KRTU adapts to campus coronavirus closures


Photo by Kathleen Creedon

This article is a part of the Trinitonian’s coverage of Trinity University’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here to read the rest of our coverage.

KRTU, Trinity’s nonprofit radio station, has a mission to maintain its connections to the community. It’s listener-supported, it promotes local musicans and artists, and it has 50 community volunteers who help host many of its programs.

On Monday, March 16, KRTU announced that those 50 hosts would be relieved of their on-air hosting duties starting immediately.

“In an effort to prevent and limit possible transmission, KRTU is placing all volunteer-hosted programs on hiatus, pending further notice. We hope to resume normal programming very soon,” read an email sent to the community hosts on Monday.

According to the email, the station “will continue automated programming 24 hours a day with core programming, including Early Bird Jazz, Morning Session, Jazz Break at Noon, the Evening Beat and the South Texas Jazz Project.”

While the station had been transitioning employees to working remotely, as of Wednesday, the station is now all but empty, with only three full-time staff allowed to come in for a maximum of three hours per day.

“We are lucky that we can continue to operate simply because we have an automation system that allows us to do so. We just hope to get back to our regular programming and our local hosts back on the air as soon as we can,” Cook said.

Volunteer-hosted hours consist of more than nine hours per day during the week for both jazz and indie programming, and 15 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. Now, those weekday hours will be automated and DJ free, while the remaining full-time staff will package weekend shows.

According to Cook, much of the responsibility to stay on air now falls on him and fellow station managers.

“JJ Lopez does a show from seven to nine, and then I do a show from nine until one, and then we also package shows for the weekend, and we do other specialty shows. We’ve tried to hold on to some of our core programming like South Texas Jazz Project, which I host, the Evening Bear, which our host, Michael Thomas does,” Cook said. “We’re still going to figure out how we can possibly get [Thomas] to do some remote broadcasting, but I don’t think it’s going to be possible. I think we’re going to have to cover his hours for him. It really all depends on how the university wants us to lay out our full time staff and essential personnel.”

Of KRTU’s six full-time staff, only three will be able to come into the station. Like the majority of the rest of the university, the staff will work from home for the time being.

“I just checked out a laptop today that they hooked me up with so I can manage the playlist schedule, so I can manage what’s being aired without being there because apparently we have to limit our time there,” Cook said.

Master’s in Teaching student and 2019 Trinity alum Collin Gillespie has hosted Jazz in the Afternoon from 3–5 p.m. each Tuesday since his sophomore year at Trinity.

“The last show I hosted was for March 10. Prior to spring break, I can’t say that I was very afraid of the virus spreading within the station. I had assumed that the virus was more contained in quarantine areas,” Gillespie said. “I definitely approve of the station’s decision to temporarily cancel guest hosting. With this infection, it is vital to eliminate opportunities for exposure, and it shows that the station and its staff care about the health of its volunteers and guests.”

As of right now, the station is unaware of when regular programming will resume.