Staff report

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University’s streaming radio station returned to the air with a student staff this spring after three semesters of limited operations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and technical problems.

Eagle Air, which is operated by the mass communication department, broadcasts 24 hours a day via web stream and and the free TuneIn internet radio app and features popular and college music spanning seven decades.

Typically, the station has had a student staff, which serve as hosts and announcers at various times throughout the weekday. However, students were unable to host live shows on Eagle Air since the spring 2020 semester, prior to the start of the pandemic.

Mark Nortz, senior instructor of mass communication and co-adviser to Eagle Air, appeared on the Palmetto Report podcast to discuss the station’s history and the return of the student staff.

Nortz said the station was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many students and staff were unable to be on campus.

“It was an interesting time,” he said. “We had to cut way back and as it turned out, as the pandemic went on, we had technology issues. We started having problems with our (audio) board. Some of the audio channels wouldn’t work on it.”

The station was able to continue broadcasting automated music, but it wasn’t able to broadcast the voice work of its student hosts.

“So we decided at that point, rather than fight it and bring in an engineer and try to fix everything, we would just wait until we got a new board and hopefully the pandemic would ease up and we could get students back in here, under normal circumstances,” said Nortz.

The mass communication department was able to replace the audio board at a cost of roughly $6,000. It has also upgraded the station’s on-air studio and purchased new equipment for a production studio, which can also be used for podcasting.

Nortz said the station, which also uses the call letters WINR, dates back to the 1980s when it was first broadcast on closed circuit campus television.

He said students in a public relations class were tapped to come up with some new messaging for the station roughly five-plus years ago.

“They were given the task of rebranding the radio station,” said Nortz. “So they came up with Eagle Air, which I think is a fitting name for the station.”

There were about 10 student produced shows on the air this semester and Nortz said he hopes to have even more in the fall.

“We’re hoping that more and more students will want to get involved with the station and that they will come in and put together a good show. We’re trying to stress to students that yes, you can come in and talk about all these different topics and everything, but music is still what drives the station,” he said.

Any student, regardless of major, is eligible to apply for an air-shift on Eagle Air.

* Abigail Helm and Jennifer Cruz Rojas contributed to this report.