50 years ago West Virginia’s first public radio station signed on the air, broadcasting from the basement of the Marshall University Library.
WMUL-FM broadcasting live from the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament in 1995.
WMUL-FM, Marshall’s student run radio station, was broadcasting at 10 watts of power on November 1, 1961, barely enough to cover campus. 50 years later, WMUL-FM has increased its power to 1,150 watts and its programming can be heard worldwide via WMUL-FM’s web stream. When the station signed on 50 years ago, no one could imagine the progress and success future students would experience. WMUL-FM students have won more than 1,100 state, regional, national and international awards. Over a third of those are for first place.
“It’s extraordinary. I can assure you from the 100 watt days to the present we have succeeded beyond anybody’s dreams,” said Marshall University Board of Governor’s member Mike Farrell.
WMUL-FM has reached several technical milestones over the last five decades. The station has increased its power twice, to 176 watts in 1979 and 1,150 in 1989. WMUL-FM entered the digital age in 1998 as new digital equipment was installed and in 1999 WMUL-FM streamed its first live broadcast.
“To see the digital transition for WMUL to go from one simple one function editor, to a computer system, to the current automation system was an incredible change,” explained Todd McCormick, who served as station manager during the digital transition.
Early programming featured jazz, Broadway, folk and classical music, serving a special niche in the community. Students continue to serve a special niche to this day, providing award winning Marshall University sports and news coverage.
WMUL-FM broadcast team from a 2006 Marshall vs. ECU football game. (Scott Hall, Dave Wilson, & Alex Reed
The FM 88 Sports Team has been at the call for Marshall’s biggest games whether it was clinching a national title or a heart breaking loss.
In 1995, WMUL-FM was recognized by the Southern Conference for its “Asheville Experience.” Students broadcast every game of the men’s and women’s Southern Conference Basketball Tournament over a ten year period.
Newscenter 88 has been honored by the West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association for Outstanding News Operation multiple times covering everything from student activities to the movie premiere of “We Are… Marshall.”
“It’s had a very proud tradition and become an excellent laboratory and fed a large number of students in the workforce here in West Virginia and all across the country,” boasted W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications Dean Corley Dennison.
And that’s probably WMUL-FM’s most crowning achievement. Students who put in the time and effort leave the program ready to join the broadcasting industry. Current Faculty Manager Dr. Charles G. Bailey often laments that by the time students figure out how to do things correctly it’s time for them to leave, but says that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“You can get the hands on experience you need to join the workforce after college,” insisted former Station Manager Alex Reed. “The more you put into it the more you get out of it.”
WMUL-FM’s success shows no signs of slowing down. During the 2010-11 academic year, student broadcasters earned 131 awards shattering the old record of 99 set in 2009-2010. It looks as though the next 50 years will be just as bright as the past 50 years for WMUL-FM, the Cutting Edge of Your Radio Dial.