By: Joseph Hutter
Many people know that the New York Islanders have chosen 88.7 FM WRHU to be their flagship radio station for the second consecutive season, but few are aware of the intircacies that go into putting each and every broadcast on air. I was accepted into the WRHU Spring 2011 training class and officially became a member of the radio station after completing the ten week course in late Spring 2011.
As an avid sports fan, hockey in particular, I joined the sports department of the radio station in September of this year in hopes that the Islanders would renew WRHU's contract to be their flagship radio station. In just a few weeks, this hope became a reality. Taking part in three Islanders broadcasts thus far as an engineer assistant, I have learned quite a bit about what it takes to produce a successful on-air product.
For each game, WRHU provides a color guy, which is one of three veteran members of the sports department, who works alongside the Islanders professional play-by-play man, Chris King. They are also responsible for setting up a connection board that routes back to the station at Hofstra so that the game can be aired over 88.7 FM WRHU. This is generally done about two hours prior to the game. At the Coliseum, and on close road games, there is also a student station member on-site performing the task of rinkside reporter. This sports department member is responsible for getting between period interviews with a player to go on-air, as well as a postgame interview.
Back at the station, there are at least five people in studio that help the broadcast run smoothly. These people are responsible for dialing in to the play-by-play and color commentators on their board at the Coliseum to ensure a two-way connection for the game to go out over the air. This is done approximately two hours before the game. The five jobs that these people have are 1) Producer-Oversees the studio and times out the broadcast and the studio breaks. 2) Engineer-Runs the board, plays underwritten commercial advertisements (because WRHU is a non-commercial station), promos, and ensuring the on-air quality is top notch. Underwriting is a very dry form of advertising, and is the only form of professional advertising that can legally be done on a non-commercial station. 3) Engineer Assistant-helps the engineer cue up sound, highlights, and interviews to go out over the air between periods and during the postgame. 4) Update person-Occurs one time between each period as well as one time during the postgame, this student provides listeners with an out-of-town scoreboard as well as other interesting stories throughout sports. The student has two minutes to do this. 5) Highlight person-Cuts highlights of the game using a machine called Shortcut. Cut highlights are used during intermissions and during the postgame. The engineer sends the highlights to the NHL after the game for use on NHL.com. 6) At times the Director of Operations or Chief Audio Engineer may stop in to check up on things.
With the Islanders choosing WRHU as their flagship station as well as the recent news of another Presidential debate coming to campus next Fall, it is surely an interesting time to be a student at Hofstra University.