KWUR: An apology
KWUR doesn’t have a great reputation at Washington University. To many, its DJs come across as self-serving, and it is often thought of as an insular community. At Wash. U., where a third of the student body involves itself in the Greek system, this isn’t a great façade to project, and it is the cause of some of the group’s financial woes. The reputation, however, is unearned. Elitist and hipster-like some of KWUR’s DJs may very well be, but as a whole, the organization attempts to be open and appealing.
The stigma that surrounds KWUR stems from a couple of myths that the station cannot escape. When I was a freshman, a friend of mine quickly signed up with KWUR and would animatedly talk about it at length. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that KWUR forbids the playing of “popular” music and, more broadly, anything that gets played on the mainstream radio. There was a snowball’s chance in hell of finding Ke$ha or Katy Perry being played—DJs would be punished for doing so—but Bob Dylan, Tupac, Black Sabbath, The Beatles and even more unknown bands you haven’t heard of were also banned, unless a DJ had in his possession a live recording from an unknown concert.
I had the opportunity to speak with a member of KWUR’s Executive Board, and she angrily debunked this as being a total falsehood. You won’t find popular, trashy songs being played not because the organization sneers at such music but because it would entail a different legal setup, part of which would involve the necessity of advertisements. Further, the restrictions do not extend to everything that gets airtime. The exact parameters are labyrinthine, but if you give KWUR a listen, you’ll run into a few songs or groups you recognize. I certainly did.
The other practice espoused by my freshman floormate, and one that continues to damage KWUR’s reputation, was that KWUR was put on by the DJs for the DJs. They knew no one listened, but they didn’t care. KWUR was an exclusive group of people with esoteric musical tastes who came together to share their music with each other. Perhaps that was the prevailing belief of KWUR at the time, but given my friend’s misinterpretation of why certain music is or is not allowed, I wonder if he was instead overzealous and didn’t completely understand what was being said to him. Regardless, according to the Executive Board member I spoke with, the KWUR of today is a completely different place. Members want to be listened to by the student body as a whole and want to extend the station’s radio capabilities to reach the greater St. Louis area. The idea that KWUR is some kind of arrogant, exclusive club is completely spurious.
It is telling, though, that the misconceptions listed above are as prevalent as they are, and that a newly minted DJ was able to tell me about them as if they were the truth. If KWUR wants to dispel these myths, it must take steps to reeducate DJs and the Wash. U. community. The burden, unfair as it may be, lies with KWUR to change its image.
Perhaps it already is changing. KWUR lost its Treasury appeal for $62,000 by a tiny 2 percent, winning a majority of the vote, but failing to get the necessary two-thirds. The fact that it was so close suggests that KWUR is, slowly but steadily, succeeding in remaking itself. It must continue to try. A search of KWUR’s site reveals nothing; the “About” section only says that the station’s goal is to provide listeners with entertainment that is otherwise unavailable. Yes, a student could send an email to inquire further, but that is not a reasonable expectation.
For the entirety of my time at Wash. U., and probably for years earlier, KWUR has been unfairly maligned, its DJs and leaders accused of being pretentious hipsters. Such is not the case. KWUR members want the station to be listened to and to be popular among students. There’s still a long way to go before KWUR gets there. The group has got its work cut out for it.
Student Life apologizes for the initial posting error.