WTJU Format Debate Spills into Public View

WTJU’s internal debate over its future has gone public, Dave McNair writes for The Hook. Long-time station manager Chuck Taylor recently retired, and brand-new manager Burr Beard has been told by UVA that he’s got to make WTJU relevant, or it may simply be shut down. (With 7,500 weekly listeners, the station is perhaps better loved than actually listened to.) Long-time DJs—all volunteers—are none too thrilled by Beard’s plans, which are to move to a format closer to commercial radio and to scale back on the eclectica. Though many seem to be OK with change in concept, having this new guy stroll in and immediately start making changes without volunteer buy-in isn’t being received well. One twenty-year veteran has resigned rather than wait to be booted. DJ Tyler Magill has started a blog documenting and objecting to the proposed changes. But if Beard really has the dire mission that’s been described, he may basically have license to do as he likes.

UVA has agreed to postpone any changes until fall, Brian McNeill writes in the Progress, and WTJU is about to launch a blog on their website, in an apparent effort to move the online discussion from Magill’s website to their own.

In the mid-nineties, I had a bi-weekly rock show on WTJU (with an inherited, classically useless WTJU title: “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”), and for some years I co-hosted Rock and Folk Marathon shows dedicated to Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Liz Phair, and others. Fifteen years later, I still have WTJU preset on my car radio, but it’s increasingly a sympathy button. Easily a third of the time that I flip to it, I’m greeted by silence, either because they broadcast at such a low level (sure, yeah, it provides greater fidelity, but it’s too quiet to be heard) or because a long, awkward pause is underway. No more than one time in twenty is anything that I want to listen to being broadcast. The schedule is impossible for any normal person to remember, and even when read, doesn’t seem wholly logical. (Jazz at 9 AM? No thank you.) The show titles are of no help to understanding what you’re going to hear, and the descriptions often don’t help much, either. All of which is to say that WTJU certainly has its problems, which even a long-time fan like me can see, and I can’t see that anybody would argue otherwise. It remains to be seen whether the cure will be worse than the disease.

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