With the sound up high and the lights beaming down, rock historian and disc jockey Pete Fornatale (FCRH ’67) looked supremely at home as he moderated a discussion on WFUV’s past and future as part of the radio station’s 60th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26.
With 300 people in attendance at the event at O’Keefe Commons, Fornatale led a discussion with fellow WFUV alumni Charles Osgood (FCRH ’54), anchor of CBS News’ Sunday Morning; Ed Randall (FCRH ’74), host ofTalking Baseball on radio station WFAN; Rich McLaughlin (FCRH ’01), program director at Sirius Satellite Radio; and Julianne Welby (FCRH ’93), the station’s current news and public affairs director.
Though they worked at the station at different times in its history, panelists all discussed the role WFUV played in getting them a start in broadcasting. Osgood said that he practically lived at WFUV from the moment he stepped onto the Rose Hill campus in 1950.
“All those years, I dreamed that one day in the future, I would be working at a station that looks like the present WFUV,” he said. “Instead, I started out working at a place, WCBS, that looked a whole lot like WFUV did back then.”
The radio station was founded in 1947 and was first a student-run operation. In 1988, it became a public radio station, and today airs news from National Public Radio and an eclectic mix of music. It has about 300,000 listeners a week, and is staffed by 27 employees and more than 70 students.
As part of the anniversary celebration, the station hosted a reception for WFUV alumni and supporters and provided tours of its new facilities in Keating Hall. The band Ollabelle, a longtime favorite of WFUV listeners, also performed. Another WFUV alumnus, sportscaster Vin Scully, also appeared during the celebration via a taped video greeting, where he’s been broadcasting games for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team for 57 years.
McLaughlin said he began working at the station well after it had been established, but like the many students working there today, benefited from the professional environment of a 50,000-watt station.
“People really didn’t have that opportunity to learn at a radio station as well respected at WFUV, at least not people my age,” he said. “So what I was able to do was go into different areas of broadcasting and decide what I really wanted to get into.”
All the panelists agreed that luck was integral to succeeding in broadcasting, but not exclusive.
And what of the future of radio? Few had concrete predictions, but Welby was upbeat, saying she sees signs of democratization in media.
“Ironically, as commercial broadcasting narrows and narrows down, and we hear about satellite radio is possibly merging, public radio seems to be offering more opportunities to expand,” she said. “There are resources on the web now where any self starter can become their own one person radio show, and I see that continuing.”
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, summed up the event with a speech at the reception.
“It was a special grace to be over in O’Keefe Commons a little while ago for the symposium,” he said. “It was fascinating, it was entertaining, it was uplifting, and it was therefore an event that was worthy of WFUV and I think Fordham as well.”