An overhaul of programming designed to increase the role of students at Loyola University’s WLUW FM 88.7 will reduce or eliminate some of the station’s longest running community-based talk shows.
Among the casualties is Jerry Mead-Lucero’s “Labor Express Radio,” billed as “Chicago’s only labor news and current affairs radio program,” which has aired weekly on the nonprofit station since 1993. Others cancellations include Jacob Briskman’s “Logic Consortium,” Doug Williams’ “Azan” and Mitchell Szczepanczyk’s “From The Trenches.”
The moves, believed to affect at least eight more weekly or monthly shows, are the latest steps in the transition of WLUW from an independent community-oriented station since it was reclaimed and incorporated into Loyola’s communications department in 2008. (Six years earlier, university officials had turned over day-to-day management control of the station to Chicago Public Radio.)
Don Heider, dean of Loyola’s School of Communications, supported the decision in a letter Thursday to Mead-Lucero, host and producer of “Labor Express.” “The focus now, and really for the past seven years, has been on allowing the students to program the station, and in this way we are returning to our roots as a student radio station,” Heider wrote.
Suggesting that the show could move to another station or become a podcast, Heider added: “In either case you might be able to find a strong audience, rather than airing on a student radio station with a signal that only reaches part of Chicago.”
Mead-Lucero said he and other hosts were given insufficient warning of the cuts.
“A week’s notice is truly very disrespectful to people who have put years into WLUW,” he said. “Most of the shows effected have close to (if not more than) a decade on air. For those programs that do air monthly, telling them a week before the end of April their shows are canceled means they have zero opportunity to inform their listeners of the change. And why the need to do this in May? The students go on summer break in May. . . . Already way too much of the schedule on WLUW is run by computer rather than people.”
In response to a petition signed by more than a dozen hosts, management declined to postpone the cancellations until June 1 or meet to discuss the changes.
“These changes are necessary in order to offer more opportunities for students to be on-air, to increase programming quality and consistency, and to conduct live broadcasts from weekend events without having to interrupt specialty shows,” Eleni Kametas, general manager and student advisor of WLUW, replied to them in an email.
“This decision, which was discussed in previous emails and at the spring all-staff meeting, was influenced by an increase in student interest due to music programming, on-campus promotions, and classroom outreach, as well as feedback from the community that expressed a desire to have weekend programming airing more independent music.
"I apologize if some of you are frustrated by this decision, but we are doing what we believe is best for the station.”