Jefferson Public Radio leaves original studios; remains on SOU's campus

Geoffrey Riley [left], news director and host of Jefferson Exchange at Jefferson Public Radio, sits at a radio microphone. His producer, a student at Southern Oregon University, prepares to read weather headlines for the region. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

This week, Jefferson Public Radio is leaving its original studio to move into a state of the art building on Southern Oregon University's campus.

The new building replaces JPR's basement studios that were revamped college classrooms and skinny hallways from the 1950's. Since Sunday, the crew have been settling in.

"We're about 70% moved in," Paul Westhelle, the Executive Director of JPR, said. "You've got a lot of interconnection stuff, you know, going microwave (signal) to mountaintops. It's a big, complex operation."

The original studio is about half the size of the new building: a cramped space of 4000 square feet filled with cables, wires and microphones everywhere. The new studio is a brand new, two-story building that Westhelle calls a "culture and arts center" because it is nestled between the Theater and Music buildings on campus.

"I am not as nostalgic as some," Westhelle said. "The facility? I don't have many regrets about leaving the facility at all. I'm thrilled to be in a new space that gives us the opportunity to serve the community better."

That doesn't mean there were some relics the radio employees could simply leave behind - like a small headshot sticker of Dick Clark pasted to the inside of one of the new radio studio doors.

With the new space, JPR can work even more closely with SOU students. Westhelle calls the partnership between the station and the school strong and says the students are "integral" to the station.Westhelle also plans to expand programming thanks to the improved space.

"We'll be expanding our local news operation," Westhelle noted. "We'll do more live sessions in this space, which this space allows us to do. We'll do more classical stuff because we'll be able to get a piano in and out easier."

Westhelle says the expansion will be gradual and will need some sort of fundraising effort to support the new ideas long-term.

In the meantime, JPR will continue to be off the air from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. until the radio station is completely moved into. Like Westhelle said, it's complicated because of all the wiring, plugging and unplugging that needs to be done.

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