Current Online

Detroit school system keeps WDTR as asset for teaching

Originally published in Current, March 26, 2001
By Mike Janssen

While Johns Hopkins University officials ponder the future of their station, the FM station licensed to Detroit's public school system will stay just where it is. In February, Detroit Public Schools announced plans to incorporate WDTR into a new fine arts, communications and technology magnet high school, ending months of speculation about the future of a major-market frequency.

By 2004, WDTR will move into brand-new facilities at a site donated by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, adjacent to a city performing arts center. Until now, the station has served to teach broadcasting to students, but acting administrator-in-charge Stephanie Garrette expects WDTR will play a larger educational role at the new site. "We'll be able to do more since there will be more students there, using better facilities," she says.

Deliberations on WDTR's future began last year when a new superintendent, Kenneth Burnley, initiated a sweeping management assessment. Pennsylvania-based religious broadcaster Don Crawford offered $13.5 million for the station, and WDET, the city's NPR affiliate, also offered to buy or manage the station. Some observers fantasized that WDTR could abandon its eclectic talk and urban music format and fill the gap left by the demise of Detroit's commercial classical station. Public Radio Capital, a spin-off of the Station Resource Group, was poised to keep WDTR out of the hands of commercial broadcasters.

WDTR has suffered from low ratings (sometimes flatlining at 0.0 in the Arbitrons) and a 1992 payola scandal that resulted in a reprimand from the FCC. Garrette wasn't sure whether the school system would increase WDTR's staff or budget in its new incarnation.


. To Current's home page
. Earlier news: New superintendent orders reassessment of WDTR, 2000.

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