Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

The enduring appeal of community radio

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I don't know at what point it started, but for as long as I can remember, I've had a love affair with radio.

There is something about tuning into a station, and hearing someone talk or play music in real-time, that is incredibly appealing.

A good on-air personality can keep you company when you are driving, cleaning your house, or making dinner. And the singular intimacy of listening to radio, even passively, goes a long way in explaining the medium's lasting appeal and the astronomical rise of podcasting.

So when I came upon Whistler FM shortly after moving here, I was, to say the least, delighted.

In a day and age when commercial radio all sound the same—a mix of meticulously crafted pop and rap music that is as soft as a gentle blanket of snow (i.e. Drake)—Whistler FM serves as a unique breath of fresh air.

When listening, I'm consistently impressed with the wide range of music the station plays, whether it be a five-minute post-rock anthem from Explosions in the Sky, a reflective, mellow track from Andy Shauf or the Shins, or any number of up-and-coming Canadian acts.

In our age of consolidation and audience-tested everything, Whistler FM has the authentic sound and feel of a college radio station. It's as if it was built in the '70s by a group of ski-bum, music nerds—and they never left.

It's also committed to promoting local talent, with its Thursday Jam Sessions with Meaghan M serving as a venue for Whistler's talented musical acts to play live sets.

If you're a regular listener, you will know that the station's morning show is now in the hands of longtime-Whistlerite Laura Hanlon, who is taking over the role from the (also talented!) Jacinta Lee.

So far, Hanlon has handled the position like a seasoned pro, weaving in her deep knowledge of the community into a morning show that sees her behind the dials from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday to Friday.

The job, by no means, seems like an easy one. (Hosts are typically by themselves, charged with mining various sources—including yours truly, Pique—for topics and amusing anecdotes.)

Using sheer force of personality, they are required to keep us listeners engaged, from switching the dial to one of the many flashier options available.

I recently caught up with Hanlon via email and asked her to share her thoughts on the enduring appeal of community radio.

"I think community radio plays a hugely important role in relaying news and information that reflects the community's interests," she said.

Whistler, she said, has an "incredibly tight-knit" community, and reflecting that is important.

"I'm so excited for the opportunity to provide Whistler with something different and meaningful," she said.

Hanlon also brings an exuberant personality to the station. Trust me, it's unmistakable.

"My friends tell me my positivity and high energy rubs off," she said. "Sometimes that can be a bit much for people at 6 a.m., which is why it's great that Whistler Mornings kicks off at 7 a.m., and people are perking up over their cup of Joe!"

(In her note, Hanlon also mentioned that she's a big fan of electronic music and even has a "guilty love" of country. Let's hope that the former makes its way to the station's playlist...Plenty of electronic music fans in these parts.)

So if you aren't a regular listener, consider giving Whistler FM a listen.

Like me, it may leave you feeling more anchored and attached to the community, as though you have stumbled upon something that's uniquely Whistler.