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A learning lab for radio and video

HIdden in the sub-basement of Smith Memorial Student Union are two organizations that offer Portland State students the chance to gain extensive hands-on experience in radio and video production: KPSU and PSU.tv.

KPSU is Portland State’s college radio, which streams student-run, non-commercial, freeform online radio. PSU.tv produces visual storytelling and electronic news journalism, created by students for the school, the local community and the world beyond. The two are part of Portland State’s Student Media, which also includes Vanguard (a newspaper), The Pacific Sentinel (a magazine) and Pathos (a literary magazine).

After training, students are able to take an active role immediately -- in the case of KPSU, as DJ’s doing their own shows once a week, and in the case of PSU.tv, as crew members of all sorts, doing reporting, marketing, editing, camera work, and much more, depending on their interests. Mahmood says that many students in the program have told him that they would never have received such a high level of training so quickly in an academic film program. “It’s a way to jump in, even as freshman.”

KPSU and PSU.tv enable Portland State students to leap straight into creating audio and video content. “We’re a learning lab, where they can practice and develop their skills,” says Reaz Mahmood, coordinator of student media. Student volunteers can join PSU.tv and KPSU with no experience or knowledge, because their time as volunteers begins with a brief training period, including an apprenticeship in which they shadow more advanced students.

Most of the time, there are about about 65 students volunteering with KPSU, and about 90 with PSU.tv. Zach Huckaby, the station manager of PSU.tv, says that unlike film studies programs, which may focus on theory, criticism and history, PSU.tv is production oriented. “You learn so much about making things, because you are making things. People can be on set five days a week if they want to.”

Ongoing projects at PSU.tv include the movie review show Stubtown, the documentary short series Portland Pipeline, and the organization’s newest and biggest endeavor, the Annual Film Project, in which students collaborate to create a feature film. The final cut of PSU.tv’s first feature, Retro Hero, is nearly finished, and the second feature is already in the works, with members evaluating screenplays and preparing for their shoot this coming summer.

PSU.tv is continuing to grow, with a substantial new grant funding the purchase of professional gear, and more students volunteering every year. “The trajectory has been phenomenal,” says Mahmood. “It has skyrocketed: the membership, and the ambition of what they’re trying to do.”

KPSU, founded in 1994, is one of very few stations in the country that are “freeform,” which means that DJ’s are allowed to play anything that they want, within FCC guidelines. The station itself doesn’t dictate show format or playlists, and many of the DJ’s give air time to obscure or local music acts. The station also presents regular live events, some from campus, and some from venues around Portland.

Most of the shows are music-oriented, but the KPSU is open to experimentation. “We encourage weird shows,” says Jordan Rasmussen, KPSU’s promotions director. He recalls that one DJ had a show called Bedtime Stories. “And that’s what it was -- someone reading bedtime stories.” The approach has landed KPSU on lists of notable college radio stations, including These 20 College Radio Stations Rock and The 25 Best College Radio Stations.

To get involved with KPSU, contact volunteer@kpsu.org; to get involved with PSU.tv, visit http://psu.tv/get-involved/membership/.

Home page photo: Cameron Maurice, left, Kaede Tsuji, Markus Lim, right. Top photo: Tafadzwa Nemarundwe. Middle photo: Markus Lim. Bottom photo: Zach Huckaby, left, Markus Lim, foreground, and Jan Brehm, background.