Dear Decaturish – I like the new WRAS

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt July 7, 2014
FILE PHOTO, May 16,2014: Right to left: Jenny Nesvetailova, Josh Martin, Ana Zimitravich and Alayna Fabricius discuss the results of a meeting with GSU officials. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

FILE PHOTO, May 16,2014: Right to left: Jenny Nesvetailova, Josh Martin, Ana Zimitravich and Alayna Fabricius discuss the results of a meeting with GSU officials. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

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Dear Decaturish,

I am here to out myself as one of the few listeners who are actually excited about the new format at WRAS.  I have been waiting entire adult life to have a public radio station that parallels that of all the major metropolitan areas in the US.   Not only that, but it also parallels the programming of the rest of the state of Georgia.  It’s been a long time coming.

I am telling you this with the full understanding that I look like a jerk.  I know that.  I am a selfish, albeit conscientious person.  I also understand that there is a huge hole in the hearts of many people who believed in the station.  It is regrettable that the takeover had to be on 88.5 and not another station.   But that won’t keep me away.  I will listen to WRAS and it’ll be locked in.  WABE is partly to blame for this hot mess.  If they’d get up to speed and dump the classical format, this may have been avoided.

I don’t have the answer to this question, but I will ask it anyway:  are the students really missing the station?  The majority of GSU students probably didn’t listen to the station.  With so many other digital outlets at their disposal, it’s seems prehistoric to imagine the kids hooked up to a radio station at all.

Why do they need a radio station?  Was the Album 88 format a service to its paying constituents or a service to the community at large?  From the responses on your site, to those at Creative Loafing and elsewhere in the blogosphere, it seems the loudest protesters are a graying group that are balled up in a dark corner with this sad turn of events.

I’ll be a pariah for having said this, I suppose, but I’ll admit it.

–          Betsy Carnathan

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • blackbird13

    I like the idea of a less music-oriented public radio station too, Betsy (though from what I’ve read, there is going to be quite a bit of program duplication). But that doesn’t change the fact that GSU administrators handled the situation in a less-than-honest manner and that they are at least partly taking away one of the few (maybe the only) great extra-curricular institutions at the school. It may work out as the administration promises, but I think students and alumni are right to worry that this is but the first stage in the complete takeover of the signal by GPB.

    • bc

      Right on. I haven’t totally done my homework on the takeover. I harbor such a great deal of resentment against WABE and their poor programming choices. I’m as steadfast in my support of public radio as many Album 88 supporters are in their camp. I really can’t understand why there’s not enough room on the dial for all parties. Makes no sense.


  • BaguetteDuSorcier

    “Prehistoric,” says the person using two spaces (possibly even three?) after each period. That’s a typewriter style holdover, yo.

    Knee-jerk snark aside, I respect Betsy’s stance (I too would have loved to have more NPR programming during the day that isn’t classical music, though NOT at the expense of WRAS), but I think she’s dead wrong about students’ interest in analog radio. I’m no longer a college student myself, but I am 25, so I think I fall roughly into the same age bracket, and I relied heavily on WRAS for my new music fix. Pandora and other streaming services are all very well when I’m tethered to my computer, but like many people my age, I can’t just load down my data plan by streaming from mobile devices all day in my car. What am I, a millionaire?

    Also, I could go on and on about how much essential cultural value WRAS lent to Atlanta, how unethical it was for GSU to seize student media outlets in secrecy without student consent/involvement, how GPB has been acting shady by trying to lure donors away from independently-funded WABE using taxpayer dollars to duplicate their existing programming, etc., etc., but others have expounded on these points much more eloquently than I could hope to.

  • Benjamin O

    There is an additional problem to what blackbird13 mentioned in that GPB is now in competition with WABE, a PBS station, and public radio should not be in competition. The whole point of public radio is to provide a service to the people that would not otherwise be provided. In Album 88’s case, there is no alternative to Album 88, but most of the programming offered by GPB on 88.5FM parallels that offered by WABE, albeit at different times (but not always). In essence, we lost something unique to gain something the city already had in many respects. Understandably, WABE’s choice to play classical music during the morning hours doesn’t meet all of the public’s needs, but the difference in having NPR in the morning vs NPR only in the afternoon and evening is greater than the difference in having a station like Album 88 from 5am-7pm and not having it. Prominent musicians from Atlanta have decried the move on the basis that it saps local artists of a valuable voice that only Album 88 has provided, and it is essentially a death knell for the station.

    There is nothing wrong with enjoying the new format, nor with enjoying what GPB is offering during the morning hours, but the move represents a poor example of how public radio is supposed to operate. This, in addition to the other usual complaints, is why it is still a bad move, even if it is appealing to have more NPR available to drivers in the morning.

    Again, I don’t think enjoying the new GPB programming makes you a jerk or a pariah. Nor does it make you selfish. But in the limited airspace we get for public radio, the move still defies the best interest of the Atlanta public overall, not to mention GSU, who’s decision this ultimately was and in theory to whom this is supposed to be benefiting. Thus it is still probably not achieving the end goals of either Atlanta public radio or GSU. But I’m like you–having more talk radio available is certainly welcome to the city. Just not like this, perhaps.

