The pandemic ended the in-person meetings and operations that kept WUOG 90.5-FM energized and on the air, but Chase McGee knew the broadcast did not have to stop.
McGee, WUOG’s general manager, had been working for a few years on figuring out ways to share broadcasts online and broadcast remotely.
“Initially, I just wanted to share my shows with friends and family,” he said. “When COVID came along, we saw an opportunity to help WUOG transition and keep everyone involved and our listeners listening.”
Before the pandemic, student staff would regularly gather in the WUOG lobby in the Tate Student Center.
“Unofficially, the lobby was the hangout space for all the students who were involved,” said McGee. “Folks would pop in between classes. Thirty to 40 people crammed in there at a time, listening to music, planning talk shows or just catching up.”
When COVID-19 eliminated the ability to gather at the station in person, not only was that social experience lost, but also the ability to broadcast live. McGee worked with fellow staffers to build protocols for remote broadcasts, pull together a production line of software, and provide guidance to other producers.
“When COVID started, you saw a lot of shows go off air,” he said. “Getting to the station was tough, yes, but really I think people lost the energy to hang out to talk. Our goal was to put the tools together to get us back into our normal flow of production and feel a little more normal.”
As a result, WUOG has stayed on air and many community members in Athens and on campus continue to listen during their commutes or at their workplaces. As more of the students got used to the new remote broadcasting approaches, more and more live content began to broadcast again.
McGee and his colleagues also wanted to ensure hosts and producers felt comfortable and safe during the pandemic.
“No one needs to feel like they’re compromising their health to participate in broadcasting, so we got creative with ways to broadcast from home and we remain open to outside-of-the-normal-routine options to enable students to engage,” he said. “If that flexible approach has helped some people stay engaged and feel more a part of the WUOG and UGA community, then I’m real happy we were able to do that.”
No trouble recruiting
An interesting outcome of the new remote approach is a reinvigorating engagement and recruiting process. Typically, current hosts and producers would bring other students in to experience the station in-person. McGee was himself recruited by one his counselors at Dawg Camp, and started on music staff the first semester of his first year. When the physical station shut down, recruiting came to a standstill, but McGee said that did not last long.
“We recently had a recruitment meeting on Zoom with 50 attendees, most of them freshmen, which blew my mind,” he said. “They’ve had a real strange experience this year, and WUOG provides them with an opportunity to plug in and set them up with a great community as they move forward.”
Reflecting on how WUOG has overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic, McGee seems relieved at achieving some sense of normalcy. He looks forward to returning to the regular routine and cadence of station life, whether supporting local charities through the Cease the Airwaves fundraising drive, or simply chatting with friends on talk shows or podcasts.
“I love the camaraderie of hanging out with friends, whether sitting in the station or listening to a podcast. People haven’t been able to easily hang out with other people very much this year, and these kind of shows offer that experience for our listeners,” said McGee. “If WUOG can do something to help a student with an idea or just get students talking and listening to each other, I’m going to do what I can to support that.