The fate of AM-1220 WQUN

By Marissa Davis

(Photo courtesy of Logan Reardon)

(Photo courtesy of Logan Reardon)

The general manager of the Quinnipiac student-run radio station has accused the university of “turning its back” on students interested in the field in moving to close its community radio station, AM-1220 WQUN.

General manager of WQAQ Emma Spagnuolo tweeted “Right now it seems like @QuinnipiacU is turning its back on so many students who are interested in radio or other forms of audio journalism. I hope this doesn’t discourage students from pursuing this field. Radio isn’t dying. It’s evolving.”

“I’m incredibly upset about it,” Spagnuolo said. “This semester, WQAQ has 60 radio shows that air every week and there’s one hundred DJs that broadcast. We also have more members on top of that who are more behind the scenes production people...so there’s a lot of students that are interested in radio.”

Spagnuolo said that she thinks there are questions going unanswered.

“I had a lot of members really express their frustration to me,” she said. “Which is why I finally decided to take to Twitter to just try and demand some answers.”

Spagnuolo is not the only one who is disappointed with the university’s decision.

Long-standing member of the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce and 30-year resident of Hamden Lew Nescott shared Spagnuolo’s disappointment.

“Her [President Judy Olian] decision to close AM 1220 lacked substantive inputs from the communities who are also active listeners and consumers of the products and services advertised on the station,” Nescott said. “Dr. Olian needs to understand that she is the Chief Steward of a great university where full disclosure and open-debate are the ways in which you conduct business.”

Quinnipiac University vice president for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell, released a memo regarding the future of Quinnipiac’s Greater New Haven community radio station--AM-1220 WQUN on Jan.11, 2019. The memo stated that the radio station will cease operations June 30, 2019, and that the building and property located on Whitney Avenue will be “retained and repurposed as part of the strategic planning process.”

Bushnell cited changes in the radio industry, specifically AM radio, saying that the number of students who consider careers in radio or want to intern at WQUN has dropped. Bushnell said that the closing will, “shift resources to more closely match the ever-changing needs and interests of our students.”

The decision comes as a surprise to members of the Hamden community. WQUN has been operating since 1997 and has become a source for news, weather and community updates. It acted as a link between the Hamden community and the Quinnipiac student population.

According to ‘News Generation’ 93 percent of people listen to AM/FM radio over the airwaves. This is higher than TV viewership (88 percent), PC use (50 percent), smartphone use (83 percent), and tablet use (37 percent).

Olian held a ‘State of the QUnion’ address in order to respond to students’ questions and listen to their feedback and ideas Wednesday, Feb. 6, during this, she addressed students’ concern about the station.

“When we established WQUN we did it because of the learning objectives of our students in communications that they were doing internships and really preparing for careers in AM broadcasting. For the last few years we’ve only had one or two interns that have actually applied for the role” said Olian.

“Dr. Olian generally asserts that only one to two students applied for internships at the station over the last few years.” But Nescot disagreed, “I can tell you at last report, if you get on their Facebook page, there are currently three students at AM 1220.”

The Hamden community utilizes WQUN when there are emergencies in the town or when residents lose power.

“When Hamden had a tornado that touched down this past May, AM 1220 WQUN was providing updates, literally tactical updates about where to go, where not to go and those can have sometimes life-bearing consequences,” said Nescott. “In terms of serving as a critical community link in the best of times and in the not so best of times, they’ve been there.”

While many of the station members are not Quinnipiac students, there are a few students who have interned and continue to work at the station. Dan Bahl is a Quinnipiac student that works as a fill-in color commentator for Quinnipiac hockey games and as a studio producer for WQUN.

“I love it,” Bahl said. “The people that I’ve met there have been fantastic. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences there. It’s a great group of people. I’m lucky to be able to work there for the short time that I have.”

Bahl suggested that the university could use WQUN to its advantage.

“I think that they should be using it as more of a tool for the journalism department here, I mean, I work for WQUN but that was just because I got lucky. I think it should kind of be the next step after doing student radio.”

In response to Quinnipiac’s decision, another life-long Hamden resident decided to take to the community to express her disappointment. Holly Masi created a petition to save WQUN on thepetitionsite.com. The petition currently has over 800 supporters.

“I really hope that the outcry from the students and the public and the business community and the town leaders would actually make them rethink the decision and try to find a different way to make it work,” Masi said.

Masi knows firsthand the benefits that working and interning at a radio station can provide.

“I myself am a product of college radio,” said Masi. “I learned a lot from working both at college radio and I did internships and I worked in a radio station. And I learned so much from that experience that I still have those relationships to this day.”

The decision to shut down WQUN has caused public outcry, within the university community as well as within the Hamden town community. The university administration has until June 30 to reverse its decision and save a radio station that for many, is much more than just a radio station.