NOTE: This is a “living” history of WESS (90.3 FM).
If you believe that you can add some important information to the history of WESS, please email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1967- The idea of developing a radio station is discussed campus wide.
1968- A research and funding drive begins for the radio station.
1969- Carrier Current License is approved by the FCC for WESS.
1970- Student Activity Association (SAA) begins funding WESS as a club. FCC license approved for WESS to broadcast at 10 watts on 88.7 FM.
1978- FCC license approved for WESS to broadcast on 90.3 FM because of interference problems on 88.7.
1982- FCC license approved for WESS to upgrade from a 10-watt station to a 1,000 watt station.
1983- WESS moved from the basement of Shawnee to the 2nd floor of the McGarry Communications building.
1994- Lightning strikes the WESS antenna, damaging the transmitter, and causing the station to go off air.
1995- WESS purchases new “slider” control boards for on-air and production studios.
1996- WESS begins carrying the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) World Service, enabling the station to broadcast 24 hours per day.
1997- The Vintage Radio Hour begins airing weekdays from 9AM to 10AM.
2000- WESS begins web-casting temporarily. WESS ceases web-casting when the vendor goes out of business, and separately, steep copyright fees are levied and challenged in court.
2002- WESS installs E-card system, wherein all members gain access to the station by swiping their ESU ID.
2004- WESS installs an “electronic marquee” outside the building above the entrance doors, which scrolls information such as deejay name and name of the show. WESS FM purchases two computers, one in the production studio used for digital editing, and the other one in the on-air studio used for the state-regulated EMNet (Emergency Network.).
2006- WESS begins web-casting again.
2011- WESS completes the “big sound project” by acquiring and installing an audio processor. This audio processor gives the station a more full sound with better bass tones.
2014- WESS was awarded a MTVU Woodie Award for Best College Radio Station.
Timeline of Station Managers:
*Michelle Favorito is known for seeing the station through some very difficult circumstances by providing stability and by exceptionally organizing and overseeing all aspects of the station’s operations.
Timeline of WESS Advisors
1969 – 72- Ronald Dale Snow
1974 – 82- Richard Leyland, Ph.D.
1982 – 93- Pat Monaghan
1993 – present- Rob McKenzie, Ph.D.
A NARRATIVE HISTORY OF W-E-S-S RADIO (90.3 FM)
The first draft of this history was written by Sal Palazzolo, WESS Station Manager from 2005-2006, as a project for an independent study supervised by Robert McKenzie, Professor of Communication Studies and University Advisor for WESS. McKenzie served as the editor for this history of WESS, and contributed portions of the writing.
The Beginnings (1968 – 1969)
The year was 1967. A discussion started at East Stroudsburg State College to explore getting a radio station. There were some obstacles that needed to be overcome. The first obstacle was cost. The students that were trying to push to get this job done were looking to the college community as well as the town for support. After a year of research it was realized that the easiest and cheapest way was to build a station as a carrier-current station, to be housed in the basement of Shawnee Hall, and to obtain the equipment by soliciting donations from the community. Carrier-current is a closed-circuit system that ran the signal of the station through telephone lines just to campus listeners. The carrier-current station was approved by the FCC in late 1969. The first station manager was John Sladin, who worked closely with Brian Hill, who also made the first Station ID, which consisted of the 1812 Overture as a music bed underneath a voice saying “W-E-S-S, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.” Robert Garland, a student with a background in electronics engineering obtained from the Navy, played perhaps the most instrumental role in developing the technology that gave rise to the station. Garland originally installed the carrier-current equipment at the station and later went on to become station manager for a time.
The Early Broadcasting Years (1970 – 1982)
Soon after WESS began broadcasting as a carrier-current station, another license application was submitted and approved (also in 1969) to establish the station as a 10-watt broadcast radio station. In 1970, WESS began broadcasting on 88.7 FM. During this time period, WESS was on the air for about 12-14 hours per day (about 90 hours per week). But through 1975, when WESS would sign off the air each day after the 12-14 hour period, the carrier-current was switched over to carry WNEW (102.7 FM), a station from New York. In 1978, the broadcast frequency for WESS was moved by the FCC to 90.3 FM because of interference problems with WPVI out of Philadelphia, broadcast on 88.7 FM.
