Shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, the red On Air sign lit up over an empty University Center hallway, and Horizon Radio officially roared to life.
IU Southeast’s first-ever internet radio station is now broadcasting its 18,000-song music library live from iushorizonradio.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Billed as “the student voice of Indiana University Southeast,” Horizon Radio aims to incorporate news, sports, music and talk radio into its programming.
Students from assistant professor of journalism and media Dr. Adam Maksl’s audio storytelling class will build the framework by serving as DJs and developing live shows. With the foundation set, the station is expanding beyond the journalism and communications programs to recruit students, faculty and staff for shows covering a variety of disciplines.
“The metaphor I use with my students is: I built the frame of the car and put the wheels on it, and we’re all going to pile on and push it down the hill,” said Maksl, who serves as Horizon Radio’s faculty adviser.
Maksl tossed the keys to station managers Jose Aponte and Jen McNelly, two students in the digital media concentration of the Master of Interdisciplinary Studies graduate program who are responsible for programming, scheduling and training on-air talent.
The trio spent the quiet weeks of winter break preparing for the station’s debut. They converted the former IU Credit Union room on the lower level of the University Center into a fully functional studio with broadcasting equipment, television monitors and enough floor space to eventually host live music shows.
“Many journalism and media students are involved, and it gives them an opportunity to really put into practice the multimedia storytelling element that we focus on our classes,” Maksl said.
Reception to a student-run station has been swift and enthusiastic. Drs. Jean Abshire and Cliff Staten, political science and international studies faculty, debuted the station’s first regular talk show with a weekly International Power Hour. Since posting a sign announcing Horizon Radio, Maksl estimates he, Aponte and McNelly receive a half dozen emails a week from students excited to get involved.
“We want to develop their ideas into something cohesive, something people will want to listen to,” Aponte said. “We want to be like Spotify but with more content. If a student is going to have a show about rap and hip-hop, I want them to talk about the history of the genre, the East Coast/West Coast rivalry of the 90s. I want them to invite local talent to do a performance in-studio.”
When the audio storytelling class met in January to discuss the station’s goals and objectives, Aponte recalled every student in the room chipping in with their own ideas.
“There’s a lot of really good energy,” he said. “The students really want this to succeed.”
The enthusiasm can be credited, in part, to a rich school radio environment around the region. Nearby New Albany High School established the nation’s first FM high school radio station in 1949. Greater Clark County Schools in neighboring Clark County, Indiana, invested $4.5 million in state-of-the-art radio and television suites in 2015.
The thrill of venturing into barely charted territory adds another element of excitement for enterprising students. Factoring in the staggering growth of podcast audiences (an estimated 68 million Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis) and the rapid development of streaming apps, tuning into an internet radio station live stream is becoming as easy as flipping the dial in the car.
The multidimensional opportunity Horizon Radio presents meets the needs of IU Southeast’s growing journalism and media program.
“The experience our students gain here will make them competitive for jobs at our area radio stations,” Maksl said.
While Horizon Radio eases into the world of 24/7 live broadcasting, Maksl and Aponte have big visions for the evolution of the station.
Maksl anticipates Horizon Radio news segments will run in conjunction with the existing Horizon student newspaper and website. Campus events can be promoted, news articles can be further dissected and, when a speaker comes to campus, reporters can conduct interviews on-air in the studio. He also foresees installing cameras in the studio to stream from Facebook Live and establishing a partnership with IU Southeast Athletics to broadcast home games.
In the more immediate future, Aponte and McNelly will begin training on-air talent and further developing ideas for shows.
“What I want to see is students taking ownership over their work, take pride in it, promote it,” Aponte said. “They’ve been jazzed about the entire thing.”
Horizon Radio will celebrate its Grand Opening from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, in University Center Room 026. Come tour the new station and celebrate our new endeavor that connects campus to our local community and the world. Learn about upcoming programming, how we plan to use our facilities, and our commitment to expanding students educational and recreational life at IU Southeast.