The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

Greg Weston celebrates 20 years at WPTS Radio during winter marathon

Greg+Weston+sits+behind+the+broadcast+desk+at+the+WPTS+studio+in+the+William+Pitt+Union.
Patrick Swain | Contributing Editor
Greg Weston sits behind the broadcast desk at the WPTS studio in the William Pitt Union.

Greg Weston first stepped into WPTS Radio on the fourth floor of the William Pitt Union on Feb. 16, 2004. Two decades have passed since then, but Weston said the staff of WPTS still embodies the same artistic ethos he encountered 20 years ago.

“People who are drawn to college radio are people who like to be free thinkers, who kind of do their own thing rather than just follow trends,” Weston said. “It was exciting for me to walk in there, then and now. I love the energy, love the creativity.”

WPTS Radio, Pitt’s student FM radio station, hunkered down in the WPU on Friday and Saturday for its annual winter marathon. The 24-hour continuous broadcast consisted of a blend of music and talk segments centered around the theme of “92.1: A Space Odyssey.” The marathon blasted off at noon on Friday with a “space jams” segment spotlighting celestial songs. Station staff huddled into the studio to play cosmic tunes and geek out over sci-fi until the clock struck noon the next day.

The station’s general manager, Greg Weston, presided over the marathon. Weston lends a professional touch to WPTS, having worked in commercial radio before pivoting to Pitt at 32 years old to become a communications professor and take the helm of the student station. Weston said his experience coupled with the staff’s DIY attitude gradually cultivated a space for organic expression on the air.

“I think the students didn’t really quite know what to expect — my position had been vacant for a while, so I think they were used to kind of doing things their own way. I had worked in corporate radio, so I think some of them were really hesitant about that,” Weston said. “So I think the students who had interviewed me when I was getting hired, I think, were advocates and like, ‘No, no, he’s cool,’ and all that. But I think there was definitely a few challenges, but also a lot of excitement [on] my part.” 

Weston looked back on how the development of technology over his tenure has changed how WPTS plays music.

“Music was consumed a lot differently. There was no Spotify, or anything like that, and there wasn’t streaming. Everyone was playing music off of CDs and vinyl,” Weston said. “We actually had a full director position at the station that was the music librarian, and their job was basically to go in and make sure the CDs are shelved, and if the DJs left them around, to take care of all that. Obviously, that’s a lot different — just technology in general.”

Near the beginning of the marathon, the station’s staff and members of Pitt’s student affairs division crowded into the office to surprise Weston with a party. They presented him with a cake adorned in musical notes, a poster highlighting his awards and accomplishments and a signed card from the staff reading “Happy 20th Gregiversary.” 

The marathon featured a live in-studio performance from local act Histrionic. The band, which performed at the WPTS Valentine’s Day showcase on Feb. 9, played a set in the station early Friday evening. Two-thirds of the band, brothers Jude and Simon Sweeney, have played music together for a decade. Simon, who graduated from Pitt last year, said he appreciates playing for the creative community that WPTS fosters.

“We’re loud, and kinda screamy sometimes and whatnot, and some of these places that we wound up playing it’s like, this is not working. The people don’t want to hear any of that. So at the radio, you know people are going to be open to hearing anything. Not that we’re crazy, beyond the pale in any way, but there’s nothing we’re gonna do that’s going to make anyone go ‘Screw this,’” Sweeney said. “It’s a good place to be, because people have taste like you wouldn’t believe, and people have a real spirit — it’s the only place you can find where people care that much, really, about music.” 

Sweeney, who hosted a radio show at the station as an undergrad, said WPTS represents a junction of passionate music nerds, and the winter marathon is the annual embodiment of that zeal.

“I got here, and I was like, here’s a bunch of things I was the only person who cared even a little bit about when I was in high school, right? And suddenly, there’s seven people who know everything about every one of those things,” Sweeney said. “The people would just sit around naming bands. I have to listen to all of these bands, and I know at least 80% of them are going to be good, which is a much higher hit rate than you’re going to get in any other situation.”

As the clock ticked later and Friday became Saturday, dedicated staffers sipped Keurig coffee and carried on into the night. English professor Geoffrey Glover joined Liam Tinker, the station’s news director, to discuss sci-fi before staffers performed Tinker’s original sci-fi audio drama in the vein of Star Trek. Staffers built a cardboard robot named “FM Bot” in the hallway while sports director Ari Meyer broadcasted play-by-play for a Rocket League tournament. Seven staffers playing extraterrestrials battled for a blindfolded Zack Rodick’s affections during their cosmic take on “The Bachelor.”

The station’s veterans and newbies alike occupied the office for the marathon. Some staffers enjoyed their third or fourth winter marathon — others, like the new assistant news director Michaela Albers, said it was their first. 

“It’s been really fun — the energy’s there, for the most part. I’m trying not to get tired,” Albers, a first-year film and media production major, said. “I met, literally, my first college friends here. It’s just kinda nice, and there’s always something to do, I guess. There’s always something new happening.”

Reflecting on his legacy as general manager, Weston said he hopes he’s created an inclusive, inviting space for music lovers at WPTS.

“I always say it’s not really about me at all, it’s just about the students … [I want] WPTS to kinda continue to be vibrant, to hopefully be in a better place than when I got it, to continue to kind of be something that can help expose some underground, underrepresented artists,” Weston said. “And also, to be a home for students that maybe don’t always find their way in other student organizations … having a really welcoming, open culture where everyone can find their place.”

About the Contributor
Patrick Swain, Culture Editor
Patrick Swain is a junior economics major with a minor in Hispanic language and culture. He begrudgingly removes Oxford commas as the culture editor of The Pitt News. You can find him rooting for the Buffalo Bills, invoking the third amendment and remembering the Alamo.