It’s official: North Central College’s student-run radio station WONC-FM 89.1 is the best of the best. For the first time in its history, WONC was awarded the Abraham & Brost Award for Best Overall Radio Station in the nation at the March 7 Awards Ceremony at the 75th annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) International Conference in New York City.
“Winning this award proved what we as a school and staff already knew: We are the best in the nation,” said station manager Russell Tanzillo ’15. “I knew for a long time WONC had what it took to win this award and we only needed to tweak a few things to get there.”
To qualify for the award, WONC first won the Best College Radio Station under 10,000 students enrolled. Three other stations also qualified for the best of the best by winning their categories: San Diego State University for Best Internet Radio Station, Central Washington University for Best College Radio Station over 10,000 enrollment, and Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif., for Best Community College Radio Station.
“In announcing the first award, all the announcer was able to say was ‘All the way from Nape…..’ and the rest was lost in our cheering and celebration,” said assistant station manager Samuel Reiman ’16. “Then when the biggest award was announced, we went ballistic!”
Tanzillo and Reiman worked tirelessly to produce the station’s submission, compiling an hour-long montage of some 80 samples of audio from the past year. Station promos, station IDs, sportscasts, newscasts, air breaks as well as band interviews, artist liners and other quality programs showed how the station had evolved over the year. “It revealed how much effort we put into getting our station recognized by artists, record labels and the music industry overall and our involvement in the local music scene,” said Reiman.
“What made our submission special,” said Tanzillo, “was that we organized it in a way that made it feel as close to a natural broadcast as possible. We had some talking parts, then promos, then some sports parts, a PSA, more talking parts and other aspects of broadcasting.”
John Madormo, assistant professor of broadcast communication, also won a best in the nation award: the Jeff Tellis Outstanding Advisor Award for leadership, dedication and service. Previously nominated for the award, this was his first win by IBS. In 1994, he was honored by College Media Advisors with a similar award, the Distinguished Four-Year Broadcast Advisor Award.
“John is the mastermind behind the operations,” said Tanzillo. “John is exactly what his award says: He is the BEST advisor in the nation and has been for a very long time. As my advisor and teacher, we have built a very good relationship over my four years and that’s exactly what I wanted coming to a smaller school. I wanted to build relationships that will be useful and helpful in life.”
Two more first-place awards also were claimed at the conference. Cora Georgiou ’17 won Best Newscast and Max Kachinske ’16 and Tanzillo won Best Station Promo. All total, the station brought home 14 awards; the remaining were all finalist awards.
Just getting to New York City was a trial. A snow storm blew through the East Coast Thursday, March 5, the day everyone planned to fly to LaGuardia International Airport. Also that day, a Delta flight skidded off LaGuardia’s runway, canceling flights and shutting down the airport till Friday morning. Traveling separately, Madormo was able to find a flight Friday night, but the six student travelers weren’t so lucky. With dogged determination, they secured six seats on Amtrak for a 22-hour train ride, arriving in New York Friday evening.
“I’m so glad our students were there,” said Madormo. “I have never seen our kids as emotionally excited before, and the big wins were all the sweeter because of the journey to get there.”
The students chosen to attend the conference won the most nominations. They are (photo below, front row, from l.): sociology major Hannah Jurik ’16 of Plainfield, broadcast communication major Cora Georgiou ’17 of Orland Park, broadcast communication major Wesley Rasmussen-Wilson ’15 of Simi Valley, Calif., (back row) broadcast communication and interactive media studies/convergent media double major Reiman of Chicago, broadcast communication major Tanzillo of Naperville, and broadcast communication major Max Kachinske ’16 of Aurora.
In 1974, WONC received a similar national award, the Billboard Magazine Radio Station of the Year Award.