Blugold Radio wins state student broadcasting award

Editor's note: The following story appeared in the March 23 edition of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram and is reprinted with permission. Photo by Steve Kinderman, Leader-Telegram staff.

By Elizabeth Dohms, Leader-Telegram staff

Of all of the many radio segments UW-Eau Claire student Glen Olson submitted to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for judging, he didn't expect Blugold Radio to win best radio newscast.

Olson assumed one of the long form feature pieces, or perhaps an interview with indie pop artist Ingrid Michaelson, would garner a few of the WBA Student Awards for Excellence.

Instead Olson, a Blugold Radio news director, and his colleague, Kiri Salinas, secured the top spot for their five-minute news segment that aired on Nov. 9, 2014. Olson is a senior from La Crescent, Minn., and Salinas is a sophomore from Cudahy.

This is the first time the radio station, which has the call letters WUEC and can be heard at 89.7 on the FM frequency, won the group's best student newscast, said Dean Kallenbach, program adviser and Wisconsin Public Radio senior regional manager. Sixty awards in total were given for statewide student-produced radio and television productions in categories such as public service announcements, sports stories and websites."

(Best newscast award) is one of the more meaningful things we could have gotten from the WBAs," Olson said. "Our news is one of the things that directly goes out and in my mind affects the community because it's geared towards them."

The winning newscast included Olson's report about a campus initiative that would allow students to opt out of third-party emails, and Salinas' broadcast of the previous Tuesday's election results of local political races and the Wisconsin gubernatorial contest.

"We had two stories that affected the campus and the greater Eau Claire community," said WUEC station manager Breane Lyga, a senior from Pigeon Falls.

Kallenbach said he felt less surprised than gratified that the students' hard work in building up the program was recognized.

"It's just a real good affirmation," he said. "I know they're strong and doing good work, but to have it affirmed gives you a bit of a boost."

The station's staff of 55 has built up a listenership of 1,300 people each week, according to data released for spring 2014. At any time during the three-hour segment, an average of 500 listeners were tuning in. That's up from 400 and 100, respectively, in fall 2013, Kallenbach said.

Blugold Radio now boasts 17 original programs that air on Sunday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of a contract with Wisconsin Public Radio.

Olson describes the station as "very literally the voice of the university" and said it's one of the most "professionally vetted organizations on campus." Illinois broadcasters judged the WBA competition. The awards ceremony was March 7 at the Marriott hotel in Middleton.

Dohms can be reached at 715-833-9206 or elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com.