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Reinventing the Wheel vs. Grinding the Same Old Axe: An Ethnographic View of the Students and Community Members at a Massachusetts College Radio Station

Author:

Dickie Wallace

University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Abstract

Using the notion of an ‘ideal public sphere’, this article explains and analyzes the democratizing impulses and the clash in intentions as students and local community members negotiate for access to the airwaves at WMUA, a unique hybrid college radio station in Western Massachusetts. Undergraduate students technically control the station, but many of its actual practices fit a Community Radio model that disproportionately favours community members. Students use their WMUA for their own entertainment or see it as a place to gain on-air experience and build resumés. Community members, however, use their WMUA to produce empowering content for audiences beyond the University. With institutional memory and cultural capital, they largely control WMUA’s structure.

With data from long-term ethnographic research, this article critiques the normative Habermasian public sphere by showing how regulatory practices limit individualistic, developmental goals of the students, even as these practices facilitate the outside community’s progressive agenda.

How to Cite: Wallace, D., (2008). Reinventing the Wheel vs. Grinding the Same Old Axe: An Ethnographic View of the Students and Community Members at a Massachusetts College Radio Station. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 5(1), pp.44–66. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16997/wpcc.50
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Published on 01 Feb 2008.
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