WKSU Relationship with MDJ Expected to Remain Strong, Following Ideastream Merger
The School of Media and Journalism has long fostered a close connection with 89.7 WKSU. The station hosts an average of three MDJ student interns each semester, while station employees are regular guests in the School’s classes offering insights into the profession and suggestions about pursuing careers in the field.
The relationship between MDJ and the public radio station is expected to remain strong following WKSU’s merger with Ideastream Public Media on October 1, 2021.
“The commitment that we have, that Ideastream has, is to not only maintain the strong level of interaction that we have had with the journalism program at Kent State, but to find ways to build upon it,” said Andrew Meyer, WKSU News Director.
The merger was announced in September 2021 and Ideastream assumed control for WKSU’s operations in October, resulting in creation of a significant hub for regional news coverage.
Kent State maintains its licenses for WKSU; but the call letters now operate under the control of Ideastream Public Media. It has been a smooth transition and day-to-day operations have remained mostly the same, said Meyer.
WKSU will become the sole NPR station in Northeast Ohio. 90.3 WCPN (an NPR affiliate for Cleveland) and 104.9 WCLV (a classical radio station owned by Ideastream) will be switching frequencies, allowing classical music to gain a stronger transmitting signal at 90.3. WCPN at 104.9 will become another repeater station for WKSU. This process will be completed on or around April 1 of next year.
“We are continuing to explore a range of options for how we maintain some sort of physical location in Kent so that we can continue to appropriately and adequately cover our full broadcast area, and also work most effectively in continuing the internship program that we have with Kent State University,” Meyer said.
Senior journalism major Connor Steffen is one of the many Media and Journalism students over the years who interned with WKSU. He was with the station from Fall 2020 to the end of Spring 2021.
Steffen, a broadcast journalist, says although radio isn’t his preferred medium, applying for the news internship was one of the best decisions he made because of the experience he gained during his time there. Interns have the chance to interview local politicians, advocates, business owners and more, to write stories about the most up-to-date news and events happening in Northeast Ohio, he explained.
“WKSU was the chance for me to get a proverbial first foot in the door of the news industry,” Steffen said. “I saw it as more of an actual reporting job than an internship. I can say, confidently, that WKSU has prepared me more than ever for my future as a journalist – from thinking through stories, to interviewing techniques and to finding the focus of stories that will benefit and resonate with viewers and listeners.”
Steffen was able to write many stories, ranging from topics such as local transportation budgets, city construction plans, COVID-19 and the vaccine, and the Lordstown General Motors plant.
Meyer is confident that the internship program will remain strong after the merger is fully promulgated.
“I think we’re open to a range of ideas on how we can potentially have more interns working – how we can get them doing more things in the newsroom (and) how we can look for more opportunities to integrate them into the production, creation and reporting of content,” Meyer said.
MDJ students benefit from these opportunities because gaining experience at an NPR-affiliate station offers students the chance to report and have their stories circulated to the station’s broad audience base.
“I have seen countless Kent State students, now professionals in the industry working at places all over the U.S. in all different types of media, grow and cultivate their skills as interns at WKSU,” Steffen said. “Having had an NPR affiliate station actually on the Kent State campus meant ... accessibility and familiarity.”
WKSU will shift its broadcast operations to the Idea Center in Cleveland over the next year, but the news internship will continue to be an option for MDJ students, Meyer said. Rather than the end of an era for the Kent area, it is the beginning of new growth for journalism in Northeast Ohio.
“There is an opportunity for us as Ideastream to help provide people with the eyes that they need on what’s going on in the communities around them, to be their watchdogs, and to be that trusted source for journalism that they need,” Meyer said. “Our goal, really, is to be their number one source for trusted news and information in Northeast Ohio. I think we have an opportunity here to step up and fill that.”