When 88.7 WRSU FM's Broadcast Administrator Mike Pavlichko '00 returned to WRSU in July 2015, after an absence of nearly 16 years, the first thing he noticed was a very familiar sound: he stepped on a ramp leading to one of the studios, and incredibly, it still creaked in the exact spot it had during the four years he worked at WRSU as an undergrad. He got a bit of a kick from knowing that nothing had changed. However, at the same time, he became even more committed to revamping the old studio and building a great new future for the radio station.
The effort to create a bold new future for WRSU has just begun in honor of WRSU's 70th anniversary on April 26, 2018. To celebrate, WRSU has launched a $70,000 fundraising campaign (wrsu.org/donate). The campaign goal is to raise the funds by the station's birthday. It’s Pavlichko’s hope apply the much-needed funding to an overhaul that will replace the floors, ceilings, and purchase some much-needed equipment.
WRSU began in 1948 in the attic of 12 College Avenue. The space it occupies now, on the second floor of the College Avenue Student Center, was built in 1968, and WRSU moved in as the original tenant. Not much has been updated since then.
“We have always had a small budget and some things are home-made,” Pavlichko explained. “The mixing board and soundboard were donated from NBC –– I think they were used by David Letterman or Saturday Night Live. The mixing board is 35 years old. We use it as a backup on-air studio. The Patch Bay is also original to the building. In the late 2000s, a student general manager decided to have the place checked out for safety. As a result, the carpet for the walls – which had been put up for sound – had to come down. This not only impacted the sound, it left the studio with plain plywood walls. It would be great to fix this up.”
Pavlichko, who majored in Journalism and Mass Media (now called Journalism and Media Studies) and minored in political science and history, explained that he wants to make these much-needed improvements to benefit all Rutgers students. “WRSU is not just for journalism students,” Pavlichko said. “There are a lot of students here who are not Communication or Journalism and Media Studies majors. Many of them are journalists, but many others want to pursue careers in radio or entertainment. They are majoring in English, Business, Engineering, and other majors, and I want WRSU to be visible to every Rutgers student. My mission for WRSU is that it remains a student organization, as a learning lab and an experience for anyone at Rutgers who wants to be in radio.”
“In addition, our equipment might be nice and historical, but now everything is digital and computer-based, so we need the latest equipment. We are still using CDs.”
Currently, WRSU consists of 7 rooms. The production studio, known as FM, is the main broadcast studio. Studio B is where the live music is produced (the bands play in another room, this room is where the mixing on the soundboard takes place). Studio A is where the live bands play. They also did election night coverage from this room.
Pavlichko explained that while WRSU is a student-run organization, he will take the lead on the improvements. “The students run the show but they have classes, jobs, girlfriends, boyfriends, sports, etc., so I will need to nudge them along,” he said.
Currently, Pavlichko explained, “There are 45 – 50 shows at WRSU, and most are music. Sundays we offer ethnic programming, such as ‘Israel Hour’ and the ‘Voice of Greece.’ Local bands play every week for the show ‘Overnight Sensations’ when the host interviews them. This show is 10 p.m. to midnight every Friday night, all live.”
Pavlichko has also built up the WRSU news department, and now the news is broadcast five days a week at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Fridays at noon.
WRSU reaches Carteret, Newark Airport, and Princeton. Listeners can also tune in by streaming from the web or downloading the WRSU app for Android and iPhone.
As dedicated as Pavlichko is to the station, he is even more committed to helping the students. Pavlichko explains that sometimes students are not sure how best to balance classes and opportunities to be more involved in the radio station. Pavlichko says he always opted to take every opening that came his way –– such as calling into a basketball game if someone couldn’t make it and volunteering for as many opportunities at WRSU as possible –– and he encourages his students to do so also. “I always decide to take these opportunities,” Pavlichko says, “Because you never know if your game-winning call will be on social media. If I do a basketball game and Rutgers wins with one basket at the end, maybe ESPN wants the audio and can’t get it from a commercial station so they call the student station. People hear you, and if they say ‘that guy sounds good,’ it could lead to a big break. Take the opportunity, do the game. If you want to do radio never turn down an opportunity to do radio. But never miss a class and never miss an exam!”
He is also dedicated to helping the students find jobs in the field after graduation. Pavlichko has many examples of successful alums he’s helped, but a recent one involves an undergrad named Nicole Murray. Pavlichko said, “Nicole did hip hop and pop music, she was always prepared and always had a story. I helped her make a tape and send an MP3 to a few program directors I know at Magic. I just said to them, ‘if you would give her some feedback even if there is no opening right now that would be great.’ My contact listened to her tape, and then gave her a short shift on weekends. Now she is the midday host at 94.3 The Point in Toms River. She’s great, they love her.”
