For 40 years, KDUR radio has been helping students have fun sharing their voices over the air, while also training them as broadcasting professionals. And Eric Whitney is a testament to how far that sense of fun and the KDUR experience can take you.
As the news director for Montana Public Radio, Whitney’s award-winning reporting has been featured onNational Public Radio‘s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” He has also done three reporting excursions to Africa, including living in Cape Town for a year.
“I was attracted to public radio because I think it’s a great product,” says Whitney (English, ’99). “I think some of the journalism on public radio is some of the best out there, and I wanted to be a part of that. I have stuck with it because it’s something I love and it gives me opportunities to do amazing things.”
Whitney has reported for Colorado Public Radio, the High Plains News Service, and on health topics in the United States and Africa thanks to fellowships from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Knight Foundation. His reporting has also won awards from the Colorado Broadcasters Association, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.
“Radio is fun,” Whitney says, summing up his career. “And it keeps on being fun.”
Whitney first found the fun of radio at KDUR, FLC’s on-campus student-run radio station. Launched in 1974 broadcasting through speakers hardwired into the Student Union, today KDUR’s 6,000-watt signal can be heard all over Durango and southwestern Colorado at 91.9 FM and at 93.9 FM, and worldwide online at kdur.org.
“In college I discovered that journalism was right for me,” Whitney says. “The professors really helped kindle that fire within me once I had discovered it. But the stuff I really remember are the hands on experiences. Being a part of KDUR, I had a chance to try out and see if this really was what I wanted to do.”
As much fun as being on the air as a DJ can be, Whitney is quick to point out that there’s much more to radio journalism than just playing music.
“I remember doing my first DJ shift up there. It was simultaneously really terrifying and really fun,” says Whitney. “But to be a good journalist, you have to have a whole set of skills. You have to know how to use the equipment, but you also need a suite of skills, from basic interviewing and writing to using the audio editing software.”
“You also have to develop a sense for what a good story is,” he adds. “You have to be in tune with your audience and be able to deliver good, compelling stories on the types of things they’re curious about.”
For Whitney, who had no previous radio experience before arriving at Fort Lewis College, KDUR was where he not only found the fun of radio, but where he also started developing that “suite of skills” he needed to make that fun his career.
“There was no question the campus radio station was the coolest place to be,” Whitney laughs. “It was the soundtrack for my college, but it also helped me discover journalism.”