'Heartbroken' fans of pioneering Raleigh jazz station WSHA mourn the station's sale

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- Raleigh's WSHA FM is becoming the latest casualty of the changing media landscape.

Back in 1968, Shaw University bought the station (it's 88.9 on the dial) and it was a huge deal - the school became the first historically black college in the country to own its own public radio station.

Fifty years later, leaders at Shaw think it's time to move on.

"I spent a lot of long nights in there," said Brent Clark as he pointed to the second floor of Shaw's on-campus radio studio.

Clark arrived at Shaw as a bright-eyed freshman in 2007 with big dreams of one day owning his own radio station. He got his start hosting a live Saturday night hip-hop show on WSHA.

When he heard this week's news that university was selling off the station's frequencies, Clark said, "I was heartbroken. I can honestly say I was heartbroken. It really feels like a cornerstone of my experience from Shaw that is being taken away."

WSHA was the first public station owned by a historically black college.

Chances are, if you tuned into 88.9 during the last 50 years, you went there for the jazz. The station's well-curated playlist pf jazz and blues has a loyal following.

"The jazz was a definitely a major component," Clark said.

And after hooking you on the jazz, the station hoped to hold listeners with a potpourri of locally-produced shows, featuring local artists you wouldn't hear anywhere else.

"To me, it meant the community had a voice," said Clark. "The community had somewhere they could go to for an outlet."

The university won't reveal how much it's selling the ownership of its frequencies for. A company called Educational Media Foundation is the buyer.

The school is keeping ownership of its southeast Raleigh radio tower, call letters, and broadcasting equipment, too.

But word of the pending sale sparked an outcry from station alumni like Clark and loyal fans.

A change.org petition to stop the sale already has nearly 2,000 signatures.

"WSHA is a station for the community," Clark said. "So it takes the community to actually save the station."

University officials didn't want to go on camera about the sale. But in a statement, the school insisted that while 88.9 is going away, they will continue to provide high-quality, modern broadcast training for students.

The FCC still needs to approve the sale. And if the deal goes through, WSHA will continue - but only on the internet.
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