New campus AM station run by School of Communications offers hands-on broadcasting experience for students

A new campus radio station transmitted out of Lake Superior Hall will provide music and Grand Valley information for listeners while serving as a laboratory for students.

WLSX AM 900 -- the "LS" represents Lake Superior -- will offer a format of 1980s and 1990s music, said Len O'Kelly, associate professor of multimedia journalism and the station's programmer.

The station is not licensed with the FCC, which means its reach is limited to the Allendale Campus property to meet FCC provisions for a low-power unlicensed operation, O'Kelly said. He said the station uses the same technology that the Gerald R. Ford International Airport uses to relay parking information.

A studio microphone for a radio station hangs over a control board.
Students will have the opportunity to hone their on-air presentations.
Image credit - Tanner Hamilton

O'Kelly said that for years he had looked for opportunities to file for an FM station, but they never materialized, and prospects looked slim with a fairly full local FM dial. 

"The 900 frequency is a clear one in West Michigan, with no interference," he said.

The station already ran information for move-in week, and will provide public service announcements as a way for the School of Communications to help serve campus needs, O'Kelly said.

As part of their studies on radio broadcasting, students will work shifts at the station, which also gives them work sample opportunities when applying for jobs after graduation, he said.

He said he envisions this station serving as a complement for the student-run WCKS "The Whale," for which he is advisor.

"My hope is that students will take the class and decide they have an interest in this field and will also have a passion for the varied programming," O'Kelly said. "If you want to express your creativity, please go to the student radio station and do that, too."

The laboratory aspect of WLSX gives students an important base, O'Kelly said. While students doing their own programming have shown a recent tendency to gravitate toward talk radio, the reality is that new graduates entering the radio industry are likely headed to a music format.

WLSX will allow O'Kelly to prepare students for the specific requirements of a music format, such as how to effectively go to a break and the extensive preparation needed for a show, as well as helping them more deeply understand programming decisions.

The buttons on a radio station control board are lit up in the darkness.
Work will entail learning all aspects of operating a radio station.
Image credit - Tanner Hamilton

Working on performance -- how to use your voice, honing your on-air personality -- is also an essential part of the multimedia journalism curriculum, he said. 

The station will also be available via live stream at


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