These years at WESS were marked by rapid growth. Residents within the towns of East Stroudsburg and Stroudsburg increasingly became interested in a station that made the college campus and town unique from any other area in the county—that is, a town with its own radio station.
As a result, from 1972 and 1991 community members and college students were jointly involved in the running of the station. Community members such as John and Melinda Harmon and the class of 1969 contributed equipment such as turntables, construction and the upkeep of the station, in addition to the regular funding of the college radio station, which came from the Student Activity Association.
Briefly during this time period, WESS tried to emulate a Top-40 radio format. But this programming strategy proved to be unpopular because of the inherent nature of college deejays to want to play music that is not in the mainstream plus audience expectations to hear alternative programming. So WESS went back to broadcasting a diversified format.
The Adjustment Years (1983 – 1989)
In 1983, East Stroudsburg State College along with 13 other state colleges was reformed as a university. This resulted in an automatic renewal of the FCC license for WESS as the radio station of East Stroudsburg University. This new conceptualization of a university eventually would open the door for WESS to new staff members, better funding, and other opportunities. But initially, WESS had difficulty adjusting to operating in a university environment. This was because of a rapidly increasing student population as well as many internal administrative changes, coinciding with equipment that was beginning to fail on a regular basis because of its age. Most of the equipment at WESS had been received as previously used equipment – meaning it was already 10-12 years old by the time it had been donated to WESS. Some of the equipment was even older, dating from the early 1960s. During these years, telegraph machines were still used to access newswires. In 1982, WESS acquired with FCC approval a 1,000-watt tube transmitter, which radiated the station out 15 to 30 miles. This was a huge turning point for WESS, as the signal became more powerful and more far reaching. In 1984, the station was moved from the basement of Shawnee Hall to the 2nd floor of what was then-known as the McGarry Communications Center, to provide the station with more space. This move allowed the station to significantly expand its activities into news reporting and production.
In the late 1980s, WESS students searched for guidance from faculty members. Paul Lippert, a Professor of Communication Studies, informally advised students on programming directions that the station could pursue.
The Maturation Years (1993-)
In 1993, Robert McKenzie, Ph.D., then a newly hired Professor in the department of Communication Studies, was appointed by ESU President James Gilbert to be the “University Advisor” for WESS. McKenzie had a background in college radio. He became a deejay in 1981 on Millersville University’s radio station, WIXQ. The title of his doctoral dissertation was “Understanding Information and Technology Needs of Pennsylvania Radio Stations.” After he completed his Ph.D., McKenzie became the Faculty Advisor to KSSB, Cal State University, San Bernardino’s radio station. As the University Advisor to WESS, McKenzie began to receive course “reassigned time,” which marked a shift in the administration’s philosophy to provide the radio station with professional and academic guidance built into a faculty member’s workload. Subsequently, McKenzie began to forge connections between the department’s curriculum and the activities of WESS. These included: establishing a course called Radio Practicum, drawing WESS “news brief” reporters from the course Broadcast Journalism, and supervising “independent study” projects to enable students to make individual contributions to the station. In addition, the heightened position of community members, while greatly appreciated for the resulting contributions during the early years, was de-emphasized in 1993 through a new constitution that was written for the station, which placed the running of the station largely in the hands of the students, with faculty guidance. Previously, the rights of community members often received priority over the rights of students (for example, in selecting on-air time slots). After the changes effected by the constitution, students would have the priority selecting on-air time slots and in making most of the other decisions at the station.
McKenzie also began to build up the station’s equipment infrastructure, with funding support largely provided by then-Vice President Val Hodge. In 1994, a solid-state transmitter was purchased. In 1995, “slider” control boards were purchased for the on-air and production studios.
Programming during this period also became more professional. In 1995, WESS began regularly broadcasting “news briefs” by reporters who were students in Broadcast Journalism. In 1996, WESS began carrying the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) World Service by down-linking the service from London using a satellite dish. This programming change elevated the station to new levels. It coincided with an FCC deregulatory action that allowed stations to operate without a staff member in the studio. Thus, acquiring the BBC enabled the station to broadcast 24 hours per day. The BBC World Service also began to bring in a new audience for the station from the community. And the BBC World Service, which is broadcast in 45 languages to approximately 150 million listeners worldwide, provided the station with more prestige and a more global outlook. In 1997, the Vintage Radio Hour began airing on weekdays from 9 AM to 10 AM. The Vintage Radio Hour broadcasts radio programs from the 1930s through the 1970s (for example, the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly). These programs were donated to ESU by New York City resident Robert Brunet.
