SoC faculty and student visit White House in honor of College Radio Day

Len O’Kelly and Meghan McBrady pose during their visit to the White House on Oct. 27.  

Assistant Professor Len O’Kelly and Senior Journalism Student Meghan McBrady were invited to the White House on Oct. 27 in connection with College Radio Day.

The sixth annual College Radio Day occurs this year on Friday, Nov. 4 . The day is a celebration of the medium of college radio and hundreds of stations from around the world will come together to discuss its importance.  Colleges play simulcasts about the impact of college radio and encourage students at their school to tune in.

The value of college radio, O’Kelly said is its ability to be creative and try new things.  Many popular bands such as Coldplay and the Lumineers were discovered because their college radio stations started playing their music.

“College radio specifically is important because corporate media has really taken out a lot of that creativity,” O’Kelly said. “You get to do whatever you want.  College radio is one of the last mediums we have where you can still do that.”

O’Kelly is one of the founding members of College Radio Day as well as the voice of many of the simulcasts.  In honor of College Radio Day 10 colleges were invited to bring students to the White House.  Those in attendance at the White House for college radio day received a letter in support of their efforts.

“The administration wanted to convey both through the letter and through the press secretary that they understand what we’re doing is important: training the next generation of media professionals,” O’Kelly said.

During the tour the students heard a series of briefings by members of the administration including the secretary of education, an adviser on climate and transportation, and the press secretary.  The students were able to ask questions of the officials about issues relevant to college students.

“It was interesting to see students even over the course of the day, learn how the game is played,” O’Kelly said.  “By the end of it the students were understanding that it’s a more formal give and take.

“They were even learning how to phrase questions to get the answers that they wanted, because when you’re dealing with a government source you’re going to get a very calculated answer. It was an excellent opportunity to learn and become a better reporter.”

McBrady said she learned a lot of the experience and found the real world experience to be very valuable.

“Being able to be in (Washington) D.C. and be in the White House was amazing,” McBrady said.  “This was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.  To be able to be myself and be both a journalist and a student and to raise the questions that I have and that other students have was wonderful. This was a real interview and real experience.”

As news director at the Whale McBrady said she is always trying to be representative of the student population and that she worked to ask officials at the White House questions that were relevant to the Whale’s audience.

While asking questions of the press secretary, McBrady asked a question regarding the importance we place study abroad in our college education and the lack of government funding behind it.  The press secretary did not have an answer and will be getting in touch with McBrady in the future to give a follow-up answer.

O’Kelly said one of the things that make the radio station at GVSU important is that they work to talk about issues that matter to students at GVSU, like the question that McBrady asked.

“The way the Whale is programmed, we run counter to the way that a lot of college radio stations do in that we let the students kind of play whatever they want,” O’Kelly said. “If students want to hear Katy Perry and the Eagles then we should probably give them that.  (The station is) students doing the presenting, they’re talking about things students care about, it’s campus focused.  That’s its value.”