By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Zoe Walrond teaches the KRFH Workshop at Humboldt State University.
Zoe Walrond begins every KRFH Workshop class by having her students chant:
Give me a K!
Give me an R!
Give me an F!
Give me an H!
Reminiscent of the band Country Joe and the Fish, the chant epitomizes the freewheeling, hippy-ish spirit of KRFH - K-Radio Free Humboldt - at Humboldt State University, and Walrond's team-building approach to teaching students how to run a radio station.
Walrond, an award-winning broadcast news reporter for 30 years and a news anchor on radio and television stations in Denver, Kansas City and Los Angeles, and for National Public Radio, has been at the university five years. She teaches the workshop for the radio class and is the faculty adviser for the radio station that's run by students.
Her students say that Walrond has been an inspiration in helping them achieve success.
"She's taught us about news judgment and about responsibility," says Ashley Bailey, news director of the station. "She wants for us to have a good time, and for KRFH to be cool, but she has a lot of respect for KRFH and wants us to also have that respect. She has made us realize that being on the radio is a privilege that has to be earned. She has been a real mentor for many of us."
Walrond, a California Faculty Association member, is proud that KRFH students received the National Student Production Award for best newscast in the College Broadcasters Inc. competition. The winning broadcast was an update on the arrest of a Somali pirate and the possibility that he might be tried in the United States, with a "music bed" under the story for added tension.
"I submitted the newscast and thought it was a long shot," says Walrond. "When they won, I was blown away."
KRFH serves as a training ground for those aspiring to be future broadcasters - as well as those who want to have fun. In addition to being at the microphone, teams of students sell advertising spots, handle public relations, produce shows, and handle Facebook and Twitter accounts. Walrond makes sure that they also learn responsibility: If they can't find a substitute to fill in for them on the air, their grade for the course drops an entire letter.
On the air seven days a week, KRFH broadcasts throughout the campus and can also be heard on www.krfh.net. In an era when corporations decide what kind of music radio stations can play, KRFH gives a break to musicians across the country who are trying to get their music heard. Bands from Brooklyn, San Francisco, Massachusetts, Salt Lake City and Alaska have sent their CDs to the station in hopes of airtime.
Students in the KRFH Workshop are on the air for one hour per week, while students in the Advanced Workshop get two hours a week. Shows have names as colorful as the 1940s-style murals that adorn the station's walls -DJ Toni Fluke's "Fluke Nuke 'Em Show," DJ Chicken Wing's "Clucking Hour of Power," Rob the Lobster's "Humboldt Hangover Blues: Pounding Beats for Throbbing Temples," and other names, some of which can't be repeated.
Walrond says her students love it so much, it's like a "cult" for many of them, who continue their affiliation with the station after graduation.
"It's entertaining and super fun," says Tyler Collins, who co-hosts "Just the Two of Us" with Rory Smith, featuring sports talk with a "heaping" side of music. "There could be 10 people listening or 10,000, but you get to talk about the things that interest you, play the music you like and sometimes get requests.
"I just love getting the experience," says Lydia Katz, whose show, "Redwood Rebe Radio," is about Judaism. "I'm not at all shy. My roommates said, 'Oh my God, they gave you a show? What have they done?' But I just love to talk."
As faculty adviser, Walrond serves as a general manager and makes sure students follow all of the FCC guidelines such as not using profanity, imbibing alcohol or drugs on the air, or surreptitiously recording callers - especially school administrators - without informing them that they are being taped.
"The students usually self-police," she says. "And if there's a problem, I hear about it."
Some of her students go on to work in professional broadcasting jobs, while others go into other careers and benefit from the learning experience.
"I love watching them grow in self-confidence," says Walrond. "It's so rewarding. For me, it's all about the students."