WESU General Manager Asks Listeners to Take the Pledge

Benjamin Michael, general manager of WESU 88.1 FM spearheads the Second Annual WESU Holiday Pledge Drive.
Posted 12/04/06
As the only full-time employee and sole general manager of Wesleyan’s college and community radio station, Benjamin Michael says the station wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of the station’s volunteers.

It takes Michael and 115 student and community volunteers to broadcast 88.1 FM WESU 24 hours a day.

“It’s a real partnership and labor of love for all of our volunteers,” Michael says, noting that some programs have been broadcasting for more than 25 years.

But, like any other non-commercial station, it takes more than teamwork to make a radio station run. It costs about $75,000 a year to operate, and that’s why Michael and his volunteers are currently hosting the Second Annual WESU Holiday Pledge Drive through Dec. 4.

“Unlike the National Public Radio pledge drives that you hear on WESU through out the year, where the station only receives a small portion of the over all donations, this drive enables listeners to directly support our efforts,” Michael explains. “We’re hoping that listeners who depend on WESU for alternative music, news and other creative programming, to step up to the plate and support this rare outlet for community voices on the radio.”

The goal for this year’s drive is to raise $25,000 in listener support to sustain operating expenses through out the coming year. So far this year, WESU has already raised $25,000 in funding from the Wesleyan Student Association, and through their partnership with WSHU Public Radio, WESU expects to raise an additional $25,000 before the fiscal year’s end.

Financial support during this pledge drive will help ensure that WESU continues to grow and operate as a vehicle and partnership for creative communications between the Wesleyan University community, the people of the greater Connecticut River Valley, and beyond. Donations will directly benefit WESU and help to ensure local, community-based programs and alternative news continue to have a home on the radio dial, Michael says.

As the GM, Michael works with the station’s volunteers to insure the programming reflects the diverse community surrounding Wesleyan.

WESU boasts a wide variety of musical programming including shows that feature folk, jazz, soul, blues, rock, Caribbean, hip hop, experimental, electronic, gospel, oldies and Latin music. The station also offers a robust public affairs line-up that includes programs from National Public Radio, Pacifica and other independent and local alternative news consortiums.

Michael knows the importance of volunteers from personal experience. Since a teenager, he’s always been dedicated to the arts and community service.

About 10 years ago, Michael worked for the national community service program through AmeriCorps at the East Bay Conservation Corps in Oakland, Calif. The former Middletown resident returned to the area and took up a job at Oddfellows Playhouse as a program manager, a stage and sound designer and teacher.

In 1997 he began volunteering with WESU, and worked his way up to technical director, promotion’s director and most recently consulting general manager. He was hired full-time as general manager in October 2005.

“I have always had an intense passion for exploring and learning about all types of music and a history of community service,” Michael says. “Thankfully WESU was around as a vehicle enabling me to connect my passions.”

Michael has hosted several shows on WESU. His first show, “Difficult Learning” aired between 3 and 5 a.m. Sunday morning. For the past seven years, he has produced a program called “Dub Revolution,” focusing on a specific vein of reggae music from Jamaica. Six years ago, he and local resident Garnett Ankle started up a talk show on current events titled “Talk for Your Rights.” Ankle continues to host this show.

Being the chief operator of a federally regulated operation, Michael is on call 24-7. He is responsible for managing the day to day technical and administrative operations of the station and ensuring that WESU operates in full compliance with FCC regulations. He acts as the liaison between the Wesleyan administration, the station’s Board of Directors, Wesleyan students and community volunteers and the station’s listeners. In addition, Michael serves as WESU’s “Mr. Fix It.”

“Some days, in addition to the daily routine, I might have to repair a broken CD player, or work with our engineering team to trouble shoot transmission problems, while other times I have to use my graphic, Web and sound design skills,” he says. “I do lots of digital audio editing on a daily basis.”

Michael encourages the station’s listeners to show their support by calling 860-685-7700 or downloading and printing a pledge form from the station’s Web site www.wesufm.org. Donations also can be sent to WESU 88.1 FM at 45 Broad Street, 2nd Floor, Middletown, CT 06457.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor