KCSN: Students don?t know or don?t care

Casey Rowley

Live from our campus, KCSN 88.5 FM produces classical entertainment with a mix of bluegrass, jazz, Americana, news broadcasts and much more.

The one problem is a lot of students haven’t discovered the radio and they aren’t tuning in.’ Many students say they are weary of the station’s classical and alternative vibe and feel the radio isn’t designed with them in mind.

KCSN is an independent radio station based on our campus. Although it has much prestige in the cultural valley, the station leaves little connectivity with the students surrounding it.

Relating with students can be difficult when, according to KCSN’s website, 59 percent of the radio’s listener demographic is for ages 35 to 65.

In a 2007 report, College Portrait of Undergraduate Education said the average age of students at CSUN is 23.7. The study shows only 24 percent of undergraduates are 25 or older.

The age gap determines why students don’t feel connected with the station. KCSN’s demographic also shows that 33 percent of listeners have professional careers and 41 percent earn an annual income of $75,000 or more.

The demographic statistics don’t fit the typical student. Most students are trying to earn professional careers and with textbook and tuition fees, earning $75,000 or more sounds pretty difficult.

‘We are a grand tradition,’ said KCSN Manager Fred Johnson in response to inquiries about lack of student appeal. ‘We’ve been on the air since 1963. We’ve seen a lot of change through formats from university administrations, politics, war, you name it.’

So the station continues to stick with tradition and even with changes throughout the late 90s, the classical, alternative vibe stayed the same. Johnson said, ‘We are probably one of five to six oldest radio stations in Los Angeles.’

With being the first station to deliver BBC wire news, KCSN stands their ground as an established independent station. Changing years of history for contemporary formats and younger audiences don’t seem to fit the bill.

While students may not enjoy classical music played throughout the week, Johnson thinks it is best.

‘It makes sense to say that classical music is a format best representing an institution of higher learning,’ Johnson said.

Some students can’t weigh in their opinion of the station because they’ve never hear of it. After asking around, many students had no clue what KCSN was.

Johnson agreed and said, ‘Probably 99 percent of students don’t know (about KCSN).’ It wasn’t just students who had trouble with the station.

Amanda Bradstock, who works for college counseling and student services, said the radio seemed targeted more for professors. ‘I think in terms of turning on your radio, it should cater more towards students,’ Bradstock said.

Bradstock described the music as ‘on-hold music.’ It’s the sound that streams in the background of a phone call while one is on hold.

Alternative formats played on KCSN that encompass classical and jazz tunes make it difficult for students and some faculty to relate.

Meishel Menachekanian, KCSN’s traffic, production and operations director, said, ‘Classical music is forgotten as the true independent music and we have a great variety both ancient and modern.’

He said it could benefit music students who go through classical training as part of their degree path in CSUN’s music program. ‘We have the best classical music available,’ Menachekanian said.

Aside from music majors, some students said they couldn’t stand the classical vibe.’ Jonathan Stevens, a freshman business major said, ‘It is hard to see the station as something more than just a homework assignment when all they play is classical music.’

Classical music during the week may deter students, but KCSN strives for quality independent, alternative formats with their target audiences.

Johnson is hoping that’ the Americana formats at night and on weekends would spark a student interest. ‘We let our hair down on weeknights and weekends,’ Johnson said.

The station hopes to peak a younger audience’s interest with more progressive sounds aside from the classical vibe during the week.

Some examples of progressive programs are shows like ‘Meet the Beatles’ and ‘The Deep End.’ Cayley Lazarus, a junior broadcast major who works on the radio, thought the weekends brought more sounds fit for students. Lazarus said, ‘On weekends it (KCSN) is super eclectic.’

Menachekanian said, ‘People still fall in love with the Beetles.’ He feels their popularity never ceases to exist and students would be interested. Another show Menachekanian thought students would enjoy was The Deep End, which airs on Saturday nights and takes a look at hip-hop, pop, R’amp;B and folk.

‘You can find a lot of common artists that won’t get played. They are alternative formats,’ Menachekanian said.

Some students might enjoy the weekend formats, but most aren’t aware of the station’s existence.

Freshman business major Denise Gomez was one of many who didn’t know about KCSN. Gomez wanted to listen to music that targeted R’amp;B, hip-hop and classic oldies like Michael Jackson.

‘They should play something we like, and if I start to listen to music I like I’ll tell my friends,’ Gomez said.

It could be due to the fact that according to KCSN’s website, ‘Compared to the national average, twice as many public radio listeners hold graduate degrees and have an investment portfolio.’

The target audience may not be a majority of students, but the station does strive to involve students in one of their programs.

The KCSN news department is produced entirely by students, with the exception of Keith Goldstein their news director.

Menachekanian said, ‘The students are heavily involved with the KCSN news department. It is exclusively run by students.’

The news department has won 56 Golden Mike awards from the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California for their efforts.

Lazarus, who helps in the station news, said CSUN should feel lucky to have a radio station. ‘USC has radio run by all professionals. UCLA would die for our station. They don’t even have one,’ she said.

The news is primarily made up from wire services and is national and local to Los Angeles and southern California. Lazarus said the station is seen as a professional working radio station and that is why it is not targeted specifically to students.

What about programs that broadcast campus news and events?

Freshman biochemistry major Suzie Gujadikyan said it would be nice if the station could tell students about events happening at CSUN. ‘Things [students] wouldn’t know just from walking through campus,’ she said.

Johnson said the sports broadcast are 50 to 60 percent based on following the Matadors. The station does deliver promotional announcements for the university, as well. Johnson also said the station promotes musical events, theater performances, small black box theater, the performing arts center and President Dr. Jolene Koester’s convocation speech every year.

National and local news take main precedence over campus announcements. That means delivering what listeners want, and most listeners want news aside from campus events.

The station has had its fair share of other difficulties that might have hindered listener demographics, age gaps aside.

Damaged transmitters from the recent Cessna fire created technicalities that cut into KCSN’s signal strength. ‘We were hit hard with the state budget and the Cessna fire put us back,’ Menachekanian said.

Students may not have been receiving the signal at its best making it hard to listen. Despite budget cutbacks and raging fires, KCSN is trying to regain speed to continue their station at a quality rate.

Johnson said the transmitters have been resolved for a couple weeks now. Trying to repair a 400 ft. power pole posed some difficulties. With help from helicopters and renewed e
nergy systems, the transmitters are no longer an issue.

What does the future have in store for the station?

Menachekanian hopes to gain new listeners while continuing to uphold its enriched music.

‘The future is continuity for students and members alike,’ Menachekanian said.’ ‘We must continue to stay independent and play great music. There aren’t many stations where independent music can be heard.’

Johnson talked about building upon their already enriched music stock. He said, ‘We’re hoping to solidify our library.’

Hopes for a format that will satisfy 25-year-olds and younger are also in the mix. ‘We have a new-found effort to target younger audiences,’ Johnson said.

Students may start to feel a connection with the station after all, but for now most don’t qualify as KCSN’s target audience.

Some will just continue to associate the station with ‘on hold’ music.