Past, Present & Moving Forward
WTSQ 88.1 FM: Past, Present, and Powering Forward
How WTSQ Learned “Charity Begins at Home”
The WTSQ Story
If someone made a movie about WTSQ, you’d be able to spot the story’s heroes immediately. Built from the ashes of a failed station in 2015, WTSQ is the plucky band of mismatched weirdos who make good in the end after a series of misadventures and setbacks.
The star in the first of the film series would be station founder, former president, and all-around ringleader Chris Long. As the story unfolds, you watch the gang of misfits turn into a crazy family, with an extended cast of fans, listeners, musicians, and former DJs scattered not just around Charleston but also the world. Sure they are all underdogs, but you always know they win in the end.
A core part of the station’s identity, from the very start, was our original home in Charleston – the historic Union Building. Constructed in 1911, the building itself harkens back to the region’s glory days. It was once the tallest building in the state, and it remains the only significant structure in downtown Charleston on the riverfront. The combination of a central location, an ideal space for a broadcast antenna, and very affordable rent, made the Union Building the perfect place for the nascent WTSQ. We even used the building in our logo (designed by the amazing people at Echo-lit). And then we got the news that we had to leave the Union Building.
After seven years, WTSQ faced a severe threat to its existence. We asked listeners to help us reach a $20,000 fundraising goal, which would enable us to fund our move and handle the increased operating expenses. Our supporters answered this call with more than $30,000 raised in our 2022 fundraiser.
What is WTSQ?
WTSQ belongs to a special class of radio stations called low power FMs (LPFM). The FCC created this type of radio license about twenty years ago to offer an alternative to the growing homogeneity of commercial radio. LPFMs are responsible for providing local and alternative voices with informative or educational content for the community. It’s nearly impossible for broadcasters with national interests to offer this content. Either it’s not commercially viable, or as is the case with public broadcasting, their focus is simply too broad to allow it.
None of this is a problem for a station like WTSQ. We are not afraid to play the music they think scares off the mainstream or alienates advertisers. We’re not chasing the mainstream, and we don’t have advertisers. WTSQ will keep doing what we do as long as you support the station. At WTSQ, every single song you hear is put on the air because someone at the station loves it enough that they think you should listen to it. The importance of an alternative, independent voice on the air can never be overstated.
Streaming services strip the human element of music discovery, choosing to play you only what’s in your comfort zone. A non-profit, independent radio station like WTSQ will play something for you because the DJ loves it. It’s a genuine human connection that a computer algorithm cannot duplicate and which commercial stations would never have the nerve to try.
WTSQ also brings you unique perspectives in the news and local events. We broadcast Democracy Now, a nationally syndicated news program with a famously leftist take on the news. Every Sunday, Mountain State Update’s Dan Heyman has conversations with local politicians, community leaders, and other intelligent people who help make sense of West Virginia’s often confusing political climate. Throughout the week, WTSQ stalwart Josh Gaffin spins classic and indie rock while chatting with a wide assortment of business owners and non-profits who are invested in the things happening in your community (as well as a lot of musicians whose music you hear on the air).
As a non-profit, three legs hold up the dollars and cents side of WTSQ: 1) listeners who support us through fund drives, 2) sustaining memberships and underwriters, 3) our volunteers. All three parts of this are essential. WTSQ DJs donate their time and energy to the station with each show they host.
Our radio family gets enormous work done behind the scenes and constantly hold the station together with duct tape and love. Our underwriters are businesses or events in Charleston who want to support something beautiful while also getting the word out about their services. Our listeners are unique human beings like you and your friends and neighbors who want Charleston to have the kind of radio station it deserves.
We only come to you a few times a year and specifically ask for your help. This is your opportunity to invest in your community by supporting the radio station created by and for people in your neighborhood. It doesn’t stop at the city line for WTSQ (although our FM broadcast struggles beyond this point). We have people who tune in worldwide using our app or stream on our website. Some are keeping in touch with a town they used to call home.
People like our mix of music; some classic tracks, some vintage songs you’ve never heard before, and great new music, whether indie or mainstream. They listen because it’s excellent. We think our DJs are making radio stations as good as any station globally. Our level of support speaks for itself.
Where Do We Go From Here?
WTSQ has moved our studio and operations to the People’s Building on Summers Street in downtown Charleston, just a few blocks from where we started. This probably isn’t the last time we will move. We have big plans and ideas set out on the horizon.
For now, we are happy to have found a safe and comfortable new place that’s still in the heart of our city. All this is the fruit of an enormous amount of labor on our board who hustled on short notice, to find a new home, and our volunteers who literally carried the station down the stairs of the Union Building and into the People’s Building.
We could never have done this without the love and assistance of the community. This is your radio station because you support it and listen to it. You have given us the ability to outgrow our original home and all the dreams we started. This has become so much more than our original home.
This change was hard. We cried during our last shows in the Union Building. A place where we laughed and found new friends, a place that has become the heart of so many people far and wide, a place that makes you feel like you are always home. But, as much as we loved our first home – our new studio gives us opportunities for growth. The future is brighter than ever.
Visit WTSQ.org to learn how you can be involved and keep your community radio station on the air here.