90.5 WERG is Gannon University’s student-operated broadcast radio and web-streaming station, which operates at 90.5 MHz on the FM dial. With a signal-strength of 3000 watts, 90.5 WERG can be heard throughout most of Erie County, and along the Erie lake shore into New York and Ohio. On a larger scale, listeners from all over the world can pick up 90.5 WERG’s programming twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by connecting to our website for live web streaming. WERG is also available by using the Tune-In Radio app on your Smart Phone or Tablet. WERG is licensed by the FCC as a non-commercial educational radio station. (Check out our local coverage map).
The Seventies: “The Little 10-watt Station that Could”
In 1970, a group of students at Gannon College, led by Mark Modlo, came up with the idea of establishing an educational radio station for the purpose of training students to enter the field of broadcasting. Father Thomas McSweeney, a professor in the Department of Theatre, took on the role of Faculty Advisor for the radio station. On December 1, 1972, WERG signed on at 89.1 FM with an effective radiated power of 10 watts. The original studios and offices were located in the basement of the Zurn Science Center. AJ Miceli was appointed Faculty Advisor to WERG in 1975. In 1977, the WERG offices were relocated to the old Schuster Theatre while the WERG studios remained across the street in the Zurn basement.
Throughout the seventies, students would operate WERG during the week with an Album Rock format, along with news, sports, and informational programming WERG maintained broadcast operations over the weekends with the help of community volunteers, who ran alternative programming for the Erie community. One of these shows, Super Soul Saturday, has become an institution in Erie radio and an integral part of WERG’s weekend programming schedule. Around this time, Jim Griffey designed and implemented some of WERG’s first format clocks and playlists.
The Eighties: A Bigger Tower and More Power
Major technical upgrades came at the end of the seventies. WTAE-FM radio in Pittsburgh, PA (now WKST) donated a Westinghouse transmitter to Gannon. This enabled WERG to go to 3,000 watts, giving the radio station a strong signal throughout the city of Erie. The new Shively antenna was mounted on a tower atop Nash Library, and WERG moved up the dial to 89.9-FM.
Throughout the eighties, WERG operated with an Album Rock format under the name Rock 89. With a familiar weekday schedule, plus Super Soul Saturday, various community programs on Sunday, and a weeknight news magazine show (Total News at Six) WERG became known as an educational station that not only trained you in the mechanics of broadcasting, but let you do so while enjoying the benefits of having an actual sizable listening audience.
By 1988, WERG began evolving from an Album Rock station and began playing New Wave and Alternative Rock. In 1989, WERG obtained the necessary equipment to begin broadcasting in stereo. The decade ended with WERGs Top 100 Countdown of the 80’s.
While WERG’s new Modern Rock format took shape, station management was looking for a new identity to go with the station’s new sound. Student manager Scott Powell was in Pittsburgh one weekend and listening to the “war” between the two Contemporary Hit stations in the city: B-94 and Energy 105. Something clicked. “Energy” was not only a good-sounding name, it fit the call letters of the station as well: WERG. ENERGY. On the morning of August 29, 1989, WERG began identifying itself as Energy-FM 90. Program Director Andy McNutt developed the station’s signature sound as a home for the best new rock on Erie’s radio dial, with a playlist featuring artists like U2, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Michelle Shocked, Pere Ubu, Big Audio Dynamite, Sting, Social Distortion, the Hoodoo Gurus, and Sarah McLachlan. Songs by groups like EMF and The Divinyls–which Energy-FM premiered–went on to become #1 hits on the Pop Charts that summer. WERG entered the digital realm as compact disc players were installed over the summer of 1990. Then, Nirvana arrived and revolutionized the music industry. The format that is now called Modern Rock was pioneered by WERG, and throughout the nineties the station continued breaking new artists into the musical mainstream.
A New Era: “Broadcasting from the Walker Building…”
In 2000, WERG was finally able to move from the hidden recesses of the Zurn Science Center basement, into new studios and office space in the Walker Building at 7th and Peach Streets. Construction on the new facilities began in the spring of 2000. Legendary station engineer and Gannon professor, Dr. John Duda, was instrumental in the design of the new facilities, but sadly was never able to see them finished. Dr. Duda passed away in 2000, leaving behind a legacy that is now commemorated each spring with the annual Duda Awards, presented to students on the WERG staff that have demonstrated excellence in various broadcasting techniques over the previous academic year.