In 2000, WESS began webcasting via Collegemusic.com. The experiment was short-lived as Collegemusic.com went out of business, while at the same time the US Copyright Office ruled that steep copyright fees could be charged to webcasters. WESS then ceased webcasting, while these fees were being challenged in court by college broadcasters, a process that took several years to resolve.
In 2002, the Swipe Card Access system was installed at WESS. The system required station members entering the building to do so using an ESU id. This enabled the station staff to track to the minute every person entering the station.
In 2004, an electronic marquee was installed outside the station above the entrance doors. The marquee continuously scrolls information for passersby to see. This change gave the station a greater visibility on campus.
On January 24th 2006, WESS started webcasting again. This again caused the programming to be elevated because of the potential that an international audience that could listen.
The following anecdotes were provided by various WESS members—past and present—to add some color to the history of WESS.
Richard Connell was a local high school student who was also a deejay at WESS in 1969. Later he went on to become an ESU police officer. Connell remembers that when East Stroudsburg State College founded the radio station, practically the whole town was buzzing with excitement and happiness.
Carol Stolzenberg was a WESS member who did a show without an open microphone (she only played music), which was highly unusual and unacceptable by some standards in the early 1970s. Jon Hendricks also played a role in the building and upkeep of WESS, and the program director for a short period of time in the time period between 1972 and 1973.
In the early years three local high schoolers were involved with WESS. Clare Kasperski and Donna Petrochko did news while John Dahnert did a 6 AM show until it was time for him to go to school each day.
In 1972, program director Larry Gibbons re-formatted the station as a Top-40 music station. The experiment was short lived, and WESS soon returned to a diversified format.
John Frank Kociensky was well known for breaking music that would later become popular with commercial stations.
Bruce Mager did some weather with Ben Gelber, who acted as the “staff meteorologist.”
Professor of Music Numa Snyder joined the station through students who “dared” him to do a show. Finally he gave in, and began broadcasting with a show called “Monday Afternoon Concert Hall,” which was later changed to the “Sunday Afternoon Concert Hall.” By the 2006, Snyder’s show was the longest running show in WESS history.
Local lawyer Steve Krawitz, who is retained by the ESU Alumi Office, is known for his “NPR-sounding voice,” and for his jazz shows on Saturday mornings from 8 AM through 12 PM.
Chad George, Music Director in 1992, is known for helping to “borrow” the CNN feed announcing the election of President Bill Clinton, and then broadcasting the feed on WESS.
Rob McKenzie, University Advisor to WESS Radio, is known for hosting a long-running Talk Show as well as the Stones Hour, in addition to advising the station.
Kim Rosengrant, station manager in 1995, is known for obtaining desks in the offices along with the “comfy” furniture.
Station manager Jeff Marsilio (1998-1999) took office under some of the most unusual circumstances. He was elected news director by the staff. But at the first staff meeting of the fall semester, the elected station manager’s first announcement was that he was resigning, after which he walked out of the room. Marsilio was appointed acting manager, but was soon thereafter appointed station manager. One of the surprises of his term was an unannounced FCC visit to the station, which did not turn up any infractions.
Megan Drobniak is known for becoming the youngest Station Manager. She was 19 years old when she took the position in the year 2000.
Station manager Jillian Kane in 2005 is known for dealing with one of the biggest on-air violations in WESS history. A deejay put prison inmates from the Monroe County Correctional facility on the air via a phone connection. During the phone call, an inmate physically threatened a corrections officer, and spoke the audience in “gang” language. Kane handled this by meeting with the warden of the correctional facility, and, after investigating the incident, by expelling the deejay from WESS.
Sal Palazzolo, station manager in 2006, is known for compiling the first through history of WESS.
WESS would like to thank the following people for contributing information that led to the compilation of this living history:
Richard Bull, Thomas Crowley, Megan Drobniak, Robert Garland, Chad George, Richard Leland, Jefferey Marsilio, Rob McKenzie, Patrick Monaghan, Joseph Petrucci, Kimberly Rosengrant, Charles Seese, Numa Snyder, Jack Swineford, and David Thompson.