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Letting go of shuffling: the case for the radio

A CIUT 89.5 FM contributor on why the airwaves are not relics of a pre-streaming era
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MIA CARNEVALE/THE VARSITY
MIA CARNEVALE/THE VARSITY

Listening to the radio has always brought me a great deal of comfort. Whether it is falling asleep to the calm sonances of classical music at night or waking up to the loud chatter of morning announcements and commercials, I am a die-hard radio fan through and through. 

I have long dreamed of taking over a radio station of my own one day, as I have looked up to fictional radio hosts like Samantha White in Dear White People, imagining the conversations I could have with cool guests and varied selections of music that offer different soundscapes of the city that I could share.

One of the sources of comfort I’ve sought out during lockdown is randomly scanning local radio stations at home. It makes me feel like I am somehow still on my morning commute or going home at late hours, and briefly, life is normal again.  

Although I enjoy my fair share of podcasts, radio has allowed me to let go of my ever-controlling shuffle habits and simply enjoy the sound of other people conversing and playing music. It reminds me that, contrary to common belief, lockdown does not mean that the entire world has stopped at once, and I am never alone.

As an immigrant to Canada, I did not grow up listening to Canadian radio stations or shows. Constantly scanning stations at home during lockdown gave me a new perspective about Canada, and Toronto specifically, where I have lived for nearly three years. CBC Radio One introduced me to the perspectives of different community members on different topics that I was not fully exposed to within my university bubble. 

Shows such as The Current with Matt Galloway employ stories as the main form of reportage, whereby his interviews with everyday people on issues like mental health, housing, and education create an intimacy between audiences and speakers that connect people’s personal anecdotes to mainstream issues.

Ideas with Nahlah Ayed has also continued to spark my interest in radio journalism as she deconstructs a plethora of topics on her show that range from talks on conspiracies, to popular culture, to philosophy. The diversity of topics on her show kept me on my toes every time it aired. 

As an aspiring Arab-Canadian journalist myself, her presence on CBC radio means more than just an hour time slot; her perspective and representation on an iconic platform serve as an example to women like myself that our perspective is valued and deserves adequate air time and engagement.

This pushed me to join campus radio at U of T’s CIUT 89.5 FM station. Being part of the campus radio has provided me with the creative freedom to interview community members around me and engage in raw conversations about different topics, including shame, community building, and belonging. 

By showcasing student voices, including campus artists, activists, and organizers, I am constantly reminded of the incredible talent that exists within the U of T student body. Moreover, radio shows such as UTSC’s Humanz of Hip Hop, UTSG’s The West Meeting Room, and UTM CFRE Radio’s The BLVCK Show all present important forms of entertainment that delve deep into different facets of arts and culture and storytelling that we lack in our day-to-day lives in lockdown. 

Radio provides us with a momentary escape to explore these perspectives without being bombarded by more screen time than what is already mandated in our new lifestyles. 

In our pre-COVID-19 lives, we may have listened to podcasts or radio while commuting to classes or while we were drinking our morning coffee in preparation for the day. With the pandemic, we are forced to co-exist with our thoughts without the hustle and bustle of our previous lives, where our minds are constantly in search of new voices and sounds. Radio allows us to pause our music, disrupt the silence of lockdown, and be a part of other people’s stories as observers and active participants.