Radio Waves: 8/31/18

Chicago knows how to really do college (and high school!) radio

My oldest son committed to attend Lake Forest College in Illinois, about 30 miles North of Chicago, so I spent part of last week with him in the city of Lake Forest as well as a couple quick tours of Chicagoland itself. I discovered two interesting things in particular:

1. The stations I heard in the educational portion of the FM band are lightyears ahead of Southern California in terms of using their licenses as originally intended by the FCC. Stations  heard were (gasp!) actually run by students and volunteers, including one located on the campus of a local high school and Lake Forest’s own WMXM.

2. The software that controls iPods in our Dodge rental car, and presumably all Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Fiat vehicles, is the worst I have ever encountered and must be a secret way for radio to maintain dominance. In plain English, it just doesn’t work, and the people responsible for the design of the radios should be fired, tarred and feathered. Yes, it is that bad.

Getting back to the local educational stations I was able to hear, WGBK stuck out as an amazing example of student radio. Located at the campus of Glenbrook South High School in the town of Glenview, the station uses advisors and students from both Glenbrook South and Glenbrook North. The format is an alternative format that my younger son says puts Los Angeles radio to shame, along with news and high school sports. 

I am told that Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump is an alumnus of WGBK, having worked there as a student until he graduated in 2002. Called Chicago’s North Shore alternative, you can hear it on the net at

I didn’t get a chance to hear too  much of WMXM, as the station was operating on auto mode as students moved into their dorms to start the semester. But it too is a prime example of what real educational radio is supposed to be. 

Te station has a freeform  format of indie rock, hip-hop, and more, along with news updates for the local community. On the air since 1975, the station is run by volunteers and can be heard at

Here in Los Angeles, the vast majority of educational-band licensed stations are run by paid adults. My personal belief is that operators of stations without students as the primary “employees” should give up their licenses, especially if the stations are physically located on or licensed to a college or other educational institution.

Now for the Dodge radio: If you want to hear your iPhone songs alphabetical, it might work. or it might not, depending on its mood. Want to select a song or play it in random order … you’re out of luck. It may play for a while, then it just stops. You can use Bluetooth, but if you need to charge it, you’re out of luck – you can’t use Bluetooth when the lightening cable. With the cable it might play for a while, skip songs, play a small segment of songs randomly, then lock up. It is by far the worst interface I have ever used and must have been developed by an engineer of a radio station hoping to keep listeners off of alternatives to radio.

Saving AM (Continued)

Your comments regarding AM radio are fascinating; most of them so far state that you already listen to AM radio, and (while I promised comments this week) I will present them next week just to give more time for others to respond.

I do want to ask one more time though … as most of the responses so far mentioned AM stations that you already listen to. What I would really like to know is — especially if you never listen to AM — would you tune to an AM station if it played the format you liked? If so, or if not, please state your age as well.

I’ll also be presenting technical challenges and potential solutions in the coming weeks.