WUWF celebrates 40 years on the air


Hunter Morrison

In January of 1981, WUWF-FM signed onto the air, becoming the region’s first National Public Radio station. This year, the station celebrates a milestone of 40 years on the air. 

“When I got here in 1982, the station was relatively new, and we were working on getting the word out to the community,” said WUWF Executive Director. “Public radio was a new concept to most folks, except those who moved here from somewhere else that had experienced public radio.”

When WUWF first debuted, it was a typical National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate. The station carried out various radio shows and classical and jazz music programming. On weekends, the station carried out a variety of syndicated news, music and entertainment programs from various national producers.

Since then, the station has grown exceptionally, both in physical size and number of listeners. 

“The station was very small, located in building 77 across the street from the current facility,”  WUWF Technical Director, Dale Riegle said. “There was a master control room, newsroom and production room, with the conference room doubling as an interview studio.” 

In 1992, the station moved to its current facility, giving it greater capabilities with more studio space. This allowed the station to stay focused on broadcasting local news and information with a growing presence. 

Today, WUWF features over 40 radio programs, ranging from syndicated programming to in-house jazz shows. Popular programs include “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “RadioLive” and “Big Bands and Jazz.” NPR syndicated programming forms the core of WUWF’s broadcast schedule.

In celebration of the station’s 40th anniversary, WUWF commenced a virtual celebration. Due to COVID-19, the station’s original celebratory plans had to be changed.

“We had a ton of stuff planned: bringing Ira Glass to town, special concerts and events, but like the rest of the world, we had to adapt to the reality of COVID-19,” said WUWF Director of Content & Operations Joe Vincenza. “We enjoy doing things with and for the people who support the station, the community at large, so this was a major upset to us.”

COVID-19 has also prevented WUWF from sponsoring and attending community events. The station strives to make a lasting impression on the community.

“Once we get past COVID-19, I’m sure we’ll once again be spreading out into the community, bringing back ‘RadioLive,’ bringing back other events and helping out with community organizations,” Vincenza said. “Programming wise, we want to continue to raise the bar on our local efforts and continue to pick the best national offerings so we can create that ‘perfect balance’ of programming which will keep listeners coming back, and hopefully attract new folks who do not know we exist.”

Despite the hardships that have persisted over the last year, WUWF and the local community continue to celebrate the station’s many accomplishments. This includes the station’s primary goal of exceptional public service to the community. 

“I think the biggest and best thing we have achieved and continue to achieve is our service to the community,” Vincenza said. “Whether it is during times like hurricanes, or providing news about local events, or the support we give to organizations, we do what we can to make the Gulf Coast a better place to live. We provide the region with unbiased news, music they can’t hear anywhere else and intelligent conversation, not to mention serving our very supportive license holder UWF. I am really quite proud of all that we’ve done.”

Riegle also spoke about the station’s accomplishments.

“I think our biggest accomplishment is the continued focus on local programming, especially with the increase in the size of our news staff and digital content producers,” he said. “Also, the musical focus brought by our ‘RadioLive’ program.” 

Much of the staff believes that local programming, including news and feature stories, has left a great impact on the community. WUWF is also a major station in the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, often being the only one on the air during hurricanes and other regional disasters. Most notably, the station stayed on the air during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Sally in 2020.

In looking to the future, WUWF hopes to expand digital platforms for its audience. This includes a continued branching out on the internet and social media. 

“I expect to see a greater emphasis on digital platforms,” said Crawford. “Our over-the-air broadcast will always be important, particularly in emergency situations where there is no power, cell, or internet service, but it is essential for us to fully develop a program service that is readily accessible on all platforms currently in existence and those that have yet to be developed.”

Despite WUWF’s many changes over the years, the station continues to create a more informed public, “one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.” This includes providing fact-based information from both sides of an issue.

WUWF employees are thankful for the community’s support of local radio programming, as well as the station’s growth over the last 40 years. 

“I’ve only been here for 20 of the 40 years at WUWF, but I feel like I truly lucked out in finding this place at this time,” said Vincenza. “The staff is great, the community is generous and supportive, and we’ve been able to continue to grow and change with the times. Thanks to our listeners, supporters, and UWF, I know we’re going to do more great things.”

To check out WUWF’s 40th anniversary virtual celebration, go to https://www.wuwf.org/celebrating-40-years-service#stream/0

For more information about WUWF or to donate, go to https://www.wuwf.org/