In September 2000, Alex Knight (known on the air as “Baker Al”) did the first broadcast from the Walker Building air studio. In addition to the move, WERG obtained the funding to purchase digital programming technology: the DigiLink IV from Arrakis Systems. The DigiLink IV made it possible for WERG to begin continuous operation without having to sign-off after midnight. WERG also entered the realm of the World Wide Web with the creation of this website. From its humble beginnings, wergfm.com has grown into a fully functional resource as a one-stop website for updated information on music, news, weather, sports, entertainment, and all manner of events both on-campus and within the Erie community. Dave Twomey ’05 constructed the original website that grew-into the one you are now surfing.
In 2002, Gannon University hired local broadcaster and Gannon alumnus Chet LaPrice to oversee WERG operations. Chet was the longtime music director and midday host on Country 98 WXTA.
“…Transmitting from a Big Tower in Summit Township…”
WERG’s downtown Erie antenna was powerful—3000 watts–but below average terrain for much of Erie County. This resulted in interference and signal drop-outs, and the administration began looking into the possibility of relocating the station’s antenna to high ground in Summit Township. With a wider broadcast footprint, WERG would need a new position on the dial–90.5–and the Federal Communications Commission gave its approval on March 24, 2005. Through negotiations with WQLN General Manager Dwight Miller and WQLN Head of Engineering Ed Upton, space was leased on the WQLN-TV tower. WERG’s brand-new ERI-LPX antenna was mounted in April 2005, and after several weeks of tests, we were ready to “flip the switch.”
On June 30, 2005 at 9:50 a.m., with station engineer Mike Kobylka handling the technical issues and student General Manager Evan O’Polka on the air, WERG moved from 89.9 FM to 90.5 FM and began transmitting from the new antenna in Summit Township. On-air, we began proudly identifying the station simply with our call letters and fresh new position on the dial: 90.5 WERG. Our new-and-improved signal brought clear reception throughout northwestern Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio, western New York, and southern Ontario.
As the first decade of the new millennium drew to a close, major capital upgrades were secured for WERG. In May 2008 a brand new Audioarts Wheatstone D7512 studio control board was installed in the WERG studio. Then, on December 2, 2009, with Clarissa Schneider on the air, a state-of-the-art computer control system from WideOrbit began powering the radio station, presenting every audio file in clear, non-compressed .WAV format. WERG now had industry-standard digital equipment: enabling students to utilize systems identical to those that commercial broadcast facilities use.
The station turned forty in December 2012, and WERG celebrated with audio vignettes that would play throughout the broadcast day. The promos contained vintage WERG audio from over the years, combined with stories from Gannon alumni about their days “behind the microphone,” as WERG has been “Rockin’ G.U. since 1972!”
“From the Broadcast Megaplex at 700 Peach, this is America’s No. 1 College Radio Station…”
2014 brought some amazing national recognition to WERG and Gannon University, at the annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System Conference in New York City. University students and industry professionals from all over the nation congregate in the Big Apple for a weekend of strategy sessions and networking. WERG staff members attend regularly, providing insights on topics ranging from management to programming to underwriting. In 2014, WERG was the recipient of the Abraham & Borst Award for “Best College Station in the Nation.”
That same month, Gannon University was the host school for the 2014 NCAA Division-II Women’s Basketball Elite-8. All seven games of the tournament (including the national title game) were held in Erie Insurance Arena, and broadcast over-the-air and on-line world-wide on 90.5 WERG and wergfm.com. WERG became the first radio station in NCAA D-II history to offer and provide that service to NCAA Basketball fans.
Several weeks later, the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters funded a $5000 education grant to WERG that was used to purchase a second WideOrbit digital workstation. The new equipment doubled our resources in the areas of production, pre-recording, and voice-tracking audio segments for playback over the air.
In August 2014, 90.5 WERG moved from its fourteen-year home in the Walker Building to the brand-new Center for Communication and the Arts, located at 700 Peach Street on the Gannon Campus. Offices and studio facilities are located in Room 201 on the second floor of the SCA building. The building was officially dedicated and blessed at 10am on September 5, 2014. More to come, so stay-tuned…
In addition to our powerful over-the-air signal, WERG’s on-line presence has been amplified over the years. We stream world-wide at www.wergfm.com. On your Smart Phone or Tablet, download the Tune-In app and listen to WERG anywhere you have a data connection. “Like” us at Facebook.com/905werg. And follow us on Twitter@905WERGFM!