By Sarah Spagnola
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Every Thursday, Marc Lee takes the bus to Carrboro in order to share blues music with the community.
“I just like the way the blues is basically about life,” Lee said. It covers the gamut of life. It covers everything from romance to the sadness of life. All that kind of stuff.”
Lee, 49, is from Durham, where runs his own entertainment company, but in his spare time he’s a DJ on 103.5 WCOM, Carrboro’s only community-run radio station, where his 4 p.m. blues show, “The Juke Joint,” has run for the last three years. The station, housed in a small building at 208 E. Main Street, has been on the air since 2004, and gives ordinary people with great ideas a chance to get their voices heard on the air.
“We weren’t out to invent any wheels,” said Bob Burtman, host of “Roots Rampage” and member of the station’s programming committee. “We are basically a community radio station and there are a number of really good community radio stations around the country that have been in existence for many years and they all share certain basic things in common. One is an eclectic mix of host-driven programs that rely on the skills and interests and knowledge of the host, rather than having the programming imposed externally by consultants or companies or whatever.”
In the past few months, the station has added a slate of new programs focusing on everything from hip-hop music to psychology to social justice.
One of the new hosts is Jose Drost-Lopez. The 20-year-old rising sophomore at Princeton University is taking a year off from school and living in Chapel Hill. Drost-Lopez says he wanted “something tangible to do to explore ideas and learn.” He heard about the existence of a community radio station in Carrboro from his mother, and then located WCOM online.
“I wouldn’t have even thought it was possible for a college kid to host a show,” Drost-Lopez said.
But WCOM made it possible. Drost-Lopez, who had no previous experience with radio, presented his proposal for a program on psychology to the station’s programming committee and was approved.
“They just wanted to hear that I had collected my thoughts, that I had thought about the whole length of the show and how I would fill an hour every week,” Drost-Lopez said.
In mid-July, after a round of training, Drost-Lopez’ new program, “PsychTalk,” hit the airwaves. The show, which can be heard Tuesdays at 2 p.m., focuses mostly on guest interviews that relate to psychology in some way – for example, an interview with the executive director emeritus of a parapsychology institute, or a chat about the cross-cultural experiences of a student studying abroad in China.
WCOM also has a new music offering: a late night hip-hop radio show hosted by Cheston Dooley, a hip-hop artist also known as V!rtu. Dooley, who lives in Durham, had once co-hosted a show in Portland, Ore. and heard about WCOM from hip-hop artist SkyBlew.
“I have a huge hip-hop collection and I wanted to put it to good use,” Dooley said.
Dooley’s program, “The Anchor Show,” can be heard every Saturday night at 1 a.m. Dooley said he prepares his show all week and then plays it from his laptop. He said he tries to play things that aren’t very well known.
“I also have a side mission to help artists in North Carolina,” Dooley said.
A third offering on WCOM’s schedule, “Talk of Hope,” is the brainchild of Sean Wellington. Wellington came to Carrboro inspired by work he did at an orphanage in northern Tanzania called Hope Foundation. He was vaguely aware of WCOM’s existence and did a little research on it. Last fall, Wellington pitched his idea for an advocacy-themed show to the station’s programming board. The board liked it.
“I wanted to do a show about people who are overlooked and underserved,” said Wellington.
Wellington named his show “Talk of Hope.” His show, which airs at 10 a.m. on Fridays, focuses on the work of non-profits. While Wellington says he had no prior experience with radio, he noted that others at the station don’t, either.
“Part of the ideal of community radio is to give shows to people who don’t have that kind of background,” Wellington said.
http://wcomfm.org/ – The WCOM main site
http://psychtalkradio.com/ – Jose Drost-Lopez’ radio show
http://twitter.com/#!/talkofhope – Sean Wellington’s Twitter feed