When students ask Pavlichko what skills they need to be a good radio personality, Pavlishko explains, “To succeed in radio, having a friendly personality and being knowledgeable are essential qualifications. Not everyone has a good voice but people can tell if you are faking it. People at WRSU know a lot about music, bands, it’s ok to be a bit goofy, the main thing is knowing what you are talking about. WRSU DJs could potentially launch a new artist. Half of every show has to be from a playlist, but the other half can be music the DJ wants to introduce – hopefully it jives with the listeners! For this reason, you can hear music on WRSU that you can’t hear anywhere else (except perhaps at other college stations). It’s not top 40 and it’s not commercial. The students here are really knowledgeable and they do a great job.”
Pavlichko also finds it easy to inspire students by explaining how many successful alums have landed top positions in the field in part because of their work at WRSU. Just a few of WRSU’s most well-known alumni include:
Rich Edson, '03, Fox News
Mike Emanuel, '90, Fox News
Carla Marie, '10, morning show host for the Seattle FM station POWER 93.3
Zubin Mehenti, '00, sports center anchor at ESPN
While Pavlichko was an undergraduate, he worked at WRSU for four years, and he was determined to get involved at the station even before he began freshman year. Rutgers was the only school he applied to and he got in, so he decided to accept, thinking, “Why go far away and spend more money when everything I want is right here.” He already knew the Rutgers teams, which was a real plus once he was doing play-by-play for WRSU. Also, his father, who was a chemist, went to graduate school at Rutgers and he also always wanted to be on the radio but never looked into it.
Pavlichko first came to Rutgers for a tour in August 1995 with his father, and he and his father found the radio station immediately after the tour. “My father knew it was located on the 4th floor of the student center because he listened to the WRSU show ‘Knightline’ after Rutgers games, and the radio hosts always announced that the station was in the student center on the fourth floor,” Pavlichko explained. They went upstairs and met the sports director. When he returned to start school a couple of weeks later, he went straight to the WRSU table at the “Involvement Fair.”
It seems a career in radio was definitely in Pavlichko’s destiny. Growing up he played with his grandfather’s LPs, tracks such as Frank Sinatra, Henry Mancini, and Herb Alpert. His grandfather worked in a record processing plant in Newark so he had tons of records. His grandfather taught him to work a record player, and he held a microphone and pretended he was a DJ.
His father watched him and said, “You can do that as a job when you are older.”
Freshman year, Pavlichko decided he wanted to be in the sports department at WRSU, so he went to the WRSU meetings and volunteered to be on a show. He got a sportscast on the air at 4:30 and 5:30 -- a two-minute sportscast, which was a preview of Rutgers games – ice hockey, basketball, games coming up, and scores from the day before.
“My show was a two-minute interlude for the Max Gilbert Show,” Pavlichko said. “Max was the music director, (his music was experimental, he would create feedback loops with patch cables) and he would announce, “it’s Max, time for sports, Here’s Mike!” and I would do the play-by-play. All Rutgers games were carried on the radio, including soccer, wrestling, baseball, softball.
I kept track, and in four years, I broadcasted 151 games doing play-by-play. It’s hard but fun.”
When Pavlichko graduated from Rutgers, he sought a career in radio, and he went right to WCTC Am/1450 AM, Magic 98.3 FM where he did the morning news.
One of the reasons he was hired immediately is because He had done an internship there over the summer after his junior year. “During the summer of 1999, Pavlichko explained, “I had an internship at WCTC, which led to a freelance position that I had the fall of his senior year. By January I had a five-hour news shift on Saturday mornings from 5 to 10 am. I did five-minute newscasts at 6,7,8,9 and 10 am. It was all local news. The reporters fed me the news I announced. It was during the time that Elian Gonzalez landed in Miami, it happened to be my first day alone. I did it as a breaking news story, they explained to me what to do and I did it.”
At WCTC Pavlichko continued to cover Rutgers football, basketball, and high school sports. He still does play-by-play at high school games every Friday night, and hosts Rutgers football pre- and post-game shows, including the award-winning Football USA on WCTC, just wrapping up his 18th season.
Pavlichko says he never thought he would be back at WRSU almost 16 years after graduation, and in charge of the place. “It’s bizarre, but in a good way. When I decided to return, I looked forward to the chance to come back and help people like I was helped. I love that. People leave WRSU and get great jobs, and they always know they got started at WRSU.”
The first week of school Pavlichko says he always repeats to every new group of students, “All I want to tell you is, I was a student here 20 years ago, and all of this could be yours!”
PHOTO: From left to right, Mike Pavlichko of WRSU, Eric Griffith of The Daily Targum, Mike Gadarian of WRSU in Ft. Collins, CO to cover the Rutgers women’s basketball team against Colorado State in the pre-season WNIT, fall of 1999. Photo courtesy of Mike Pavlichko.