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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

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Pamela Smith, managing editor.
Column | In the blink of an eye, in the click of a shutter
By Pamela Smith, Managing Editor • April 20, 2024
Fresh Perspective | Final Farewell
By Julia Smeltzer, Digital Manager • April 19, 2024

‘People are still tuning in’: WPTS cultural marathon wins worldwide Spirit of College Radio award

A+%E2%80%9CWPTS%E2%80%9D+sign+in+the+WPTS+Radio+studio.
TPN File Photo
A “WPTS” sign in the WPTS Radio studio.

The cultural marathon — 10 hours of uninterrupted programming on Oct. 6, with music and content from cultures across the globe — won Pitt’s WPTS Radio the Spirit of College Radio award for the second year in a row, making them one of 10 stations worldwide to achieve the feat. 

The College Radio Foundation gives the Spirit of College Radio award to radio stations around the world that demonstrate exceptional broadcast efforts on World College Radio Day, which took place on Oct. 6. The 10 winners, announced on Dec. 22, hail from the Philippines, Fiji, Italy and across the United States. 

Andrew Klepeis, WPTS outreach assistant station manager and senior political science major, said the cultural marathon is a tradition at WPTS. He said the theme of last year’s World College Radio Day, “Where All Voices Are Welcome,” meant the cultural marathon was a perfect fit for the special broadcast content that college radio stations worldwide would create for World College Radio Day.

“What I was trying to do was … to highlight things that I think our listeners, or people in Pittsburgh, or people our age maybe had no exposure to, and things I had no exposure to,” Klepeis said. 

Justin Best, a member of WPTS Radio and junior environmental studies and film and media studies major, kicked off the day with a special segment of his DJ show, “The Rhythmic Road Trip,” where every week he highlights music from a different part of the country. 

For the cultural marathon, Best put the spotlight on Brazil, showcasing modern artists like Dadá Joãozinho and Ana Frango Elétrico and older ones such as João Gilberto and Milton Nascimento. While Best has had a few international episodes of his regular radio show, he said he hoped his Brazil segment would inspire others to “break boundaries” with music and genres they might not regularly listen to. 

“I feel like mine and certainly a lot of other people’s music taste is very English and American based,” Best said. “Music doesn’t really need actual language attached to it in order for someone to enjoy it, so I think it was really cool to hear different artists and sounds from an area that I don’t know that much about.” 

The rest of the day featured programming from a range of cultural organizations at Pitt, such as the Latinx Student Association, Center for African Studies, African Student Organization, Italian Program, Spanish Club and AddVerse+Poesia

Angel Joseph, founder and president of Bring Your Own Bollywood, a South Asian music, film and culture club at Pitt, played a mix of Bollywood songs from the 1990s and 2000s during the broadcast. Joseph interspersed the selections with lessons about the cultural significance of each song in Indian pop culture and the Indian diaspora. 

Joseph said the cultural marathon at WPTS provided a strong platform for cultural organizations at Pitt to reach a wider audience. 

“The different clubs brought different structures, but all of them brought a lot of cultural knowledge and cultural joy, and I think that was a really cool forum for this to take place because it’s not just Pitt students who are listening to WPTS,” Joseph, a junior film and media studies major, said. 

Joseph added that the cultural marathon gave them a way to achieve a long-standing goal — to host a radio show focused on South Asian music and culture. Seeing other cultural organizations and clubs at Pitt get their time to shine on air, Joseph said they appreciated the station’s outreach to many cultures on Pitt’s campus. 

“WPTS is kind of this big figure on campus, especially when it comes to popular media, so I was like, ‘Oh, I could never get on WPTS,’” Joseph said. “But this was a really good opportunity — they made themselves accessible to a big chunk of the students on campus who are interested in connecting with other students on specific themes and ideas and culture.” 

Alex Bennett, the content assistant station major at WPTS and a junior media and professional communications major, said while increasing diversity of music programming is always a focus at WPTS, the cultural programming for World College Radio Day served as a reminder of the importance of that aim.

“It’s like, ‘We’re inclusive. We want to play all types of music,’ but sometimes it can get forgotten in indie and alternative rock,” Bennett said. “But [the cultural marathon] put it back to the front.” 

After listening to the different cultural segments throughout the day, Bennett said they felt the marathon helped both the listeners and the members of WPTS come together to celebrate diversity and their shared love of music. 

“A lot of radio is like, ‘Oh, have you listened to this album? You have to listen to this. You have to do this.’ It’s nice to have some time where it’s like, ‘Well yeah, I haven’t listened to this or I haven’t tried this,’” Bennett said. “We kind of had open discourse about that on air. It’s good for our listeners to know that this is a space where you feel pretty comfortable talking about different identities and we can still relate over the fact that we love music and we love broadcast.” 

To Bennett, the Spirit of College Radio award is a testament to the dedication members of WPTS put into their work, especially the radio’s first-year students. Bennett said they hope the recognition from the award can show first-year students, or anyone interested in this type of work, the ongoing vitality of college radio. 

“I want them [first-year students] to see that if we get this award, the work they’re doing matters and is being heard by people,” Bennett said. “Radio is not dying. Many people believe it is, but it’s still alive, and people are still tuning in.” 

About the Contributor
Tanya Babbar, Senior Staff Writer
Tanya Babbar is a junior English nonfiction writing major with a minor in creative writing. In her free time, she likes to roller skate, read on the front porch, talk about her cat Juppi and imagine herself as the Walmart Joan Didion of South Oakland.