MCLA Radio Station Makes Strides to Modernize Air Waves and Expand Offerings

Since 1973 MCLA has operated a student and community-run FM radio station. Now, 51 years later, it’s getting a facelift with expanded offerings and new faces.

About a dozen students gather in the waiting room of the MCLA Radio Station WJJW on a Wednesday morning prepping to go on air live for what may be their first time.

The transmitter gets switched on, the volume dial is turned up, and a song chosen by one of the students starts playing over the airwaves. Communications Professor Darren Johnson teaches a radio practicum course in addition to being the advisor of the Beacon College newspaper and the radio station club.

“I think this plays well into our curriculum because, for communications nowadays, all media is convergent,” Johnson said. “People who are journalists should know how to podcast and know how to edit. The fact that we have a real radio station right here is a big bonus. I think it’s great publicity for the college too. Here, they can actually go on the air and talk to a real audience. There are real stakes. This isn’t practice, this is for real.”

Due to years of inconsistency with programming and the pandemic, WJJW doesn’t have as many listeners or show hosts as it did in its heyday. Now the goal is to decrease the amount of dead air with automations such as scheduling pre-recorded shows or podcasts.

WJJW students in the radio station preparing to go on the air.“We want to bring back our audience and fill the dead air and become more habit-forming because people will listen to us more if we could actually broadcast during the hours when we don’t have DJs,” he said. “We’re also going to have some synergy between podcasting and radio. Most of our past audience has gotten out of the habit of listening, but there aren’t that many radio stations in the area. Hopefully, we can reclaim our niche, as well as attract new listeners.”

While the practicum consists of a dozen students, Johnson said the club has nearly 30 people going on air now weekly with a podcast page launching soon.

Sophomore Tonimarie Basil serves as WJJW’s vice president and a teaching assistant for the practicum class. As an English/communications major with a minor in creative writing, Basil plays a significant role in revamping the radio station. While she enrolled in the practicum as a track requirement, she wasn’t sure she would enjoy it, but she quickly fell in love.

“I’m just happy that it’s growing,” she said. “It’s not too formal and it’s really fun. I’m just happy that it gets to stick around.”

Basil’s responsibilities include training new DJs, keeping logs up to date, scheduling meetings, and maintaining the studio. She hopes to have all the recording slots filled up with people who love what she enjoys doing.

Sophomore Alex Conklin, a Pittsfield native, earned a certificate from a broadcasting program at the former New School Center for Media in Albany, NY. After getting his associate’s degree at Berkshire Community College and working for media companies over the last ten years, he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at MCLA last fall.

“I really like going on the air and practicing. It’s an exciting class, better than sitting in a lecture,” said Conklin.

His interests in politics and sports are what brought him to the class, and the existence of his weekly show on Mondays at 2 p.m. called “The Hold-on with Alex Conklin.”

Students in radio station preparing to go on air. Female student sits in front of a mic.

Before starting at MCLA in 2022, Johnson taught journalism courses at the University of Albany, the College of Saint Rose, and even revitalized a 180-year-old struggling newspaper in Greenwich, N.Y.

By strengthening the radio station’s relationship with the Beacon and the Web News segments, Johnson hopes to make it more convergent and beneficial for students to land jobs in the field post-graduation. Instead of just producing live segments, there will be the opportunity for students to have a more permanent portfolio, he said. With Johnson’s commitments to revive the station over the last two years, the growth was heavily supported by both Student Activities and Information Technology.

MCLA’s radio station WJJW can be streamed online at or the old-fashioned way by turning their radio dial to 91.1 FM. Johnson is currently interested in speaking with MCLA alumni who work in the media field to speak with his students either in person or virtually during class time on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. Those interested should contact Johnson at