-play)


SoC faculty and student visit White House in honor of College Radio Day

Len O’Kelly and Meghan McBrady pose during their visit to the White House on Oct. 27.  

Assistant Professor Len O’Kelly and Senior Journalism Student Meghan McBrady were invited to the White House on Oct. 27 in connection with College Radio Day.

The sixth annual College Radio Day occurs this year on Friday, Nov. 4 . The day is a celebration of the medium of college radio and hundreds of stations from around the world will come together to discuss its importance.  Colleges play simulcasts about the impact of college radio and encourage students at their school to tune in.

The value of college radio, O’Kelly said is its ability to be creative and try new things.  Many popular bands such as Coldplay and the Lumineers were discovered because their college radio stations started playing their music.

“College radio specifically is important because corporate media has really taken out a lot of that creativity,” O’Kelly said. “You get to do whatever you want.  College radio is one of the last mediums we have where you can still do that.”

O’Kelly is one of the founding members of College Radio Day as well as the voice of many of the simulcasts.  In honor of College Radio Day 10 colleges were invited to bring students to the White House.  Those in attendance at the White House for college radio day received a letter in support of their efforts.

“The administration wanted to convey both through the letter and through the press secretary that they understand what we’re doing is important: training the next generation of media professionals,” O’Kelly said.

During the tour the students heard a series of briefings by members of the administration including the secretary of education, an adviser on climate and transportation, and the press secretary.  The students were able to ask questions of the officials about issues relevant to college students.

“It was interesting to see students even over the course of the day, learn how the game is played,” O’Kelly said.  “By the end of it the students were understanding that it’s a more formal give and take.

“They were even learning how to phrase questions to get the answers that they wanted, because when you’re dealing with a government source you’re going to get a very calculated answer. It was an excellent opportunity to learn and become a better reporter.”

McBrady said she learned a lot of the experience and found the real world experience to be very valuable.

“Being able to be in (Washington) D.C. and be in the White House was amazing,” McBrady said.  “This was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.  To be able to be myself and be both a journalist and a student and to raise the questions that I have and that other students have was wonderful. This was a real interview and real experience.”

As news director at the Whale McBrady said she is always trying to be representative of the student population and that she worked to ask officials at the White House questions that were relevant to the Whale’s audience.

While asking questions of the press secretary, McBrady asked a question regarding the importance we place study abroad in our college education and the lack of government funding behind it.  The press secretary did not have an answer and will be getting in touch with McBrady in the future to give a follow-up answer.

O’Kelly said one of the things that make the radio station at GVSU important is that they work to talk about issues that matter to students at GVSU, like the question that McBrady asked.

“The way the Whale is programmed, we run counter to the way that a lot of college radio stations do in that we let the students kind of play whatever they want,” O’Kelly said. “If students want to hear Katy Perry and the Eagles then we should probably give them that.  (The station is) students doing the presenting, they’re talking about things students care about, it’s campus focused.  That’s its value.”