Through technology and pandemic, KRNU keeps on rockin'

· 4 min read

Through technology and pandemic, KRNU keeps on rockin’

Alloway helps guide campus radio station into 51st year
A student works inside the College of Journalism and Mass Communications' KRNU studio. The station is located in Andersen Hall.
Courtesy
A student works inside the College of Journalism and Mass Communications' KRNU studio. The station is located in Andersen Hall.

From vinyls and cassette tapes to CDs and streaming services, 90.3 KRNU has seen (and heard) it all.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s campus radio station has been a fixture at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications since 1970. It was originally housed in Nebraska Hall and could only be heard in residence halls through a campus electrical system. Today, KRNU is a full-service studio in Andersen Hall with its own radio frequency and two online stations.

The golden voice of Rick Alloway, associate professor of broadcasting, first aired on KRNU in 1973. He was a first-year student seeking experience in the broadcasting field and was given the chance to do so immediately through Nebraska U’s then-School of Journalism.

“It’s a testimony to the fact that the college has always felt very strongly about letting you do right away what it is that you came here to do,” Alloway said. “It’s that hands-on-from-day-one kind of attitude that we’ve always had.”

Nebraska's Rick Alloway has helped guide KRNU since he joined the faculty in 1986. He also worked at the station as a student.
Courtesy
Nebraska's Rick Alloway has helped guide KRNU since he joined the faculty in 1986. He also worked at the station as a student.

After graduating from Nebraska in 1977, Alloway worked in the broadcast and advertising industries. Eventually, though, he found his way back to KRNU.

“I’ve been involved in it, off and on in one way or another, for the vast majority of its 50 years,” Alloway said.

Alloway returned to campus in 1986 as a faculty member in the college and as KRNU’s general manager. Since then, he’s seen thousands of students try on the KRNU headphones and get behind the microphone. Out of his many years at the station, there have been plenty of happy memories — but one of his favorite consistent moments is when he sees students transform from apprehensive radio newbies to seasoned multimedia professionals.

In addition to leading students in their broadcast endeavors, Alloway also led the station through format changes. KRNU has grown from playing exclusively Top 40 hits to becoming an independent music station and expanding sports coverage to an online platform.

“It’s fulfilling its mission of being used by a variety of different courses to put student-produced content on the air,” Alloway said.

KRNU has endured through decades of world-changing events, but staying on the air during a pandemic was a new experience in 2020. While student broadcasts stopped in March 2020, Alloway and the KRNU team created safety measures that allowed students to return to the studio in fall 2020. Some students were even able to remotely cover their shifts from home, which allowed the college and the students to learn a new set of broadcasting skills.

“It was a little bit slow for us to figure out, but we worked around it, and it forced us to develop some technologies and techniques that we didn’t know we could do,” Alloway said. “So we look at it as a good opportunity — it expanded our opportunities for our students.”

A student adjusts the board in the KRNU studio. The station is intended to allow students to get hands-on experience in the broadcasting industry.
Courtesy
A student adjusts the board in the KRNU studio. The station is intended to allow students to get hands-on experience in the broadcasting industry.

The pandemic also threw a wrench into KRNU’s anniversary plans. While the station had expected to celebrate its 50th year with the Husker community in 2020, COVID-19 required it to postpone festivities. With vaccine availability allowing life to return more or less to normal, Alloway hopes for a make-up celebration in 2022.

And the station continues to plan for the future, including the installation of a new station antenna on top of Oldfather Hall this summer.

While KRNU looks and sounds much different now than when it first streamed into residential hall radios in the 1970s, one thing has stayed the same — when the dial gets turned to 90.3, you’re sure to hear:

“You’re listening to 90.3 KRNU…”

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