I listen to the radio in my car. I’m not talking Sirius or something streamed from my phone; I’m talking old-school FM radio. To paint a picture, my car is 12 years old, my CD player is broken and I don’t care to figure out how to hook up my phone to play my own music or stream Pandora so I listen to the radio and party like it’s 1999. And by “party” I mean get caught up on the news because my station of choice is 90.7 WFAE, Charlotte’s local NPR station.
There’s not a lot of content on the radio I can’t find online, but radio’s differentiator is in the delivery. Audio has the advantage of being a medium I can consume while I’m doing something else. I can’t watch anything but the road when I’m driving. I can’t read while I’m cooking. Radio and podcasts allow me to consume information while multitasking, and I guess that’s the appeal.
Last week I crossed the listener barrier to sit in on the live broadcast of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. I’m a huge fan of Mike and of his show because it’s about Charlotte. While most of WFAE’s schedule is filled with syndicated national NPR shows like All Things Considered, Car Talks and This American Life, Charlotte Talks keeps it local, which I think is important.
After seeing a true local radio show in action, I decided to dive a bit deeper into the station that rescues me daily from the mind-numbing, predictable morning shows on the Top 40 stations. Here are 7 things you might not know about WFAE.
WFAE by the numbers (according to the latest annual report)
Audience: 215,000 listeners online and on air
Local news coverage: 39 hours, 41 minutes
Local programming: 559 hours, 41 minutes
Full-time employees: 33
Total unrestricted revenues and support: $4,677,952
WFAE started at UNC Charlotte.
The station’s first broadcast was June 29, 1981 from the basement of the Cone University Center.
WFAE is found on four different stations depending on where you’re listening.
WFAE reaches listeners in 22 counties in North and South Carolina on four different stations: 90.3 in Hickory, 93.7 in Southern Pines, 106.9 in Laurinburg and 90.7 here in Charlotte.
I had no idea radio callsigns actually stood for something.
WFAE stands for Fine Arts Education.
You can livestream online or on the WFAE mobile app.
I don’t have a radio in my house (who has a radio in their house?) so I listen in my car. Unfortunately, my “commute” to the Agenda global headquarters is a whopping 3 miles, which makes it hard to catch more than 10 minutes of programming. To stay connected, I can stream the broadcast live online or listen live, pause and rewind WFAE audio with the station’s mobile app for iOS and Android. (My phone background is cookie dough yes.)
WFAE hosts regular live events.
WFAE’s public conversations are open moderated exchanges among a panel of experts on a complex topic of interest that impacts the community like end-of-life planning, the state of public education and water quality. I hope they do more of these.
They have a food blog.
Launched back in 2012, WFAEats explores the food side of Charlotte with posts ranging from regional and seasonal recipes to agricultural sustainability.
I know NPR’s audience skews older, but I think it’d be a misstep to assume (or worse, ignore) younger listeners. NPR had something of a cult following on my college campus and has maintained or even strengthened its status among my 30-something circle today. It’ll be interesting to watch them (NPR nationally and WFAE locally) continue to evolve and capture listeners as new technology continues to outpace traditional radio and as digital natives come of age into their target demographic.