April 11, 2008

WSOU 89.5, South Orange, NJ

In this week's installment of Tower Site of the Week, we continue to dig through our archives to catch up on some of the many fascinating studio and transmitter sites in the biggest radio market in America.

This week, we salute an important anniversary: it's been 60 years since Seton Hall University put one of the first educational stations in the New York area on the air.

The actual anniversary comes Monday, April 14, but WSOU is holding an ongoing celebration that includes a big alumni reunion tonight, a "Throwback Day" on Monday featuring some of WSOU's best-known alumni, and a pair of concerts in Manhattan.

That's not bad for any college station, but this is no ordinary college station.

For one thing, WSOU is a major player on the New York music scene, playing a harder-edged brand of rock than any of the city's commercial outlets. (At the same time, it's retained many of the weekend specialty shows that have been part of WSOU history for decades.)

For another, WSOU has a better signal than most college stations in the Northeast, with its 264-foot tower behind the Seton Hall gym combining with the natural height of the campus in the foothills of the Orange Mountains to create a nice takeoff point for WSOU's 2400-watt signal to reach much of New York City, Westchester, north Jersey and beyond - in HD Radio, no less. That's the original 1948 tower, by the way, making this one of the oldest FM broadcast sites in continuous use anywhere.

And did I mention that WSOU functions as one of the region's premiere training grounds for professional broadcasters, not only in its music programming but also in its award-winning news and sports departments? (Just ask WINS morning traffic guy Pete Tauriello, or Pulse 87.7 music director Jewelz Lopez, to name a few WSOU alumni making a mark in commercial radio...)

WSOU's current quarters date back to 1998, when the station moved from the basement of the Seton Hall gym to the second floor of a new addition, reached by its own elevator from the parking lot.

Inside, it's one of the nicest college radio facilities you'd ever want to find - behind the lobby, a large classroom adjoins two production studios that are also used in the educational program. From there, a hallway passes the music office, then bends to follow a long row of studios that include the main air studio, a production room and a news studio. There's also a sizable lounge area, complete with a glass case housing decades of WSOU memorabilia.

As for WSOU's transmitters, they're reached in an unusual fashion - through the men's room of the gym! Behind the bathroom, a door leads to a small transmitter room that houses a QEI backup transmitter and the current main transmitter, a BE.

WSOU's HD multicasting capability will soon be put to use - Seton Hall is a Catholic school, and WSOU-HD2 will carry the market's first full-time Catholic programming, including local production.

Happy 60th, WSOU - here's to many more!

Thanks to WSOU general manager Mark Maben and engineering consultant Jim Malespina!

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