HISTORY OF GANNON RADIO
"The Little 10-watt Station That Could"
WERG signed-on for the first time the evening of December 1, 1972. Serving Gannon College with an effective radiated power of 10 watts, the educational purpose of the station was to provide a training ground for students to enter the field of broadcasting. Father Thomas McSweeney, a professor in the Department of Theatre, was the original Faculty Advisor; student Mark Modlo was the first General Manager.
Studios located in the basement of the Zurn Science Center; offices on the 4th floor of Old Main. Professor Anthony "AJ" Miceli joined the Gannon faculty in 1975 and became advisor to the station.
Throughout the seventies, students would operate WERG (“The Fine Eighty-Nine”) during the week with an Album Rock format, along with news, informational programming, and sports--including Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. 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.
On October 19, 1977, general manager Lowman Henry announced that WERG had received authorization from the Federal Communications Commission to increase power to 3000 watts, enabling WERG to serve the entire city of Erie.
"A Bigger Tower & More Power!"
Thanks to the donation of a 3000-watt Westinghouse transmitter from WTAE-FM radio in Pittsburgh (now WKST), and a brand-new Shively antenna mounted atop Nash Library, WERG was now broadcasting with a strong signal throughout the city and into the surrounding communities. With the technical upgrades came a new position on the FM dial: 89.9.
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 started playing New Wave and Alternative Rock. The station upgraded to a new Henry transmitter and other necessary equipment that allowed WERG to begin broadcasting in FM Stereo by the summer of 1989.
Now with CD technology and a superior FM-stereo signal, station management began augmenting WERG's unique appeal as an alternative rocker--just as that musical format was blossoming with the likes of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Combined with the techno-dance style of artists like New Order and Depeche Mode, the jocks adopted an upbeat presentation on-air, using the moniker Energy-FM 90 throughout the decade.
The station, however, was outgrowing its space in the Zurn basement and needed a new home. What was envisioned was a street-level facility, encompassing the broadcast studios, production facilities, and station offices, into one central location. All that was needed was a building: and when the Gannon Bookstore moved into the new Waldron Campus Center, the Walker Building was suddenly vacant...
The 2K Era
"Broadcasting from the Walker Building"
In September 2000, general manager Alex Knight made the inaugural broadcast from the brand new studios in the Walker Building. With the new digs came all-new digital equipment: the DigiLink IV from Arrakis Systems. WERG was now a 24-hour-a-day operation.
The station went global when the station's stream was activated in 2000: Gannon Radio could now be heard around the globe.
Local broadcaster and Gannon alumnus Chet LaPrice was hired in August 2002 to be the Operations Manager for the station. The next challenge was to move the station's broadcast antenna to higher ground. WERG's 3000 watt signal was powerful--but the current antenna location in downtown Erie was below average terrain, resulting in interference and signal drop-outs away from the city. The FCC approved our application to relocate our antenna to Summit Township, and subsequent move to our current location on the dial.
On June 30, 2005, with General Manger Evan O'Polka on the air at 9:50am, Gannon Radio moved from 89.9 to 90.5-FM. With a brand new ERI-LPX antenna mounted atop the WQLN transmission tower, 90.5 WERG now had a broadcast footprint covering the entire tri-state region, and could also be heard in southern Ontario.
Funding for major studio upgrades was secured by the end of the decade. In May 2008, a Wheatstone D7512 digital broadcast console was installed in the studio. General Manager Clarissa Schneider was on-air December 2, 2009, when the new digital computer control system from Wide Orbit Automation for Radio went on-line.
2K+10 and Beyond...
"One of America's Premier College Stations"
Gannon Radio turned forty in 2012, and WERG celebrated all year by playing promotional vignettes of historical audio footage donated by station alums. As the tagline goes, "We've been Rockin' GU since 1972!"
In 2014, WERG was named the Best College Station in the Nation and received the prestigious Abraham & Borst Award at the 74th Annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System media conference in Manhattan.
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 college radio station in NCAA D-II history to offer and provide that service to NCAA Basketball fans.
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 CCA building. The facility, the culmination of a vision by legendary department chairperson AJ Miceli prior to his retirement, was officially dedicated and blessed at 10am on September 5, 2014.
As the decade wound-down, improvements were made to our audio stream, website, and social media platforms. In 2019, 90.5 WERG became an NBC News Radio affiliate, and also carries regional and local updates daily provided by Erie News Now.
The Covid Pandemic of 2020 affected everyone and forced radical changes on how we lived our lives. Nevertheless, our resilient students kept creating, producing, and distributing content, and 90.5 WERG never went off the air. We emerged with resilience and determination, culminating (for the second time in seven years) with 90.5 WERG being named Best College Radio Station in America.