Changes at Cal Poly's KCPR aim to return focus to students

Brad Johnson operates the board at KCPR, Cal Poly's student-run radio station.
Brad Johnson operates the board at KCPR, Cal Poly's student-run radio station.

Starting this fall, Cal Poly faculty, staff and community members will no longer be heard on the airwaves of KCPR, the university’s student-run radio station.

Instead, Cal Poly employees, station alumni and industry professionals will serve as coaches and mentors for student disc jockeys, said Mary Glick, chairwoman of the school’s journalism department, which oversees KCPR.

To serve as on-air staff, students will be required to take a newly created journalism class that covers the fundamentals of radio announcing, operations and management. And they’ll work with a newly appointed faculty adviser, rather than rely solely on training from their peers.

According to Glick, the changes are aimed at restoring KCPR to what she sees as its original function as a “student-centered learning lab.”

The journalism department recently adopted new operating policies in response to recommendations by the KCPR Evolution Core Committee. The advisory group, which consisted of faculty, staff, students, KCPR alumni and industry professionals, met last year and shared their findings in March.

Created in 1968, KCPR, which broadcasts as 91.3 FM, has long attracted music lovers eager to share their tastes with the Cal Poly campus and surrounding community.

Nineteen-year-old Steven Pardo, who is studying industrial technology and packaging at Cal Poly, joined KCPR last spring as a DJ. He’s since become the station’s general manager.

“When I first came to San Luis Obispo, I couldn’t find a lot of the music culture that I had participated in growing up in the greater Los Angeles area,” said Pardo, a fan of British electronic dance music who hails from Moorpark. Then he discovered KCPR.

“I’ve honestly fallen in love with radio,” he said. “It’s really changed how I look at my career.”

Pardo said he doesn’t mind the changes coming to KCPR.

“There’s nothing drastic that’s changing. It’s just providing a framework” for station operations, he said, adding that he’s looking forward to improving his broadcasting skills through the journalism class.

The course, which will be offered every semester, will be taught by KCPR faculty adviser Patti Piburn, a lecturer with the Cal Poly journalism department since 2006. She hosts “Morning Edition” on public radio station KCBX.

“I think there’s an ethos in journalism that can play out in the media arena,” Glick said.

Although music remains the dominant format on KCPR, “There’s a push to make sure the news and commentary element is not shortchanged,” she added. “Really what it comes down to is, we’re looking for curated content.”

Also planned for the fall is a scheduling switch. Live programming will be restricted to 5 a.m. to midnight out of concern for students’ safety, Glick said.

Asked about the future role of nonstudents, Glick said she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Cal Poly employees and community members hosting shows in the summertime when students are sparse.

According to Pardo, all of KCPR’s nonstudent DJs were offered the chance to continue their shows through this summer. But, he added, “Many did not take that opportunity.”

“It’s sad to lose a lot of the community members. They’re amazing people who have contributed a lot,” he said.