WPPJ Radio is Point Park University’s student-run radio station in Pittsburgh, PA. We are a mixed-format college station – meaning we play music from a wide variety of genres – from hip-hop to indie rock; from Warp Records to K Records.
WPPJ serves to provide a co-curricular activity for students at Point Park University with an interest in radio, news, sports, contemporary/popular music, media sales and promotions. WPPJ also serves as a training facility for students of any major who desire a career in professional broadcasting. Thirdly, it provides a medium of intra-University communications.
Students drive station management. The general manager is selected each semester by the college’s Broadcast Media Board after advertising for applications. He or she has an executive board- the assistant station manager, program director and sales manager- and a board of department directors- production manager, promotions director, news director, and sports director to work with as well.
WPPJ, charted since 1962, took its call from letters “Point Park Journalism” and was a co-dependent institution. It was-and still is- student operated, funded and governed by the Student Development Department and the United Student Government, but it was supervised and utilized for class by the J&MC Department.
“When I was at The Junior College, we had a little broom closet for a radio station, and that was it. That was the only real radio experience I had. There was nobody who had the working knowledge of a modern day radio station”
The radio broadcasting aspect of Point Park University’s Journalism and Mass Communication program has been, like radio’s own history: through a roller coaster ride of success and struggle. While more than once the radio industry has been declared dead or dying, it has just as often rebounded to unprecedented heights.
During the late –‘60s to mid –‘70s, broadcast-oriented students in Point Park Universities J&MC Department, and by extension its independent campus radio station (WPPJ), had a genuine “Golden Age,” and many members left to pursue broadcast careers.
Part of this was due to what radio meant to those “baby boomers.” Part of it was also part infectious enthusiasm. Part of it was due to professional broadcasters and journalists and Point Park Universities professors Bill Jewett’s and Jerry Haines’ guidance and instruction. And certainly part of it was the freedom combined with the discipline that first Bill Thomas, then Vin LaBarbera, J&MC Department chairs, allowed and insisted upon. But then, something happened.
The end of the‘70’s and start of the ‘80’s almost spelled “the end” for the J&MC Department’s radio curriculum and for WPPJ. Instructor Jerry Haines spent less and less time on campus because of his studies at Duquesne University’s Law School. By 1980, Haines was unable to teach any broadcast classes at Point Park College. He left Point Park to pursue a career in media law. Eventually, the situation at WPPJ and in PPC’s radio curriculum deteriorated.
Student members of WPPJ, most of them J&MC majors, engineered a near student revolt at the station. They already were essentially adviser-less and attempted to break away from Student Affairs’ oversight, and further attempted to change the station’s call letters without consulting the dean of students, the J&MC Department or USG, its own chartering body. It caused an uproar among J&MC and WPPJ alumni, J&MC faculty, PPC administration, and especially with J&MC Chair LaBarbera. The situation grew so tense that the college let LaBarbera know that the radio program of the J&MC Department and WPPJ, as a Point Park Universities activity, was in jeopardy.
LaBarbera wouldn’t cede the radio element of the J&MC program so easily. In the summer of 1982, PPC placed an ad in Broadcasting Magazine for a full-time instructor with strong radio background, and an instructor with strong professional radio experience, David J. Fabilli, was added to the full-time faculty. LaBarbera insisted that the J&MC Department contribute at least one course release for the new instructor in order that he would be able to have the time to “turn around” the radio program there and in the department.
WPPJ has come a long way. Today the station can be heard in a variety of ways around campus. Whether you hear us broadcast daily from the PointCafe, or if you tune in from your dorm and Listen on a PC (Windows Media Player), WPPJ is still a presence on campus more than 30 years from it’s creation.
Over the years WPPJ has served thousands of student station staff members, and this year membership has reached 50 and includes students from many majors other than the J&MC Department. WPPJ is the only student activity that is in constant use. It’s on air approximately 15 hours each weekday, a total of 75 hours a week, nearly 1,000 hours per semester. With the creation of our new website, WPPJ is heading into a new “Golden Age”. The station is reaching more listeners than ever and will continue to serve the student body of Point Park University for many years to come.