Smile Politely

Livening up the airwaves

Carly Nix is passionate about community radio, and her enthusiasm shines through to anyone interacting with her. Nix, a Decatur native who graduated this past spring from Boston University with a B.A. in religion, is the AmeriCorps News Media Coordinator at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. She’s tasked with helping the volunteers that run both WRFU-FM and the Public I accomplish their goals.

Her most immediate task at hand is helping WRFU celebrate its fourth anniversary this weekend. “Friday’s actually the big day, but Saturday’s when the big events are happening,” Nix said. “There are people who are coming from out of town, who have been involved in the station in the past and wanted to celebrate RFU’s anniversary.”

The festivities begin with a live taping of “The Show” from 10 p.m. to midnight Friday; this taping will not be held at the IMC, so if you’re interested in attending, call 344-8820 for more info.

Then, on Saturday, there are audio skillshares from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a potluck from 6 to 8 p.m. and afterparty to follow. Check out the WRFU website for more info. Nix has been hard at work in preparation. “I’m putting together this audio collage that is little snippets of pieces that have been produced at the IMC since its inception,” she explained. “So, it’s going to be a guided tour through the history of IMC radio and WRFU over the ages, getting a picture of the different voices and different sounds that have been on the station.” That scrapbook will be unveiled during the potluck Saturday evening.


Nix decided early on that she wanted to work in radio, and she did anything she could to get experience. “I was really involved with my student radio station, and I volunteered at three or four radio stations in Boston throughout my college career, and worked at a radio station, she noted. “So by the time I made it to the IMC, I think I’d worked at six different radio stations — maybe seven.” She did internships at WILL in Champaign-Urbana and WBEZ in Chicago, working on the Third Coast International Audio Festival there.

All of these unpaid jobs are part of paying your dues to break into a competitive field. “[In] public and community radio, you have to volunteer a lot and do internships before you can actually get anywhere,” Nix continued. “After I graduated from college, I was doing all this reading about how to break into the field, and everyone was basically saying don’t go to grad school, just volunteer and intern at radio stations, and eventually you’ll get paid. That’s what I did, and it worked out.” Now she’s making the not-so-big bucks as an AmeriCorps staffer.


Nix is excited to work for WRFU. She said, “This is the first station that I’ve worked at that’s really progressively-minded and really community-minded.” Soon after she started her position, she saw the Indymedia movement in action in the IMC’s coverage of the death of Kiwane Carrington. The IMC quickly organized a press conference featuring Carrington’s family and friends, as well as local community leaders, and Nix assisted with the proceedings, posting audio of the press conference on the IMC’s website. Fellow AmeriCorps Brian Duggan recorded the event on video.

She recalled, “That’s when I really started to understand why the Indymedia movement is so powerful, and what it has to offer to the community. We made the mainstream media come to us and listen to this story and report on it. We also covered it and had the whole thing online and on the radio for people to listen to or to watch. These are all this things that were said, so that if you weren’t there, you can digest it yourself and see what you think about it.”

The Public I’s Brian Dolinar agreed, referring to the “crash course” in independent media that the Carrington press conference contained. Dolinar said, “While the mainstream media ran their sound-bites, at the IMC web site and on the radio we had the press conference in its entirety. This was one of the best examples of indymedia at work, and made possible by the assistance Carly provided.”

Nix cited that coverage as an example of the void that the IMC fills in the community. “NPR used to cover a lot of things more in-depth like that,” she contended. “They haven’t been able to do that as much, for some reason. I don’t know if it has to do with funding, or it has to do with the burden of having an increased audience or what. They used to cover whole congressional hearings and stuff, and they just don’t do that anymore. They have it on some sort of alternate web stream, but it’s not going to be on the radio and it’s not going to be in the #1 program.”

She has high hopes for the coming year at WRFU. “I’m really liking it, and I’m really looking forward to making the station stronger, and getting more people on the radio this year,” Nix said. “We have a ton of free time on our schedule right now, so I’m looking forward to reaching out to different community groups and trying to get some more community-minded programming on the air. One of our taglines is “Community radio, by and for the people,” but we need to re-connect with the people, so that’s what I’m trying to do this year.”

Nix continued, “I think it’s really important for the community to listen and pay attention to what’s going on right now in our community. To just sit back and not think about it, I don’t think that’s the answer.”


This article is part of a series profiling the UC-IMC’s AmeriCorps volunteers. Previous entries include:

More Articles