Lehigh University and the Lehigh Valley Public Media announced a partnership to produce a full-service local news radio station that will launch Nov. 1.
Lehigh’s student-run radio, WLVR-FM, will collaborate with Lehigh Valley Public Media’s radio, PBS39/WLVT, and convert to a multi-channel HD radio station. The station will be broadcasted locally at 91.3 FM, where WLVT will broadcast on the HD-1 channel and WLVR will be on the HD-2 channel.
Christine Dempsey, senior vice president of radio for Lehigh Valley Public Media, said it was time for the Lehigh Valley to have a full-service news radio station.
“(Lehigh Valley Public Media) recognized that (Lehigh Valley is) the third-largest region in the state and (doesn’t) have a full-service news and information outlet,” Dempsey said. “An independent news organization is something that the Lehigh Valley needed.”
Dempsey said the partnership fits into WLVT’s 2017 strategic plan to incorporate as many outlets as possible for news and information.
Jack Lule, the department chair of journalism and communication at Lehigh, said the department will offer a class focusing on NPR-PBS partnership as early as next semester, where students will report for the station.
“One of the things that we always stress in the journalism department is experiential learning,” Lule said. “We strive to give our students as much experience as possible. We set up internships for every one of our students, and this is going to make those internships that much more plentiful and that much more engaging because they’ll be doing it right here on the campus with standards of the PBS and the NPR organizations.”
Dempsey is optimistic about what the collaboration will offer to both the student interns and the Lehigh Valley Public Media.
“In the past, working at the radio station was considered an extracurricular or a club, so (students) weren’t getting any credits for doing that,” she said. “Now, with the partnership, they can come over here and work with us and develop hands-on skills and get college credit for it.
Dempsey said Lehigh students can provide unique perspectives to the stories they work on and she looks forward to the ideas Lehigh students will bring to the program.
Jim Cameron, ‘72, who was involved with WLVR as a student at Lehigh, said it used to primarily be a music-based radio station.
“You don’t need to listen to a radio station to hear your favorite kind of music anymore,” Cameron said. “You can get it on your phone, you can get it on your stereo system, you can have it be streaming for free. The news and public affairs programming that WLVT has planned, from what I’m told, is really much more the future of radio because it’s offering you something very locally focused that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Cameron said making WLVR a news station in this day and age is comparable to making it a music station 50 years ago.
He said the station will attract a strong audience due to its unique positioning as a college station. Cameron said college radio stations have the upper hand in producing content that other stations will often overlook due to a lack of financial viability.
Cameron also said this partnership will help Lehigh’s relationship with the Lehigh Valley and the local community.
“Over the years, the university has tried to do more and more to be a good member of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley,” Cameron said. “I think that this is going to give the university and its reputation a really strong push. WLVT is running the station, but it’s going to be much more identified with the university. I think it will be a very positive reflection of the Lehigh of today.”