A description follows for this early 2002 visit to our old college radio stations, WTSC-FM and WNTC, in Potsdam, NY. For the preceding 22 years the two stations had shared space in the basement of a Clarkson University men’s dorm complex, unofficially known as “the Pit”.
WTSC-FM (91.1) is a student-operated, FCC licensed, non-commercial station that grew out of WNTC in the early 1960s, and has always been located in this Clarkson dorm complex, although originally in a different space. WTSC broadcasts 24-hours-a–day, 7-days-a-week by filling gaps between live programming with an automation system that randomly plays pre-selected record cuts. The station’s format has evolved considerably over the years, and for the past three decades it has used what it calls a “Full Service, Free Format, college radio format”. The station’s FM broadcast coverage extends approximately 25 miles from Potsdam and is also simulcast full-time on the World Wide Web.
This visit was sad because WNTC, Potsdam’s first broadcast radio station, was dead after more than 50 years (1948 – 2001) of service to the student community in Potsdam.
Originally a unique two-college operation with Potsdam State, WNTC was a carrier current (limited physical coverage) AM station during its early existence. Over the years, WNTC broke new organizational, programming, and technical ground in many ways, including setting a national precedent in 1971 by adding FM distribution on the local CATV (cable TV) system. For a time, WNTC AM 64 / FM 90 was one of the most successful student stations anywhere, operating 24 / 7 during the school year and even during some summer school sessions, airing professionally produced jingles, ABC Contemporary Network news, and considerable advertising, both local and national. And the station was recognized by the music industry for breaking many new hit records.
The video was shot in standard definition 4:3 and upscaled here to 720 HD for best quality viewing on Vimeo.
THE END OF AN ERA
Ted Perkins and I stopped to visit the Clarkson radio station(s) when we were going through Potsdam on Saturday February 2, 2002. The broadcasting facility under the pit cafeteria was still running, but just barely.
We met a nice young lady named Mekeddah (sp?) Thompson, who was one of three music directors, and she showed us around a little and brought us up to date on what was happening. In short, it wasn’t good.
WNTC was dead. The event seemed fairly recent. The deceased was broadcasting on cable FM 106-point-something, with FM 90 too far in the rear view mirror to be remembered, and carrier current AM nothing but a folk memory. It was all over for our ground-breaking radio station. Ted says that a fifty year run is really pretty good, and I guess he is right.
They were planning to use the WNTC studio for production work, which seemed to be mixing scratches like the Rap and Hip-Hop disc jockeys use. How this fit into their programming wasn’t really clear as there seemed to be no real format for WTSC-FM. DJs played pretty much what they wanted to play – effectively block programming, which has never really been really successful for anyone anywhere in a competitive environment, something that we knew when we were their age.
At the time WTSC-FM was running about 60 to 70 hours a week of programming, with sign on at 4 PM on weekdays, and noon or 2 PM weekends depending on who shows up and when. Sign off was midnight or 2 AM. Most jocks were apparently doing one 2-hour shift a week, so that was all the time they could fill with the staff that they had. They were trying to recruit more people, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of interest in the place, probably because it appeared to be more self-serving than at any time in the early days, the time when we were there, and for at least several years afterward.
Old WTSC-FM albums still stocked the immense record library, and I found some stuff from the mid-1960s. But I didn’t find any of the old WNTC records. What happened to that massive and historic collection of rock and roll hits is unknown to us.
It seemed to me that the WNTC / WTSC-FM operation of the Millennium period suffered from lack of purpose, lack of good leadership, and low morale. Air staff members were promoting individual shows, not the station as a whole, and record / CD theft issues were back. Both of these were significant problems back in the bad old days at the end of WNTC’s Snell-350 era in the late 50s and early 60s when “rebel radio” split off to become WCCT, and eventually evolve into WTSC-FM.
Overall, both Ted and I were somewhat uneasy with what Clarkson and WTSC-FM had become, and we were very sad to see the end of WNTC, Potsdam’s first radio station.
But it was certainly fun while it lasted.