This week, we’re celebrating "50 Years of Radio That Matters," the golden anniversary of the station now known as WJCT News 89.9. It’s an audacious statement to declare that one radio station has made a difference. But it has, and it still does — maybe now more than ever before.
Back in 1972, when WJCT-FM came on the air as the classical music station Stereo 90, a lot of things were different. No cable TV. No internet. No podcasts. And the idea that a radio station owned by the community, operating in the public interest and supported by the financial contributions of listeners could be a sustainable institution in Jacksonville … well, let’s just say it took a little imagination.
Imagination, though, has never been in short supply on 89.9. The programs invented and produced by WJCT — from “The Metro” to “Electro Lounge” to “First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross” — have always sought to serve this region with fare that it couldn’t get anywhere else. And that remains one of our priorities today.
In 2020, we decided to move our main FM station to an all-news/talk format known as WJCT News 89.9; (our music programming migrated to the three other HD stations that we operate). We added new local newscasts throughout the day, along with 14 hours per week of original news programming. And we rededicated ourselves to serving this region’s most vital information needs.
We did that because, in spite of the advent of media like cable news and the Internet — or, perhaps, because of those things — what our community needed most from us was more informative, intelligent, civil discourse on the things that matter most. More connection. More open-mindedness. More belief that our differences can be a source of strength, rather than strife.
And today, we reach more people in more pockets of Northeast Florida than we ever have before. Listeners find us on the air, on their phones, and on demand. Our roots may be in traditional broadcasting, but “radio station” doesn’t begin to capture the work and reach of WJCT News 89.9.
Of course, it has never been about us. You have made this radio station, this institution, work for you for 50 years. You’ve called in to programs and called out our mistakes. You’ve volunteered to help in almost every possible way. And you’ve sustained your community’s radio station financially. You’re why it’s here, and why its signal will remain strong.
So, celebrate “50 Years of Radio that Matters” with us this week. We’re proud of that milestone, and we think you should be, too.
David McGowan, CEO and president, WJCT Public Media
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Guest column: WJCT still making a difference after 50 years on the air