WERG — Erie’s Rock Alternative Station and Gannon University’s student-run radio station — was recently awarded the IBS Abraham & Borst Award for Best College Station in the Nation during the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) Conference in Manhattan.
Nine students representing WERG took the Lakeshore Limited to New York City Thursday for the 74th Annual IBS Conference, a national gathering of media professionals, advisers and students of 1,000 college radio stations in Midtown Manhattan.
In addition to the Abraham & Borst Award, the station won six other awards in categories like the most creative promotional event, best college station for a university with less than 10,000 students and IBS Golden Microphone Award for excellence in station programming and operation.
The students were led by Chet LaPrice, operations manager of 90.5-WERG, who said winning the awards felt great, especially because the station competed against big-name colleges that normally take home the prizes.
“We’ve always known the station was special and had that kind of spirit, but to have independent third-party verification of it is just an awesome feeling,” he said. “That’s just a great thing for WERG, Gannon University and the School of Communication and the Arts.”
LaPrice’s enthusiasm is shared by several other WERG members like Vanessa Cherry, program director at WERG.
“We’re obviously very honored,” she said. “We did not expect this at all. It’s very rewarding because it feels like finally all our hard work has paid off and we’re over the moon about it and we cannot believe it.”
The award also symbolizes the contributions of the communications and humanities majors on campus, which often go unrecognized, Erika Krenn, news director and assistant underwriting coordinator, said.
“I think that one of our highlighting attributes at Gannon is the way we run the station and we don’t get enough credit for that but this is such a great award because it showcases the talent in Gannon and little Erie,” she said. “This just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what size of city or school you’re in or how well-known it is.
“There can be talent everywhere that can make even the smallest organizations and schools into something huge and impactful.
The IBS conference featured several seminars on radio-related topics throughout the weekend, several of which were presented by WERG representatives.
Alongside media professionals, LaPrice presented on the “Programming Your College Radio Station” panel and Deb Carlson, a ’13 alumnae and the current underwriting coordinator, presented on a panel about station underwriting. Both also participated in other panel discussions throughout the weekend.
“We meet big industry professionals, network with other college stations and students who share the same interest and love of broadcasting that we have,” LaPrice said. “And you just share ideas on how to make everything better and that’s what you do for four days.”
This was the third time the WERG team participated in the IBS Conference. The station has built on what it has learned from the conference over the past two years, Krenn said.
“Last year when we went everybody was so surprised by how good and advanced we were,” Krenn said, “and seeing that, seeing how advanced our radio station is and how we operate like a commercial radio station, we took into account all that in our work this year and I think we deserve the wins.”
Students interacted with industry professionals and peers who share similar interests, which to Ted Hallowell, music director at WERG, was a great plus for the conference.
“It was really awesome to be surrounded by so many other people who are our age group who share the same passion for what we do,” he said. “I networked with so many people and got contact information for the future.”
The WERG team wasn’t only a seeker of contacts, but was also a sought-after team for radio inquiries.
“Some people have approached us about wanting to work with us,” Cherry said. “So we didn’t have to go find opportunities, the opportunities came to us. We taught a lot and we also learned a lot which I think makes the award even sweeter because we didn’t expect this. It was a great experience.
“IBS attracts the best in the business so when everyone that does what we do are in the same room, nothing but greatness comes out of it because we’re all collaborating together and we all know what each other is talking about and we understand each other’s struggles and successes too.”
A lot of work goes into making WERG a successful station, LaPrice said, as it is operated as a professional broadcast operation while simultaneously serving as a learning laboratory for students.
Krenn, Cherry and Hallowell all agree that the effort that goes into making WERG what it is today requires a lot of time and commitment.
“I think a lot of us do a lot more work than any work-study positions and we almost act as if this is a full-time or a part-time job because we run like a commercial station,” Krenn, who dedicates more than 10 hours every week to WERG, said.
“We don’t get treated like students – here we get treated like we’re working in the field and this may be a learning lab, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Cherry echoed Krenn’s thoughts and said the station’s success this year can be attributed to staff dynamics and great mentoring.
“Our staff this year worked very well together and when we work together as opposed to separately, we can accomplish so many things,” Cherry, who sets aside about 30 hours each week for the radio station, said.
“Another big part of it is Chet LaPrice; he’s one of the best leaders one could have – he’s taught us everything we know about this stuff and if it weren’t for all of us and Chet working together this wouldn’t have happened.”