Erie’s rock alternative marks 40 years on air

Through changes in management and location, frequency and technology, the two-fold mission of 90.5 WERG has always remained the same: serving Gannon University students and the Erie community.

WERG – which stands for “We are Gannon” – got its start in 1972, when a group of engineering students decided to establish an educational radio station for the purpose of training future broadcasters.

At 10 watts, “the little station that could” signed on 89.1 FM from its location in the basement of Zurn Science Center. Listeners enjoyed artists such as Jethro Tull, The Who and Led Zeppelin.

“WERG since its inception has been an alternative to what exists in commercial radio,” said Chet LaPrice, operations manager.

Today’s weekday audience tunes in to The Black Keys, Neon Trees, Passion Pit and other alternative rock bands. The weekend format is mix of polka, jazz and soul music as well as community programming.

But the lineup isn’t all that’s changed. From turntables to a digital sound board, the equipment has undergone a drastic evolution over the last four decades.

“What we have now is industry-standard,” LaPrice said. “What you see here is what you’d see next door at Connoisseur Media or up the road at Cumulus. So you’re learning with what you’ll actually be expected to work with in the field.”

LaPrice, who joined the staff as a Gannon student in 1988, said WERG does its best to stay up-to-date.

“The technology has changed, and the equipment we’ve used has gotten much better, but the spirit of the station remains the same.”

In its 40th year, WERG had a lighter staff, but the group accomplished quite a bit, hosting more on-air giveaways than ever before.

Several managers attended the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System Conference in New York City, where more than 150 speakers and 1,000 students gathered to share ideas.

“It’s always rewarding to see all of the hard work pay off,” LaPrice said. “It’s preparation for a career in broadcasting, but it’s also fun.”

Cristianne Johnson, a junior journalism communications major and next year’s general manager, said she’s honored to be part of the organization.

“Being part of the radio has taught me so much,” Johnson said. “The whole staff has gained so much knowledge about radio. As general manager for the next school year, I would like to keep the outstanding work going. I’m excited about this new staff, and we are going to have a lot in store for everyone.”



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