In journalism, we’re taught to avoid hyperbole. So I shouldn’t say that in one of my darkest moments, CKDU 88.1 FM was the reason I got up in the morning. The deep-fried tater tots waiting for me in the King’s College cafeteria lured me out of bed just fine.
I can say, however, that the station gave me purpose.
After my contract ended with my first grown-up job, I feared I would never work again. Suddenly, I just wanted to stop doing anything and sleep all the time.
One morning, a priest literally sat across from me in the caf and told me straight-up that I looked tired. I responded by complaining, and he said, “Well, it’s great that you’re somewhere you can land on your feet. There are so many things here you can try.”
I finished my tater tots, managed to resist a third helping, and marched myself into the radio station.
I was volunteering the next day.
Within months, I had my own show. The station’s staff worked overtime to give me a voice. People didn’t ask “should we do this?” but “How can we make this happen for you?” If you’ve ever worked in a place where your ideas are completely supported, you know that it’s (a) rare and (b) magical.
I started volunteering at CKDU because I needed a reason to regularly shower and associate with other humans. I stopped because, at least in part, my work at the station landed me a spot at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. I’m still doing radio. And the more I learn about the medium, the more I think about how we could make a great station greater.
What if we could revive the station’s volunteer news team, putting the power to tell stories in the hands of the many? What if we had good production equipment, podcasts on iTunes, show producers that could make good hosts even better?
Here’s the little secret: all those things cost money—whether it’s paying the salary of a volunteer co-ordinator, or buying new recorders so we don’t have to use something that might belong in an 80s movie.
But unlike skyrocketing international tuition fees or the rent increase on your fugly apartment, this isn’t taxation without representation. Whether it’s your weekly newspaper (Holla, Dal Gazette!), or your morning radio show, community and campus media belong to you. You can start a column, make a public service announcement about your new tea-drinking club, walk in to the office and start volunteering, or just call the hotline and beg someone to play your breakup song on air.
It’s the ultimate democracy. You get out of it exactly what you put in. And if we all put in a little more, this mighty ol’ station will give us many more reasons to be proud of it.
Katie Toth is a journalism student at Columbia University and an alumna of the University of King’s College. She was the Gazette’s opinions editor in 2010-2011.