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WOSU celebrates 90 years on air, welcomes change

Elyse Applewhite / Lantern photographer

Formerly known as WEAO (Willing Eager Athletic Ohio) when it began on April 24, 1922, with the inaugural address by Ohio State President William Oxley Thompson, WOSU Public Media celebrates its 90th anniversary this year and has changed in more ways than just its name.

“We are starting tonight the first of a series of programs of entertainment and instruction for the citizens of central Ohio,” Thompson said in his 1922 inaugural address. “These programs will be of the highest type, including music, science and other subjects of popular interest.”

Tom Rieland, general manager, said that aside from being the first radio station on the air in Columbus, WEAO was among a handful of pioneer educational radio stations in the country.

“The programming was almost all live and included broadcast of lessons by faculty at Ohio State, farm news and musical concerts,” Rieland said.

WOSU is comprised of a TV station and two radio stations, which are 89.7 NPR News and Classical 101.

Corinne Gleckler, an intern for WOSU and a second-year in strategic communication and political science, said she thinks WOSU still holds true to what Thompson wanted from the beginning.

“I think between NPR 89.7, Classical 101 and WOSU TV, we cover everything that Thompson talked about and everything he envisioned for the station,” Gleckler said. “A lot of it is enriching the lives of central Ohio and I think that was his goal.”

John Prosek, TV production manager, said WOSU still provides a variety of programs for their viewers.

“People do rely on us for their programming needs, whether it’s for kids programs or how-to’s,” Prosek said.

Mike Thompson, WOSU news and public affairs director, said a positive aspect of WOSU is that it provides its viewers with local news.

“What separates us from commercial stations is that we don’t cover things like crime. We try to put it in perspective, but we spend most of our time covering things like government, business and education for folks that live and work here,” Mike Thompson said.

One program WOSU offers is “Columbus On The Record,” an in-depth analysis of issues affecting Columbus and its surrounding areas. The show airs on Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 11 a.m.

“All Sides with Ann Fisher,” host and executive producer, airs weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon and is a public affairs talk show that centers around the top news stories of the day and also trends in areas such as reading, worshiping and many others.

“Columbus Neighborhoods,” a program by WOSU and The Columbus Metropolitan Library, offers its viewers an insight to celebrate the neighborhoods that make up Columbus. They also invite others to share their photos, videos, memories and thoughts of their own neighborhood.

Rieland said they are heavily focused on “Columbus Neighborhoods,” which has won an Emmy Award in 2011 and many other local honors.

“ArtZine” is WOSU’s arts and culture news magazine and features the Columbus area’s top artists and groups.

The Columbus Collaborative works on finding partnerships with organizations such as nonprofit, educational and governmental to help create programs to address issues and challenges in the community.

In The Know is a quiz program for central and southern Ohio high school students that is hosted by WOSU’s Bill Schiffman and questions students about high school subjects ranging from visual arts to science.

Marcelita Haskins, director of educational services, said that education, in its multiple forms, is the backbone of WOSU.

“WOSU covers a quarter of Ohio with service to 349 school districts that enroll over 420,000 students,” Haskins said.

Prosek said from 1977 to 1990, WOSU covered all OSU football games on a tape-delayed basis.

The games would air on Saturday nights and replay Sunday mornings. They would also air the pregame and halftime band shows, Prosek said.

WOSU is currently only involved in Big Ten non-sports programming, Prosek said.

“We’re not heavily involved in sports, unfortunately,” Prosek said. “Big Ten has given some great exposure to Ohio State, not just with football and basketball. It’s been a good fit for Ohio State that the Big Ten Network came around.”

With or without sports coverage, Rieland said WOSU still has a large audience.

“We have about 20,000 members who contribute regularly to support our programming on radio and TV and they provide over $3 million in support to the stations,” Rieland said.

Since the station had a large celebration for its 75th anniversary, Rieland said they kept it low-key this year, having a special lunch for staff and volunteers and tours of the station for OSU faculty, staff and students.

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