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How Does A Radio Station Work?


A few of us Radio geeks managed to arrange a tour of the Cumulus station HQ, recently established in the NBC tower on North Michigan Ave. Cumulus manages a few of Chicago’s most popular radio stations, including 94.7 WLSFM, 8.90 WLSAM, 97.9 The Loop, and our favorite (and the subject of today’s blog) 101 WKQX.

Walking through the two stories occupied by Cumulus, it amazed me just how many different professions it takes to keep a radio station successful. We met the administration side and sales team, engineers who keep the equipment running, videographers, copy writers responsible for the website and contests, graphic designers who create the logos and online platforms, program directors who arrange gigs and design programs to connect with listeners, interns who keep everyone caffeinated, and radio DJs, of course!


What a thing of beauty.

We had the absolute pleasure of sitting in <3 Lauren’s set for a few minutes (she’s on weekdays from 10-3). She visited our station in August for a Q&A with the UIC Radio staff, but that didn’t stop us from pestering her with questions. She reminded us to make our own opportunities and that a handshake goes further than an e-mail, especially if the goal is to get on-air. <3 Lauren has been DJing for years in multiple cities, and from her perspective, the standard for radio has changed considerably.

She described a modern era of radio where listeners didn’t want to hear talk. Young listeners only want to hear music and music promotion, while the older listeners enjoy hearing discussions with their favorite hosts. Personally, I’m in the young listener category, and I appreciate my radio time to be filled with as much music as possible.


Walking past the studio for Mancow’s talk show on 97.9 The Loop proved <3 Lauren correct. This is Chicago’s classic rock station (that may be copyright…), which is mainly targeted towards older listeners, and the studio was immense! It was full of chairs for guests and visitors. I had to appreciate the style of radio our parents listened to when they were young. We get to use Twitter and FaceBookLive to reach our favorite hosts, but in Ye Olde Times, those on-air discussions helped DJs make connections with their listeners.


It’s Sonia Universe, Midnight Pearl, and Phill with two L’s!

I’m certainly not going to be that annoying friend who says technology makes us asocial. Definitely not! All that’s important is we continue making connections.

This is why I feel so lucky we got to listen to Laura Jane Grace from Against Me play a live, acoustic set in 101 WKQX’s Sound Lounge. The experience was very powerful and intimate (I also hate that word in this context, but it’s the most accurate); Laura has a voice that resonates, and though it booms through the studio, it’s open and friendly and gives you the impression she’s telling a story just to you. It’s quite a talent, and I cannot push the quality of her and her band’s music enough.


What an afternoon! I can’t thank the 101 WKQX staff enough for having us wander through their offices and interrupt their day to take pictures and ask questions. Everyone smiled and waved and asked us to come back and visit!

They better be careful what they wish for, or we just might.

Have a Scien-tastic day!


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