Hidden in a remote corner of Holden Hall’s basement is one of the best college radio stations around.
Roaming through the empty ground-level halls of the dormitory, one could wonder how “the future of music,” as the Impact 88.9 WDBM-FM advertises, could possibly reside in such a bleak place. The generic sign identifying the site of the MSU student radio station looks no different from signs announcing a laundry room or a computer lab. A resident in search of a washer and dryer, however, would be surprised at what’s behind the Impact’s front door. Yet despite its nondescript entrance, the Impact is anything but ordinary. Run entirely by students, this suite of offices and studios, as well as the programs they broadcast, is impressive and it goes beyond what listeners hear each day.
On Feb. 24, the Impact will celebrate its 16th birthday as a college radio station. So far, the Impact has had tremendous success and has stayed technologically updated with state-of-the-art equipment.
Leaving the clearest mark on the Impact is station manager Libby Samanen. Samanen, a communications senior, is responsible for making sure the different departments of the Impact, including directors and show hosts, are all on the same page. “I view the Impact as a big family,” Samanen said. “It is my responsibility to make sure that the family is functional. I like to say, I put the ‘fun’ in functional!”
[john] Production director Jeremy Whiting also enjoys his experience and the people at the Impact. “It’s a fun atmosphere,” he said. “It’s professional, yet we have a good time.” According to Whiting, a master’s student, the station is a good learning environment and a chance to work with new technology and equipment that rivals many commercial stations.
Other students at the Impact take a similar stance. “The honest-to-God truth?” information director John Fournier asked. “It’s the people. It’s a family and I love it,” Fournier said. The political theory junior oversees Impact News and is also the host of Open Mic on Exposure, a show that runs Fridays from 7 to 8 p.m., bringing local groups, issues and events to light.
Samanen said working at the Impact has been the highlight of her college experience. She loves the talent; the opportunities and, of course, the music.
It’s not just about the music, either. The Impact is making strides in the technological side of college radio as well. In fall 2004, the Impact became the first college radio station to broadcast in High Definition Digital Radio, which improves overall sound quality and provides artist information to users with HD radios. The station has also been named the Michigan Association of Broadcasters College Station of the Year four of the last five years.
[impact]In terms of genre, the music on the Impact runs the gamut and is as diverse as its listener community. Every night there is a different primetime specialty show. Some of these shows include The Cultural Vibe, a hip-hop show on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Progressive Torch and Twang, an alternative country, twang and folk show on Tuesdays from 8 p.m. to midnight. According to Samanen, Progressive Torch and Twang has helped to cultivate the East Lansing twang scene. Communications senior Jennifer Koch, a DJ and production staff member at the Impact, said, “It’s not your ‘achy-breaky heart’ country. It’s really pure country.” Koch went on to say of the program, “Our music is the purest form of music. It’s not commercialized crap; it’s real music. And I think because we have such a great variety of it that people want to listen to it.”
The Impact also has specialty shows featuring international, reggae, jazz, local, underground and hardcore metal and mechanical music. The station caters more to independent or small-label bands and musicians, Koch said.
As with commercial stations, the Impact broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, yet the station is not commericial and does not broadcast advertisements. To keep the station going, there are not only many volunteer DJs but also numerous students involved in production, promotions and music reviewing.
According to Samanen, all MSU students have the opportunity to work with the cutting-edge technology at the Impact. Students can apply online at www.impact89fm.org. Samanen is in charge of all student hiring and said students must start training on the Fix (WFIX), the Impact’s online webcast radio station, and those that show improvement and dedication will be promoted to be Impact DJs.
So with this award-winning college radio station boasting diverse programming right under their noses (and maybe even in their own dormitory basement), are MSU students tuning in? Samanen thinks so, but the Impact is always trying to get the word out to more people.
And as Koch said, “it’s real music,” and what can beat that?

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