Another Radio Station Lost to a Conglomerate

I saw in the news that one of the stations I used to listen to when I was younger, WCCC, is no more.  WCCC had been one of the main rock stations in Connecticut for decades and when other stations, such as 104.1 (only temporarily) and 105.9 changed formats, WCCC continued.

They played an “active rock” format when I was living in Connecticut, which for them was a combination of classic rock, alternative, and metal. Given that this was also during the time that “active rock” was often dominated by trash like Limp Bizkit, WCCC was never my favorite station but could be relied on to play some decent music. As a locally owned station, they were one of the few to resist being taken over by a major conglomerate and actually had local DJs in an era when many stations were going to a completely syndicated lineup or abandoning any kind of DJ altogether.

The news reports that WCCC had been losing listeners in recent years – probably as radio declined as a music medium. They had already switched to a more classic rock oriented format to try to attract more older viewers, but apparently this was not enough to prevent a sale.

The new WCCC has been switched to a corporate contemporary Christian station. This is bad for a number of reasons. First, the station now just broadcasts a feed from some off-site studio. There won’t really be any local programming or local personalities on the station. Thus, there won’t be anything unique about the new station.

Second, there’s already a religious station in the area. It seems unlikely that there’s room for multiple religious FM stations but only a couple rock stations and maybe one or two for jazz, classical, folk, etc.

Third, the contemporary Christian format is terrible. Contemporary Christian music is typically seen as a bland facsimile of modern rock where anything remotely interesting, artistic, or even just vaguely controversial has been removed. This doesn’t mean that there is no good religious music; just look at composers such as Bach and Palestrina. Contemporary Christian music, however is a particular style that is widely disliked. Even devout performers tend to run away from the contemporary Christian label. My own view on the genre I think is similar to that of an old South Park episode where the characters form a Christian rock band. The music is so bland that it seems almost like a cynical ploy to squeeze money out of a naive audience that cares more about promoting certain values than on supporting quality music. Thus, music given the “Christian” label tends not to be good enough to have a chance at being popular with the general listening audience. Good music, even with religious themes or religious performers, shouldn’t need to be categorized as “Christian” music.

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MIT Report on the Future of Education

MIT has finally released its report on the future of education at MIT. You can find it here.

The main part of the report is about 30 pages and includes various recommendations, mostly to do more investigating into various possibilities.

MITx/edX takes a prominent place in many of the recommendations. The report suggests that the Institute investigate incorporating MITx material into actual classes. It also discusses ways to expand the reach of MITx/edX outside MIT and suggests various ways to do this and to increase revenue from these programs.

One interesting thing that I hadn’t known is that the MIT faculty has not grown much in the past 30 years, while the number of graduate students and postdocs has increased significantly due to increased research funding. Unusually for similar schools, the undergraduate population has actually decreased, likely due to increasing restrictions on undergrads living off campus (mostly due to various scandals at frats and independent living groups).

Overall, the report recommends doing much of this to strengthen the traditional residential programs at MIT. Something like MITx could be very useful as a teaching tool, both inside and outside MIT, but we should remain skeptical to be sure that the development of nontraditional pedagogical methods does not threaten the quality of the education students get on campus. Some things that have already been tried, such as the TEAL program adding computer-based work and clicker questions in the classroom in introductory physics courses have been found to increase test scores, although they are widely disliked by a large fraction of the undergraduate student body.