Donald Rock, General Manager at WTBU, shares the ins and outs of running a fully student-run station. From 8 a.m. meetings to building relationships with the school administration, he gives a preview of his experiences for The Buck Stops Here: Life On The Executive Board, the session he is participating in during College Day at CMJ Music Marathon next week.
What is your favorite part of working at WTBU?
My favorite part is definitely the fact that we’re completely student-run. We’re given total creative license over our events, our on-air content, and even the look and feel of the station. Over the years, I’ve definitely been able to express myself through different shows I’ve hosted, and I’ve been able to join a community of people who are also passionate about music.
Boston has a pretty high concentration of college radio stations. So how do you make your station stand out within the crowd?
I think WTBU’s programming format is pretty unique. Since almost all of our shows air once a week for two hours, anytime you tune into WTBU you’re bound to hear something different. On any given day of programming, you can go from a country music show to a feminist talk show to a basement punk show. There’s definitely something for everybody on WTBU, which makes being a part of the station really exciting.
As GM you oversee the 16 person Executive Board at WTBU. How do you deal with delegating responsibility and making sure that everything falls into place with so many people dealing with different aspects of the station?
What’s been the most helpful for me is developing strong relationships and open communication with all of my Executive Board members. At WTBU, our E-Board receives class credit, but we’re all unpaid. Therefore, I definitely have to make sure everyone is doing their job, but I also have to make sure I’m flexible and understanding since most people have classes and other jobs on top of their station responsibilities. I’ve also found that, aside from weekly E-Board meetings (at the dreaded hour of 8 a.m.), it’s been helpful making myself super available to meet with E-Board members at many other times so I can make sure we’re all on the same page.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as GM?
Since WTBU offers such a unique programming schedule from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the week, we have around 200 student DJs and interns. Thus, it’s been super difficult getting to know everyone at the station and making sure all the DJs are aware of any announcements or policy changes we make. With the busy schedules of college students, it’s hard finding a time when all DJs can even be in the same room. It’s always frustrating when people around campus come up to me and say, “Do you know my friend Susan? She’s a DJ at WTBU,” and I never know who Susan is.
Working with university administration is often one of the more daunting tasks of running a student organization. What kind of relationship does WTBU have with the school? Do you have any advice for other stations about working with their administration?
Surprisingly, working with university administration has not been as daunting as I thought it would be. As a station, we’ve been lucky, because rather than working through BU’s student activities office, we report to administration in the College of Communication. Therefore, when we do need to work with our administration, we can talk with people who have worked in the communication field and understand what we need and why it’s important to us. For other stations who are struggling with their administration, I’d definitely recommend trying to make sure you’re communicating as much as possible with the people in charge. Often times, people who have no experience with college radio may have no idea what actually goes into running a station. Some things that may seem obvious to you may not be so straightforward for business people at your school. Additionally, it’s important to foster good relationships with administration, not only when you need their help, but also when things are going well. I’ve made sure to give highlights and check in with the higher ups at BU when the station receives positive spotlight, so I’m not only meeting with them when I need more money.