I’ll never forget the day that WXRY (FM 99.3) came on the air. They had been promoting the station for a few weeks in print ads that billed this new listening option as “The Independent Alternative.” They caught my attention with the assertion that this was the music that my generation listened to in college (i.e. early to mid 1990s).
Considering that WXRY launched on St. Patrick’s Day with a 24-hour marathon of only music by Irish rock band U2 (my personal favorite), it seems appropriate that the station is now a client of the 24-hour pro bono marathon that is CreateAthon.
What many people didn’t realize when it first began, and some may still not know, is that WXRY is an independent, nonprofit, public radio station. When you hear “public radio,” you more often think of NPR or a university-owned radio station. In fact, according to WXRY’s President and General Manager Steve Varholy, nonprofit public radio is the fastest growing segment of radio because of the quality and independence of the programming. They have the freedom to play what they want to play when they want to play it.
WXRY is owned by The Independent Media Foundation, a local 501(c)(3) foundation, and it is programmed by a small staff of professionals and volunteers who are longtime residents of the Columbia area. In a landscape that is increasing dominated by corporate-owned media conglomerates, it is refreshing to have a truly local voice in town, especially one that is committed to the community and not to shareholders.
Naomi Sargent of Columbia Opportunity Resource during a taping of The Buzz, one of WXRY's regular segments promoting community activities and involvement.
WXRY’s business model is completely different from any other radio station in town, and intentionally so. Their mission is “great radio that builds and serves your community.” Their goal is to get real community voices on the air and to serve as a catalyst for growth and renewal in the Columbia area by shining a light on all of the great things that are happening in our city.
Our work for WXRY during CreateAthon will focus on the development of materials to help them expand their FM frequencies and service area as well as build additional studio and office space. Meeting these goals will enable the station to continue to increase its engagement not only on the air, but also in person.
During CreateAthon, just as I do every other day, I’ll be streaming www.wxryfm.org at my desk and rocking out to the best alternative tunes of yesterday and today, knowing that by supporting this nonprofit media outlet, I’m also supporting all of the other nonprofits in my community whose voices they amplify.