“I’m a nurse,” read the message sent to Rita Houston, WFUV’s program director. “Today I listened in [and] for the first time all month, [I] danced in my kitchen, relaxed for the first time in ages. Grateful to WFUV community resources for helping us stay well, stay safe, stay sane, stay connected in these uncertain times.”
Another message to Houston from a woman from New York said that the station was keeping her company during this isolating time.
“Please know we appreciate the continued joy we have always received from FUV. Now more than ever, many of us, myself included, are alone and music means so much in our daily mindset,” the message read.
For Houston, the messages are a reminder of why it’s important that she and other staff members at WFUV, 90.7 FM, continue to work hard each day, even under their own set of difficult circumstances.
“We are hearing from so many listeners about the comfort, entertainment, community, and meaning that WFUV is bringing in these tough times,” she said. “And that means so much to all of us at WFUV. The authenticity that WFUV has always represented with our music and our DJs is what listeners are responding to. Our DJs are doing a great job keeping that going under the difficult circumstances of working remotely.”
It’s been over a week since any show was broadcast live from the WFUV studios at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham, according to WFUV’s General Manager Chuck Singleton.
“Our administrative team had followed most of the work world and the rest of the University, to remote work in mid-March,” he said. “Until last week, a small crew of essential air staffers including Corny O’Connell, Delphine Blue and others, as well as George Evans, our director of technical operations, stuck it out on site at FUV’s studios. But with expanding social distancing and Governor Cuomo’s executive order, we knew the clock was running out on that.”
Evans said that the team had been putting things in place since early March to get ready for a fully remote set-up.
DJ Dennis Elsas was the first to go remote due to his experience with working from home for his other work with Sirius XM satellite radio.
“I know how to do it,” he said. “I was already set up and we figured if it works for me, we can roll it out for everyone.”
That meant making sure that on-air hosts had the recording equipment they needed set up at home, and engineers were able to make sure their shows hit their airwaves while they all were in different locations.
“Our Bronx studios are currently off-limits, but the music plays on,” Kathleen Allard, membership director, wrote in a letter to listeners. “Our hosts are broadcasting remotely from their homes, as our programmers and engineers work from theirs, performing an intricate and complicated series of processes that keeps the music going strong for you.”
Elsas said the experience isn’t that different than broadcasting from the studio, but he and others try to focus on keeping their connection to the listeners, even while remote.
“I can stay in touch with the world as I would in the studio,” he said. “With the internet, I can stay in touch with my listeners through their emails, tweets, social media, Facebook, and the music is the music.”
Evans estimated that programming has been able to stay about 95 percent the same, with just a few small items that had to go away for the time being as the staff logistically adjusted.
“There are some things that we used to do like ‘Question of the Day’ in the morning and some other things and we took that away for now—once we get a good flow and get settled then we’re going to bring what we can bring back,” he said.
Singleton said that’s a credit to the staff working quickly and learning their new remote processes.
“Our music team, newscasters, engineers, and producers rallied to get all the pieces in place, and last week our air staff began hosting their shows from home,” he said. “It was all a kind of radio moon shot, and thanks to many people, we’re now 100% remote and continue to bring you radio without interruption.”
Elsas said the biggest struggle for him and other on-air personalities is striking the right mix between entertaining the listeners and being aware of what’s going on in the world.
“I think that the biggest challenge for anyone, certainly for me or my fellow FUV DJs, but the biggest challenge is to maintain the balance between doing what we do on any given day, which is to entertain, share the music, be part of a community…[and]the seriousness of the situation that we’re in,” he said.
The station is still continuing to record its daily morning and afternoon newscasts, and the news team has created a live blog for wfuv.org to keep track of the latest coronavirus happenings. The station’s goal is to strike that balance between being a place people can go to “get away” from the constant news, but also stay a little bit informed, Evans said.
“We have a mission statement for times like this… that basically says: WFUV is here to provide a place of respite from the news cycle. We’re here to entertain, but not put you in a bubble,” he said. “We’re here to entertain you, but also give you a dose of news as well to keep you informed, but just enough that keeps you in the loop.”