More voices of Slippery Rock University students will be hitting the airways this spring with the start of a new radio production course.

The university’s Digital Radio Production course looks to give students a “hyper-specific” view of how mass communication medium works in the age of podcasts and media sharing platforms like YouTube.

The course will be taught by Nick Artman, associate professor and advisor to the student-run radio station WSRU.

While students will work on audio production and storytelling, the course diverts from the current audio production course to apply those aspects to the world of broadcast regulation, Artman said.

“There are broadcast regulations and certain [Federal Communications Commission] guidelines that you need to follow,” Artman said. “So, [the course] is a little bit of audio production, a little bit of FCC and broadcast regulations and a little bit of voice training and script writing.”

While the new course is expected to add to the talent pool of those working at WSRU, as the department’s journalistic writing and television production courses have done in the past, the course and student radio station are separate entities, with participation in one not necessarily meaning being a member of the other.

Students at the radio station and in the course may both learn how to record a station ID, those in the course will learn the reasoning behind the regulation.

As for equipment, students will not be broadcasting anything live on the air but instead using mini audio consoles by Rode. Used heavily in the podcast realm, the RODECaster Pros students will be using have also been seen used by those who run internet radio stations.

While the medium may seem out of place for a generation where radio has been put aside for smartphones and speakers, the radio waves packed more than they have ever been. According to a Pew Research study, FM radio is at an all-time high with more than 10,000 radio stations across the country.

But despite station increases, radio saw its first big dip in terrestrial listeners, down to 83% of Americans 12 and older, since 2009.

Even with the decrease of traditional listeners, the medium is dying but evolving – like newspapers, Artman said.

That evolution has taken time but with the popularity of smart speakers, digital broadcasts of radio over the internet have kept radio relevant in the streaming age.

Still, disruptions caused by the pandemic could see another shift in the future as music streaming continues to increase its share of the digital space and more people continue to work from home, reducing the impact of the traditional commute broadcast.

Tying his personal passion for audio stemming from his college radio days at Indiana University of Pennsylvania into his passion for teaching, Artman hopes to help students build their voice, no matter what their educational focus may be.

As the host of ‘Hello, SRU,’ Artman has been interviewing many individuals from the campus community. With the podcasting space growing, it is an area in which he looks to bring expertise to students and show that broadcast radio can be more than talk radio and top 40 hits. Beyond the podcasting space, helping students understand playlist curation within the guidelines of the FCC and producing live programming centered around events on campus, to become something more than traditional radio.

Prior to this upcoming class, students had not been offered a radio production course since the mid-1980’s, according to a review of prior course catalogs by Katrina Quinn, chair of the strategic communication and media department. Those two courses, a basic and advanced class, focused on technical aspects of radio equipment and writing documentary and drama programs.

Moving the course into the future means taking those ideas from the past, like the hourly radio drama now six-part podcast series, and providing opportunities for growth, ultimately leading to offering a concentration in audio production.

For those wanting to dip their toe into radio and audio production, Artman suggests they stop by the radio station and give it a try. Others who know they want to incorporate broadcasting into their degree program should aim to sign up for the course. Students not majoring in communication should reach out to Artman about taking the course.

Whether taking radio digital production in the spring or being a part of WSRU, Artman hopes to bring his passion for music and radio into the classroom to build the next generation of broadcasters.

“Music is everything,” Artman said. “It’s a great stress relief for me and it’s a passion of mine.

“To be able to tie that into my work passion and … be able to build that passion in other students … to be able to teach that. I’ll do that every day.”

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.


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