Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

KWUR best in city

Bernell Dorrough

Though KWUR’s signal hardly reaches the South 40, let alone anywhere else in St. Louis, The Riverfront Times (RFT) gave the Washington University student radio station top billing in the paper’s annual “Best of St. Louis” issue.

“KWUR is the best radio station in St. Louis precisely because of its contrary nature,” wrote the RFT editors. “A 10,000-milliwatt powerhouse, KWUR broadcasts exactly what you’d expect from a college radio station…a little bit of anything and everything.”

Sophomore Michael Bortinger has been a DJ for KWUR since last year, and currently serves as the station’s treasurer. He said the recognition is a testament to KWUR’s commitment to top-notch programming.

“Although we might not have as much wattage as other stations, our programming is on par,” said Bortinger.

The RFT also went on to compliment KWUR on its “stand against the consolidation of the airwaves.”

Last spring, senior Spencer Kathol, KWUR’s general manager, and Jim Hayes, media advisor for the Office of Student Activities, applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand its broadcasting power from 10 to 100 watts. Kathol said that they took advantage of a loophole in the FCC application process, enabling KWUR to use the new station application, which would have allowed the station a six month grace period to set up and experiment.

KWMU 90.7, St. Louis’s National Public Radio station, however, feared the encroachment of KWUR’s signal on their own. The FCC sympathized with KWMU and rejected KWUR’s application.

Kathol and Hayes responded by creating a petition signed by roughly 2,500 University students. They are also working on applying again.

Kathol said he hopes the recent newspaper recognition will give KWUR momentum in its fight against the FCC and KWMU.

“I think that this might be a turning point for the station with all of the difficulty that we’ve been having,” he said.

Bortinger also said he hopes the publicity garnered by the RFT article will help KWUR expand its audience. Although access to KWUR over the airwaves is limited, the station is accessible online at

The station is also trying to do more to promote itself on campus by bringing hip-hop and rock bands to the Gargoyle. Bortinger said these are usually smaller, unpublicized bands that are still quite good.

KWUR also offers a D.J. service that is competitively priced and serves such school functions as Bauhaus.

Currently, there are roughly 65 students involved with KWUR. Before hosting their own show, students undergo seven hours of training distributed throughout a semester. Bortinger said this teaches students how to perform the basic activities involved in radio which they will have to apply when they get their own shows.

“Every time you do a show, you get a little better,” he said.

After hosting his own show, Kathol said he became engrossed with the musical culture that the station opened up to him. As general manager, he looks forward to pursuing a larger broadcasting area and adding more interesting programming.

“We’re making some changes that will affect KWUR and benefit the station in the future,” said Kathol.

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