  • Lori Leary

    I guess that I am a a member of the “graying group that are balled up in a dark corner with this sad turn of events”. I listened to WRAS as a teen when it first began broadcasting. I listened through my undergrad years at GSU and then through the years when returning home to Atlanta for visits. When I returned to live in my hometown of Decatur in 2006, I kept listening. Why? Because WRAS offered something I could not find with other stations in the Atlanta area: interesting music of all genres, new and not-so-new. I listened mostly in my car.

    I cannot write about the old WRAS without marveling how students have run the station over the years, turning it into a powerhouse with a national reputation. What a loss to Atlanta’s cultural scene! To lose such a wonderful resource in order to duplicate shows already available on WABE is ridiculous. And sacrificing the unique and wonderful programming of Album 88 for NPR shows that can be easily podcast is unconscionable.

    GSU will never receive another penny from me. (I’m talking to you, GSU president Mark Becker and VP of Student Affairs Doug Covey!) The same goes for GPB.

  • NativeAtlantaGirl

    Betty, your assumptions about students not listening to WRAS are completely inaccurate. If “young people” didn’t listen, why would they be so up in arms about it? If it didn’t matter to them much, why would the movement be continuing in the summer after more than 2 months if it didn’t matter to them?

    Album 88’s “constituents” are the students who pay for it thru their student activity fees. Album 88’s listeners range from kids in middle school to people in their 70’s.

    Their only option to listen is streaming, which is often down, limits the number of listeners to 216 at a time, and puts the burden on them to use their data on their phone to listen.

    Students lose the opportunity to experience working in radio. Sure, they can pay beaucoups for one of those vo-tech schools, but they will not have the experience and prestige of working at the (formerly) largest student run radio station in the country. They work with labels, venues, artists, and promoters. They speak at prominent events like CMJ and SXSW. If college radio was so “out” for young people, why would SXSW find them relevant? Many students come to GSU solely to work at WRAS.

    Local artists lose out on the opportunity to have their music highlighted. Venues lose the opportunity to promote their shows. The station loses prominence with the major labels. The music industry recognized that last month, including a small organization called NARAS, you might know them as “The Grammys”.

    Know who also loses out? Not for profits that cannot afford grant-writers but get 100,000 watts of exposure for their causes. Album 88 PSAs have been invaluable to countless small not for profits.

    This deal is nothing but greed. GPB has been desperate for an Atlanta presence, they tried this with GT in 2006, but students shot it down. GpB explicitly demanded GSU exclude students from the discussions. (Check the open records). GPB has INTERNS right now out going door to door soliciting for donations. How is that comparable to completely runnning the station?

    Non-commercial radio has an obligation to serve the community, how having simulcast 68% on GPB/WABE benefits anyone is a farce. Maybe you dig Car Talk, but the majority of people don’t.

    I don’t program WABE, but I am guessing they do research and listen to their listeners. WABE is not my cup of tea personally, I also don’t love everything Album 88 plays, but the cool thing is, you had a CHOICE.

  • Graybeard

    Yea I’m a 26-year old whose entire social circle regularly listened to WRAS. If you were to check out #SaveWRAS, their Facebook page, you would recognize that it has more “likes” than GPB’s main page. Your implication that it’s nothing but gray-hairs that listen is just that; an implication. The whole reason it was so easy to exploit WRAS was that its main demographic has zero political influence.

    Furthermore, more than 70% of the programming on GPB can be found on
    WABE, a large percentage of which airs at the exact same time.

    Supporting their takeover is tacit support for business as usual in this state, where back-room deals done secretly over years gets foisted on constituencies, then we’re told to just deal with it.

    • blackbird13

      “Supporting their takeover is tacit support for business as usual in this state, where back-room deals done secretly over years gets foisted on constituencies, then we’re told to just deal with it.”

      Well put. Considering GPB’s sketchy relationship with the state legislature (one of the most corrupt in the nation), it’s no surprise they were involved in such a deal as this one.

  • Bill Nigut’s Colon

    GBP should not be broadcasting from GSU property at all. It was a shady, shameful theft that was done unilaterally behind closed doors. And GSU gets plenty of listeners from people stuck in their cars in horrible Atlanta traffic. It was the one upswing to being in my car! At least I would get exposed to 30-45 minutes of programming I WOULD NEVER HEAR ANYWHERE ELSE and chances are I would like it, or it would at least be interesting, and give me perspective on what is happening on the forefront of music today. You obviously cannot say that about GPB’s programming redundancies with WABE, without regard to whether you like it or not. Shame on you for being an apologist for the arrogant powermongers that have robbed us of a valuable cultural resource! And yes, you are a jerk.

    • Lori Leary


    • BC

      To be fair, I called myself something much worse than thatb. But I got edited.

      • Yeah, i meant to point out that edit to you. I am trying to keep Decaturish PG to PG-13ish on most days. 🙂 Thank you for the letter and for bringing a fresh perspective to this issue.

