The University of Rhode Island’s student radio station, WRIU, is turning 75 this year.
WRIU was founded by students in 1939, when URI was still called Rhode Island State College. The station was originally called WHOE, and was an AM station. It changed its frequency to FM and assumed the WRIU callsign in 1964, when URI’s Memorial Union was renovated and the station set up its headquarters on the third floor.
Though no formal celebratory event for the anniversary has been scheduled, students are in the process of planning an event at the Memorial Union. According to Madison Moreau, general manager at WRIU, the station is also planning its own banquet, though it is still in the preliminary stage.
Two years ago, WRIU created its online sister station, RIU2. Unlike WRIU, which is also open to community members, everyone who works at RIU2 is a student at URI. It is the beginning station, where all participants start out before moving on to WRIU.
Today, WRIU is run by a student executive board and provides commercial-free, 24-hour coverage on 90.3 FM to most of southern New England. Some nights, the station can be heard as far as Montauk, New York.
The radio station is known for playing a wide variety of music.
“We do all sorts of music: hip-hop, reggae, electronica,” said Thomas Porter, FM Sports Director at WRIU. “It’s actually pretty impressive how all of that works together.”
According to Moreau, though the music has remained “relatively static” for the last few years, the station has been having “a big push with sports.” WRIU’s wide range of music and sports coverage is unique for radio stations.
“We do something very different,” he said. “I think we’re the only FM that covers football in the state.”
According to Porter, anybody at the university, or even from the community, is welcome to participate at WRIU.
“If you’re a student here at URI, you can participate,” he said. “There’s always a way to get somebody new involved.”
Porter, a junior at URI, started at the radio station in his freshman year as a Sunday night heavy metal DJ. He was also a director at RIU2 before becoming the sports director at WRIU.
Moreau, a senior engineering major, has been involved with WRIU for four years. Before becoming the general manager of WRIU, he was the general manager of RIU2. He has also been a DJ during his entire four years.
According to Porter, who sets up the sports schedule, WRIU covers approximately 50 games every year, including baseball, basketball, and hockey.
The broadcasters occasionally travel with the team and broadcast games. It involves a lot of traveling, and they often do not know where they’re going until 5 to 6 days before the game.
“For me, it’s like being an explorer,” Porter said.
On an average game day, WRIU usually arrives a few hours before the game starts to set up their equipment, prepare for the day and “figure out what’s going on.”
“You need prep work,” Porter said. “You have to be on your toes for the entire broadcast.”
They usually leave an hour after the game and go back to the Union, where they sort through the audio from the day.
In the past, WRIU has covered games including the University of Albany, Brown University, Providence College, and the University of Connecticut.
“As the fans get excited, you get excited,” Porter said. “It’s just like going to a Red Sox or Yankees game.”
Moreau’s favorite part of his job as the general manager is being able to interact and make connections with people, and having the opportunity to still be a DJ in addition to his managerial duties.
“It’s a very unique atmosphere that isn’t comparable to anything else,” Moreau said. “It gives students an opportunity to get involved.”
In addition to being an outlet for students, WRIU has also brought attention to the university.
“It gives a name to URI, and lets the public know that we’re here at URI,” Moreau said.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” Porter said. “In the end, it’s a community.”