ill titleGoodbye to Hawk Radio

I started The Edge in March of 2003.  The head of the media department at Hillsborough Community College, Bill Greico, had an opening for a weekly hour long program. I proposed an interview/discussion format, which Bill accepted. Initially, I did the program with an acquaintance, but after a few months, did it solo.  For over 4 years, I broadcasted live as the College had a very capable engineer, Dennis Welch, at the mixing board. That changed when Bill retired in 2007.  Dennis opted to enter into a partnership at a radio station in West Virginia, and the College employed a new head of the media department, Ron Shearer.

Ron proceeded to cancel the programs on Hawk Radio, which were mainly done by talent from the community.  He told me that he did not care for radio, but the facility was "for the students" and I was not one.  I negotiated a deal with him where I could continue my program if I would run the mixing board myself, which I learned to operate.  Not happy that I could not be easily run off, Ron rescheduled my program earlier in the day several times, which I accepted, even to the point of beginning at 8 a.m. when the station began live broadcast.  During this time, a kind and helpful student, Kate Lamm, assisted me when I required it.  

Unfortunately "for the students" and myself, Ron Shearer did not see to maintenance of the electronic equipment in the studio, so we began to hear degradation of the signal quality from radio frequency and electronic interference.  In mid-2008, the administration did not renew Shearer's contract and by this time, the noise level nearly exceeded the signal.  Kate informed me that since Shearer did not recontract with our AM broadcast carrier, the station would go off the air.  I decided to bail and wait for things to change. 

In 2009, I ran into a student at Hillsborough Community College who told me that he remembered my program and asked me why I was not still doing it.  I told him what happened and he said that the College hired a new head of department, Edward Ericsson.  He said that Mr. Ericsson wanted to resume community radio programming and I should contact him.  As part of my deal with Ed, I would have to use my own equipment to record and mix my interviews.  As I could no longer use the College studio, I purchased a USB mixing board and three very good quality stage microphones.  I completed the task with some recording software for my Mac and within a couple weeks was again doing The Edge, which now was broadcast both on the internet and over the air by an AM carrier.  Each week I produced a sound file for loading into the broadcast cue.  This worked well until Ed delegated the task to students, who either did not understand how to use the cueing software, or plain forgot.  As a result, my announced programs often did not broadcast when scheduled.  After a four year tenure, the College administration did not renew Ed's contract.  He was responsible for moving into a new buiilding and upgrading the digital media department's facilities, but for reasons unclear to me, the College did not retain him.  Ed now serves on the board of WSLR, a community radio station in Sarasota, Florida.  

In late 2012, former Tampa area television news anchor, Nerissa Lamison took over as head of the digital media department, hired by Jack Evans, the dean at that time.  Nerissa had little radio experience, so could not truly contribute much to the long ailing radio broadcasting portion of the department.  Without a part-time broadcasting engineer to take care of technical issues, like Bill Greico had during his tenure, I think cognitive dissonance got the best of Nerissa and she dealt with it by removing the only and last community radio program that Hawk Radio carried, namely, The Edge.  The explanation echoed what I heard from Ron Shearer years earlier, Hawk Radio was "for the students".  

If you listen to Hawk Radio now, you hear mainly queued music.  It doesn't take much to load music into a software cart or disc jockey.  You don't need college courses for that.  Formal courses do help with learning the science of broadcast engineering which a student hones through working with experienced talent.  That aspect of radio broadcasting no longer exists at Hillsborough Community College. Bill Greico's legacy has been abandoned by the College administration and I don't see it ever returning.  I saved the HawkRadio home page when it had a full schedule of outside and HCC talent and display it here under the Fair Use doctrine of U.S. Copyright law.

Update 2016: I recently spoke to someone at HCC about the radio broadcasting program. HCC has contracted with a broadcast engineer and Lamison has posted a seemingly full broadcasting schedule, but this person states that it's bogus and most of the time is still filled with recorded music. This person told me that Lamison is very concerned about programs being "controversial". That's quite the opposite from what Bill Greico established and a far cry from the news department at Nerissa's former employer, WTVT, a gig which did not end well for her.

On the positive side, I have gratitude to all the College staff, faculty and students who supported and assisted with the broadcasting and production of The Edge. With your help, many lives have been touched for the better and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Lawrence Wright, was able to credit the program in his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. On page 369 he writes, "Tom Smith has conducted a number of knowledgeable interviews on his radio show, The Edge, broadcast by Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida."  If I am not the one to carry on this activity in the Tampa Bay area, I hope someone will step into those shoes.