  • Hannah @ 88.5

    Yes, there are many online options for college students to listen to. However, not many of us can afford to stream online music – whether over wifi or via HD radio in our cars. For a lot of us, the analog signal is pretty much all we’ve got. Losing WRAS at the expense of students, I myself being one, is a travesty. I respect that we need more NPR options during the day – we’re not anti NPR, we’re anti underhanded & secretive deals. We are against being left out of the discussion. We are against having our second home taken from us. Doing my show this past Saturday was heartbreaking. Where there are usually tons of calls – there were 5 over the course of 2 hours. I had to beg the small amount of people listening via the stream to call in and win the tickets I had been trying to give away for 2 on air breaks. I felt like I was talking to a wall when I spoke into the mic instead of having my voice broadcast across Atlanta for whatever 20 or 50 year old misfit kid was listening. While I respect the need for NPR, I do not understand being so disrespected by the administration at GSU as well as the executives at GPB (who, by the way, have not reached out to those of us currently on staff/management at the station to even have a dialogue about the current situation). Sure, maybe some of us can go online and listen, but who actually will? We’re now lost in a sea of online radio instead of standing out as a cultural beacon in the desert that Atlanta radio has become. I also have to ask, why doesn’t GPB just stream online? If that was the real solution here, they’d already be doing it. Just consider that for a moment.

  • underscorex

    1: Two NPR stations in the same market with functionally identical programming for the majority of the broadcast day is ludicrous.

    2: The manner in which this deal was thrust upon the constituency without any discussion is beyond shady.

    3: GPB’s motivation here is questionable at best – they don’t want to offer “competition”, they want to steal WABE’s audience.

    I’m a GSU alumni and I can guarantee you they will never see another cent of my money. GPB wasn’t getting any to begin with, but uh… I changed my radio preset?

    (I’ve basically moved over to WRFG for non-NPR radio purposes at this point.)

  • ezhiker35

    Okay, at 46, I’m in one of the older demos that listen to Album 88 all the time. In addition to that, I’ve listened primarily to their digital stream for quite some time. I do it with my iPhone streaming to Bluetooth in my car. So, the GPB takeover has not affected me personally one bit. But here’s the thing… the average college student is driving a 5-10 year old vehicle with an FM/CD combo stereo at best. They’re not going to be able to afford unlimited data plans and Bluetooth. On top of that, many people work at jobs where Internet radio streaming is forbidden, so there goes the daytime FM audience. And finally, even if WRAS gets their promised but undelivered HD radio transmitter, almost nobody owns an HD radio.

    GSU and GPB like to make it sound like it’s a win-win and the listeners of the music format will simply hop on over to the digital stream. It simply isn’t true. While I believe that digital streaming is the future, it simply isn’t here yet for most people.

    One other thing to mention… the radio music promoters used to look at WRAS as a bellwether station for music. With the loss of both drive times and the 100 KW signal in the day, no longer will this be the case. This, along with the lost daytime broadcasting hours, will destroy the clout WRAS had in the media business that got a lot of GSU students jobs. And ultimately, wasn’t that the purpose of the radio station in the first place?

    I know you’re glad you got the few extra hours of NPR but it doesn’t change the fact that this was a shady back room deal and both the GSU students and the Atlanta metro have been royally screwed,.

  • Ted C

    Of course there are many like Miss Carnathan who prefer the new format, but that has never been the issue of protest. The primary issue is that the deal was conceived, negotiated, and signed without any consent from the student body or the GSU community, but sold as “it’s what’s best for the students”. It’s still unclear how GSU as a whole, much less the student body, benefits from the deal beyond extending their brand to the graveyard shift of GPB-TV.

  • GSU student

    Procedure regarding a USG asset was not followed by the University or
    the Board of Regents. Even if this was the great deal you think it is
    according to a.c.g.a. 20-3-60(a) this deal should have been “subject to
    the approval of the governor” if “the board shall first determine that
    such property can no longer be advantageously used in the system”
    According to FOIA request replies from both the BOR and GSU
    administration this procedure did not take place.

    As a
    student who pays for the station equipment, not telling my elected
    student government officials about the negotiations constituted fraud,
    which was instigated by GPB and GSU officials when deciding to not
    disclose to us the negotiations and that the equipment expenses would
    benefit a third party.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks BC. I enjoyed your piece. As a graduate of GSU, I will say that I have NEVER listened to the station for more than a few minutes. Even while a undergrad and graduate student, I thought the music selection was weird. It was either some long album piece of a group that I never heard of or a single song that never connected with me. You are also right that listeners today have many choices. I agree with you that most GSU students today probably didn’t listen to the old format but neither did former students! This is a tempest in a teapot and will be forgotten in a few weeks.
    PS- I hope I used that phrase “Tempest in a Teapot” correctly but if not, blame it NOT my English teachers at Saint Pius or GSU. They done the best they could do with me.

    • Lori Leary


    • chipper

      Chris… I think ‘S^*t Storm’ will probably prove to be more accurate… btw, it’s been a few weeks now and it is NOT being forgotten…

      Athens band The Whigs cancel GPB in-studio performance…

  • mikey johnson

    Betsy Carnathan,
    You are incorrect. I’d advise you look a little deeper into this before making assumptions.

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