Doug Stephan may be a household name, but he's never forgotten his Heidelberg roots. One valuable experience during his college days included an on-air internship at local radio station WTTF.
The internship was so valuable to Stephan, host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show Doug Stephan's Good Day, that he intends to see to it that current students have the same opportunity.
On Friday, Stephan, class of '68 and a trustee of the college, along with fellow Trustee Tony Paradiso announced that they have acquired WTTF with the intent of transferring ownership to Heidelberg.
Within a year, all of the station's equipment will be transferred to the campus, and in three to five years, the station will be completely operated by Heidelberg.
The venture will provide a unique opportunity for Heidelberg broadcast students that will exceed the on-air and production training they currently receive at the college's FM station WHEI. New academic offerings will be developed around the commercial station.
“The idea is to teach people things they can't get elsewhere in the country,” Stephan said. In his 40-plus years in the business, Stephan said the number of learning and growth opportunities have dwindled.
“In the world of radio, TV and media, there's no place to be bad. People who want to enter the business now aren't coming along knowing how to be good sales people or to be good managers. They don't know the fabric and the fiber of the business.”
All of that will change when WTTF becomes a training ground for Heidelberg students. Stephan assured the community, however, that WTTF will be a professional operation and might even have more local programming - with a mix of syndicated programming. Paradiso said the programming “will leverage the station for the betterment of the community.”
In the near term, the college and BAS Broadcasting of Fremont, current owners of WTTF and several other stations in Ohio, will work collaboratively to manage the station, an arrangement that will be mutually beneficial for both. Over the next few years, then, the station will gradually be taken over by the college.
“That's why I'm so excited about this,” Stephan said. “I want our students to have the same opportunities I had.”
College administrators share Stephan's excitement about the possibilities the venture has for the curriculum. Dr. David Weininger, senior vice president for academic affairs, said the college will retain its WHEI television and radio operations. In combination with WTTF, the trio will create a synergy leading to exciting opportunities for additional coursework, majors and internships in the areas of media management, sales marketing and market research.
“We will be able to teach our students the kinds of skills they need to serve in areas such as marketing, management, technology and sales,” Weininger said. “This is a rare opportunity for students to learn the business from bottom to top. We're very excited about it.”
Academic programming will be developed over the course of the next several years at a point where the college is comfortable with the process. “It's going to have to look right and feel right,” he added.
Stephan said the transition will be a work in progress. Nonetheless, he has high expectations. “We want to take good syndicated programming and work it with good local programming and have a great mix.”