WRCM is back on the Manhattan College airwaves

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Radio has changed quite a bit since WRCM went off the air in 2014.

Terrestrial radio continues to dominate, but not by a lot. Satellite stations like SiriusXM continue to gain ground, as do the on-demand convenience of podcasts online.

So to bring radio back to Manhattan College required some serious thought, and from that brainstorming WRCM has been reborn. But it’s a little different than what students might have heard just five years ago.

“I was really interested in seeing WRCM come into fruition,” said Joseph Liggio, the college station’s program director, who helped relaunch the station with fellow students Samantha Walla and Alexa Schmidt. “So when I hear that Sam and Alexa and some other kids were interested in doing it, and that they were really gunning to get this radio station started, I jumped in it immediately. I helped to see it through because I feel like something like this is really important for a college campus to have.”

Radio was the way Manhattan College stayed connected not just for information, but as a creative outlet, said Walla, WRCM’s general manager. Bringing that energy back to the school — even if it was no longer a traditional broadcaster — was part of what inspired her to get involved with the station.

The new station feels a lot like the old. There’s sports, music, commentary, and other topics. There’s a talk show exploring California culture compared to the east coast, and an improv team even comes on to perform comedy. What’s different, however, is that Manhattan College students won’t need to find a radio to pick up the station — it’s available entirely online.

Thanks to how media technology has progressed, the students didn’t need to rely on the feds to restart the station, said Thom Gencarelli, founding chair of the school’s Next Generation communications program. The old Federal Communications Commission license WRCM had in the past was no longer active, and getting a new one wouldn’t be easy.

Plus, they would need more than just club’s board of nine students to help run it.

“Well first off, they had to get a group of students together,” Gencarelli said. “It’s a medium that is time-bound. You need people who are going to have shifts. We can’t go silent.”

And the new WRCM succeeded — there are now some 40 people involved with the radio station, even though right now they have nothing more than a makeshift station inside an old guard room on Corlear Avenue.

Schmidt is a communications and art history major who grew up loving Dean Martin’s 1953 hit “That’s Amore.” She cranks classic tunes on WRCM that evokes nostalgia, and sometimes even invites others to share their experiences, too.

“You’re basically raised by music,” said Schmidt, WRCM’s training director.

“Whether it’s your parents or what you listen to when you go to soccer practice or when someone tells you to listen to this band.”

While streaming content might be less problematic than looking to take the airwaves, WRCM’s move online also takes advantage of the different options listeners have now to get the music and talk they’re looking for.

“As a media professor it’s kind of funny to call it a radio station,” Gencarelli said. “In the sense what we think of when we get into a car or when you talk about iHeartRadio. And iHeartRadio owns a radio station, but they also have a streaming service online. That is thinking about the nature of how music listening has changed and by what it means when we listen to radio.”

Making its home at the school’s research and learning building near West 240th Street really captured the kind of look the trio of founders wanted, Liggio said. The guard booth not only keeps the station close to student life, but the window is big enough to let the outside world keep a constant view inside the studio.

“It wasn’t a utilized space and it was cool to have this on-the-street thing,” Liggio said. “The most rewarding thing is to see how far we’ve gotten. And to have a space and a ton of interest is like the greatest feeling.”

But these accomplishments of WRCM are only the beginning. Thanks to Rob Walsh, whose segment, “The Bottom Line for Small Businesses,” airs on 1010-AM WINS, the Manhattan-based station will collaborate with the college March 13 as part of its Neighborhood Spotlight on Small Business. That’s set to take place at the Smith Auditorium, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The spotlight will talk about the rise of WRCM as part of its overall focus on this part of the Bronx, and will help at least one member of the 1010 WINS team to go full circle.

That’s because Walsh is Manhattan College’s senior advisor for strategic partnerships, and took a lead role early on in resurrecting WRCM.

“He became such a big part of helping us and he really advocated for us with the administration,” Walla said. “We’ve gone to 1010 WINS, and he’s really like pushed along a lot of things and expedited the process like 10 times.”

But there’s still a lot of work ahead for WRCM to re-introduce itself to the college community — especially one where few if any students even remember its predecessor.

“We want to cultivate a community and partner with other clubs,” Walla said. “And we want to make sure we’re sticking with and staying true to the original purpose of the radio station.”

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