WUTM completes 50 years of broadcasting

WUTM 90.3 “The Hawk”, the University of Tennessee at Martin’s award-winning campus radio station, has spent the fall 2021 semester celebrating its 50th anniversary the best way the station knows how: interacting with students and the Martin community.

The station had its humble start Sept. 15, 1971, in a small brick building on the corner of Hurt Street and Moody Avenue. The vision for the station was set forth by a group of students and Robert Todd, a professor of English and the station’s first faculty adviser. The students would use radio equipment that was donated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as equipment that was bought from the station’s starting money.

“There’s nothing quite like starting a radio station from scratch,” Dave Nichols, retired radio and television broadcaster, said.

“There’s nothing quite like starting a radio station from scratch,” Dave Nichols, retired radio and television broadcaster, said. During his time at WUTM, Nichols served as the station’s first music director, second program director and second student manager.

After a few years of the station being housed under the umbrella of the Department of English, WUTM began to see some changes. Dr. Gary Steinke began his career at UT Martin and along with Dorotha Norton established in 1978 what is now the Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communication. Steinke’s experience in the radio industry allowed him to incorporate WUTM into a curriculum specially created for broadcast radio.

Although Steinke would be a faculty member at UT Martin until 2014, he passed the torch to Carla Gesell Streeter after 17 years as adviser. Streeter would serve as adviser for four years, after which Rodney Freed, instructor of MMSC, would take over. Freed would lead the station for two years until Dr. Richard Robinson, professor of MMSC and current faculty adviser, began his UT Martin career in 2001.

During Robinson’s 20 years of service to UT Martin, WUTM’s students would win more than 300 awards, including the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Society’s Abraham and Borst award in 2012, which recognizes the best radio station overall, regardless of size.

The station began streaming online the next year, which allows anyone to listen to WUTM anytime from anywhere. The station has also begun calling Westview High School’s football and basketball games on top of their UT Martin sports coverage.  WUTM was chosen to broadcast the TSSAA Region 2A football championship game at Chattanooga on Dec. 4 for Westview.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first broadcast, WUTM’S current staff broadcasted live from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Nov. 17, at the Dunagan Alumni Center where they asked students, faculty and staff, alumni and the local community to drive by and receive a free T-shirt, register for prize giveaways and maybe be interviewed on the air. The staff also made appearances at Quad City during 2021 UT Martin Homecoming and the Paul Meek Library’s open house in September to meet students and faculty.

Throughout all of the changes that the station has experienced during its 50 years, the intention behind its creation has stayed the same: to serve the community and prepare students for success in their career.

“One of my favorite expressions is, ‘Don’t just do what’s required, do what’s necessary,’ and that’s what I try to get these students to do. Don’t just do the minimum; do everything you can and a little bit more and you’ll see the benefit of it, now as well as later,” Robinson said.

“One of my favorite expressions is, ‘Don’t just do what’s required, do what’s necessary,’ and that’s what I try to get these students to do. Don’t just do the minimum; do everything you can and a little bit more and you’ll see the benefit of it, now as well as later,” Robinson said.

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