Tuesday, May 5, 2020

WLSO 90.1 FM: A Look Back In The Wayback Machine, Part 7 (2014-Today)

After six prior installments stretching across 17 years of backups on The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, our retrospective series on Lake Superior State University's long-time FM radio station ends today by looking at the last three years of WLSO's operations at 90.1 FM, plus what happened in the 2016-2017 school year as it rebranded, went dark on the FM band, and moved to internet radio permanently, where it quietly lives today. Due to their website ceasing updates after 2013, much of the information below comes from the station's inactive Facebook page, and of course, listen to their modern day internet station while reading to set the mood.

With the spring 2014 semester beginning, WLSO aired such programs as Sweaters with Joshua Passino (Tuesdays at 9:00 PM), the continuing Soo Sports Talk, and two debuting shows with surviving Facebook pages. One was the freeform program The Borderline Boyz, which ran through the fall of 2014 with co-hosts Chris Cortell, Anthony, and Boots, which you could hear on Fridays & Saturdays at 7:00 PM. The other was Collin's Cinema Show, a movie review/opinion series that aired on Fridays at 4:00 PM that semester, not visibly continuing into the next school year. While short-lived, their Facebook page features a bunch of episode synopses, and even a few polls on what Collin should look at are still up! The station also kicked off daily artist spotlight hours at 12:00 & 6:00 PM that February to look at new bands on rotation there, which definitely pointed to the station's increasing focus on adult album alternative music in it's last years on the FM dial.

In time for the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, Erica Smith was promoted to station manager, while Joshua Passino succeeded her as music director, among the latest wave of staff changes and hirings. Most updates that fall related to campus events, staff searches, and station maintenance (including 2 weeks off the air that September due to technical difficulties), though WLSO did kick off a song of the week series via YouTube video shares on Facebook, again in the adult alternative/indie rock vein, that ran until the end of the next semester. WLSO also launched an Instagram page in December, which mostly covered on-campus events they DJed at. One notable program to debut that fall was COP DOCs, which was hosted by LSSU criminal justice professors Aaron Westrick & Frank Tridico on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM, as they explored modern issues in criminal and social justice. This show aired as late as the spring 2016 semester, and from what I've found, is the newest WLSO program with a surviving Facebook page.

Updates in the spring 2015 semester were less about the FM airplay and more about on-campus events that they sponsored and provided DJ services at. One striking note from this period was the increased WLSO merchandise that was distributed, including official station megaphones, and even official WLSO toques with the call-sign on them, and toque giveaways were prominently advertised for a time.  By the fall 2015 semester, WLSO had launched a Mixcloud page featuring episodes of COP DOCs and another contemporary show, The Faculty Room, providing one of the few outlets to hear 90.1 FM programs in full. Unfortunately, the 2015-2016 school year saw very little updates to actual on-air content, presaging the heavy changes ahead. In March 2016, WLSO announced a listener contest to find a name for "the new online station" debuting that fall, with The 46th Parallel announced as the winner in April, and the station relaunched as such in September, but aside from some August events that they DJed at, nothing followed online.

Things may have been less ambiguous if you were an active student or faculty member, but The 46th Parallel renaming meant more than just updating their online stream, as had been done numerous times in the past. Nothing was ever announced on social media, but 2017 was the end of WLSO 90.1 FM, with the station going dark on terrestrial radio by the end of the spring semester, as per my own recollections. Their Facebook page hasn't been updated since 2016, their website (which had sat idle since 2013) was taken down permanently after March 2017, the Twitter page was deleted outright, and their Instagram page sat unused for over three years. LSSU's then-president Peter Mitchell officially filed with the FCC to relinquish the school's FM license that November, which is beyond definitive as to 90.1 FM's fate. Henceforth, LSSU's campus radio station has been an internet station only, quietly airing to this day, but even their name has been ambiguous. The 46th Parallel name & logo is used for live DJing and on LSSU's website page for the current station, which does validate the 2016 contest.

However, LSSU's own website page also calls the station Laker Radio, but the current online stream for the modern-day station calls it Superior Radio. Regardless of name, the new station is part of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System's Student Radio Network, via Backbone Radio, and you can see recently played songs at this link. Despite the cookie-cutter appearance (the news page hasn't been updated since 2013), Superior Radio airs a distinct 24/7 playlist and isn't fed from a non-local server, but any time I have listened, I have never heard local DJs. Honestly, scheduled DJ breaks have even stopped the feed for me in the past. The modern day playlist is extremely freeform, to the point where the metal band Wild Throne was directly followed by country star Jason Aldean during playback while writing this post. However, most played artists are underground & rising acts, so the station's a great portal to discover new music, and to my surprise, their Instagram page has actually been updated in the 2019-2020 school year!

The Instagram page notes that they still host campus events (including a studio tour for station alumni in October), and promisingly, they did plug wanting to find new student DJs in February, which is presumably on hold due to the school's COVID-19 lockdown. LSSU's radio station has seen heavy changes since the mid-2010s, but I hope things can grow and progress to old activity levels in the 2020s, now that the internet transition is done, and I hope you guys liked this look back into WLSO's tenure on traditional radio and beyond over the last few weeks! Continue to support Laker Radio at above, and stay tuned for more news on the site soon! Thanks everyone!

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