“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.”

Multimedia Journalism Students Cover Kasich Campus Visit

When Republican presidential candidate John Kasich visited the GVSU Allendale campus on February 15, the national media including the Wall Street Journal were in the Kirkhof Center to cover the town hall meeting.

So were students from the Multimedia Journalism program and their associated print and broadcast media outlets.

The student television station, GVTV, teamed up with the Lanthorn, the student newspaper, to provide live coverage.

The station extended its daily televised newscast to cover the event.  Student news

Multimedia Journalism students discussed Kasich's visit before and after his town hall appearance on campus.
Multimedia Journalism students discussed Kasich’s visit before and after his town hall appearance on campus.

anchors Kelly Collins (senior), Meghan McBrady (junior), and Regan Blissett (sophomore) were joined by Audra Gamble (senior), editor-in-chief of the Lanthorn to discuss the overall race and Kasich’s platform.

The technical challenges of the broadcast involved getting the picture and sound from the Grand River Room down to the television station and then out over the GVTV web stream. This was solved by GVTV technical director David Corbat (senior) and Preston Donakowski (senior), who handled the in-studio logistics to get the broadcast on the air.

Students learned a very important lesson: nothing goes as planned in live news coverage. Weather conditions forced Kasich to arrive about twenty minutes later than scheduled, which led to the on-camera hosts having to fill extra time.

“Given the situation, the students did a fantastic job,” said Len O’Kelly, faculty adviser for GVTV.  “Live television never goes smoothly.  One of the news outlets in town lost their feed completely during the event.  It’s crucial for video journalists and technicians to respond calmly under pressure, and our students did exactly that.  This was a great dress rehearsal for what they will see in their careers.”

There are currently 172 students enrolled in the School of Communications Multimedia Journalism combined program, which absorbed students from Journalism and Broadcasting in the fall of 2015.

Edith Chapin, Vice President at CNN, Speaks to Broadcasting Students

Through the magic of Skype, CNN’s Deputy Bureau chief, spoke to students in Prof. Keith Oppenheim’s Broadcast Seminar on Wednesday, March 21st.   Chapin was Oppenheim’s bureau chief at CNN Chicago, and now helps manage a staff of 380 in Washington, including correspondents, producers and technical staff.  Chapin spoke about the general demands of running a network bureau in Washington, but also about the particular challenges during an election year.  For example, she noted the enormous efforts that go into preparing for conventions.  This year, the Democrats will require networks to move gear frequently, as plans are for three separate venues for that party gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Chapin also announced some personal news, which had been announced to CNN staff just hours before her Skype to Grand Valley.  After 25 years at CNN, she’ll be leaving the network to accept the job of Senior Foreign Editor at National Public Radio.  One way of looking at it is she’ll be switching her focus from federal politics to international affairs.  Another way: she’ll be moving her job just a few blocks down the street.