HISTORY OF WRGW DISTRICT RADIO
When Howard Cole, Samuel Hall, and Albert Webster founded the “Radio Club” on February 16, 1929, they ushered in a tradition of student radio. By the mid 1940s, CRBE formed, and by 1959, it was renamed WRGW.
In 1964, the station purchased new transmitters, subjecting itself to a larger administrative structure that inhibited its operations. To address the administrative and financial challenges, the Speech and Drama department took control over WRGW in 1968.
Led by Comptroller William Johnson, the station progressed until 1983, when disagreements over the allocation of funds climaxed. The department felt that it could reclaim station funds not used to purchase new equipment; the students felt the funds should only be used purchase new equipment and keep the station operating. In a memo to the department, copied to Claudia Derricotte (Director of SAO), Dr. Joan Theil concluded the funds belonged to the University’s department, and, in spring 1984, WRGW stopped operating.
Enter a small group of students led by Frank Farricker and James Snyder in 1985.
Their efforts to develop the station as a student-run organization were challenged by the department, but WRGW was still granted permission to broadcast out of the Marvin Center on April 1, 1986.
Around the same time, negotiations with Provost William Johnson began. Students voiced their desire for independence from any one department in the interest of serving the greater GW community; the department stated its primary goal of formally educating students in the technical operation of a radio facility.
After nearly two years of negotiations, the University recognized two distinct stations: one operated by the department (WRTV), and one operated by the students (WRGW).
On December 10, 1986 WRGW signed an agreement with the University, moving in to the Marvin Center, Room 428.
By 1996, the small space was cramping WRGW’s style, so students led by Debbie Rothberg sought to relocate to the abandoned newsstand on the ground floor of the Marvin Center.
At the same time the department became increasingly disenchanted with WRTV, and by November it cut operations, successfully negotiating a merger with WRGW. WRTV Station Manager Eva Price and WRGW General Manager Lou Miller worked together to establish one cohesive, kick-ass student station, bringing together an executive board of over twenty members, and managing an allocation of over $30,000 for new equipment and a new facility, developed in part by Production Director Jason Cohen and approved by Vice President Chernak and Assistant Vice President Michael Gargano in 1998.
On August 28th, 1999, WRGW began broadcasting from their new facility, over 540 AM, on Campus Cable Channel 22, and through that promising new medium, the Internet. Using Apple Quicktime 4.0 technologies, GWRADIO.com, receiving around 5,000 hits per month, welcomed its first major broadcasting upgrade in over a decade.
By 2001, the increased exposure on campus pushed WRGW to expand its programming schedule. Live broadcasts began at 10am and went until 12am, with a 30 minute news segment airing daily as well as complete, seasonal coverage of Colonials basketball.
The WRGW general board was re-structured to include a graduate advising position, one paid staff member (the General Manager), and an Operations Director.
September of 2004 saw the addition of Morning Mayhem, WRGW’s first morning show from 8am to 10am with Steve Roche and Sean Rose. The show was one of many programming expansions for the station from 2002-2005, which included live coverage of SA meetings, a News in Depth forum on Sundays, live noon news updates, expanded Hip-Hop and Loud Rock programs and an increase in live, in-studio interviews.
In 2005, General Manager Steve Roche oversaw two new, large events: in collaboration with Program Board and SAC, WRGW brought Matisyahu to the Charles E. Smith Center, and organized a Q & A session at the Marvin Center with teen-pop band Hanson. Roche and staff also instated a ‘first year’ program for new station members.
From 2007 to 2010, General Managers Hannah Byam (2007-2009) and Nomi Kaplan (2009-2010) presided over a youthful, energized staff. WRGW redesigned its logo and expanded its social media presence, including WRGW and WRGW News Twitter feeds, online News, Music, and Sports blogs, a Facebook page, and a real-time feed of songs and music played on-air.
From 2009-2010, General Manager Jamie Benson expanded WRGW’s live presence, interviewing a vast variety of hip-hop artists from Wale to Talib Kweli on his program ‘Funkadelic Freestyles.’ A variety of indie rock artists also frequented the studio, a result of Music Directors Alex Tieberg-Bailie and Paula Mejia’s efforts. The Man, Foals, Asobi Seksu, Teebs, and many more signed the back wall in the WRGW studio, where performers leave their mark. Combined, these directors brought in-studio performances and/or interviews that put WRGW on the college radio map along the avenue of live music.
From 2012-2013, Music Director Mike Lindle brought Future Islands in the studio and launched bi-monthly open mic nights at the famed Baked & Wired cupcake shop in Georgetown, and News Director Michael Fische coordinated a live broadcast with full coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election, including reports from the White House and College Dems/College Republicans Viewing Rooms. The university as a whole recognized WRGW for these efforts by awarding us with the illustrious Pyramid Award for Student Org of the Year.
The following year saw Kristen Saldarini rise to become General Manager, with Michael Fische as her Station Manager. A new soundboard was installed that summer under Fische’s guidance, bringing the WRGW studios into the 21st Century with state of the art Cat-5 cabling and radio broadcasting software.
Under the leadership of Tim Riordan, WRGW Sports’ Colonials Radio Central teamed up with Washington’s Major League Soccer Club, D.C. United to broadcast and call their “College Night” game against the New York Red Bulls, marking the first time WRGW had carried a MLS game.
With the close of the station’s 85th year, General Manager Jordan Grobe and Station Manager Maddy Wolpow-Gindi, with support from the rest of the board, held an anniversary event over alumni weekend. Alumni gathered in the station for a chance to reminisce during a live on-air segment. Inspired by memories past.
Talk Director George Dobbins revived “Live From Thurston,” a late-nite special broadcast with unfiltered interviews containing the essence of the freshman experience, broadcast live from the infamous freshman dorm.
2019 saw a website makeover led by Programming Director Katy Ronkin and Operations Director Jess Makler. Streaming technology was updated, the domain refreshed, and chat software refurbished. 2019 also saw fixes to the station telephone.
In 2020, during the station's 90th Anniversary, General Manager Owen Vacheron spearheaded the first-ever 24 hour broadcast and formal. Alumni were invited to relive their shows.
WRGW Podcasts reformed, headed by producers Emily Venezky, Jess Makler, Jack Mitcheltree, Olivia Osborne, Jillian Chilingerian and Isa DelPino.