By Chris Gionta
Before this school year, not a single voice had gone through the 89.9 Springfield radio airwaves since March 2020. To make a grand introduction back into the audio world, Springfield College hosted national radio host JR Jackson.
However, it was not over 89.9 Springfield, for people within a 25-mile radius to hear. This was for the entire country to hear over the Sirius XM airwaves on CBS Sports Radio.
Thousands of listeners tuned in at 10 p.m. EST on Monday, September 20th to hear Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” followed by the host’s voice exclaiming, “That’s right! It’s time for the JR Sport Brief Show right here with you on CBS Sports Radio!” Meanwhile, the national audience was listening to a show being broadcasted from the Springfield College radio studio, where Jackson watched students pass Abbey-Appleton Hall while he spoke to the entire country.
This was all to complete a day that Jackson dedicated to his “Media for the Movement” tour, where he aimed to talk to students about what he has learned about the media industry. This opportunity sprang up relatively quickly for Springfield College, and it also involved the Springfield men’s volleyball coach.
“JR reached out to Coach Charlie Sullivan,” said Kyle Belanger, the communications/sports journalism professor who introduced the students to the host. “And they have a mutual friend, and it was as JR was beginning to plan his ‘Media for the Movement’ tour. Their mutual friend mentioned that Springfield College would be an apt start — at least a good location to bring that message.”
Students who aspire to be in the media were able to sit in the studio to see Jackson at work. In the opening segment of the show, Jackson said “I’m at Springfield College, and I am being joined — yes, safely — among students Carley Crain, Nick Storlazzi, Daniel Johnson and Ty Coney.”
Much of his appearance at the studio had to do with the college tour that he has embarked on. He has made this a mission to help up-and-coming students, and also himself.
“If I’m able to go out and make somebody else’s life easier, then that’s good,” said Jackson. “And if I can grow it myself for future business, that’s good. I’m confident in what I am and what I do, and I’ve got no shame in empowering others to do the same.”
What people on Alden Street hope for is that students can see someone who has succeeded in the industry and see themselves in him.
“What I hope students got out of the experience was the realization that major national media isn’t something other than them,” said Belanger. “I think the approachability that JR Jackson showed in the authentic desire and enthusiasm for sharing the way in which he came through the ranks — I hope that the message really was that the only difference between his careers and theirs is that theirs hasn’t started yet.”
Much of Jackson’s goal with his tour and his day with Springfield was building connections with a school and its students.
“My favorite part of my job is connecting with people,” said JR Jackson. “Being able to let them have a voice and tell their story — it’s connecting with people whether I’m outside or in radio or online, it’s cool to connect with folks.”
Students were generally ecstatic to see Jackson at work on that Monday night, which led into Tuesday morning. His show ran from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and there were several students who were able to be present for the recording in the Springfield radio station.
There, they heard one side of a battle between Jackson and a caller on where Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was in the quarterback ranks. They all attempted to hold in their laughter when Jackson compared Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to the condiment, mayonnaise.
More importantly, they were able to see his operation. This included opening up the phone lines, communicating with his producer over breaks, and following the notes that he made prior to the show.
Although he welcomed and encouraged students to see how his work operates, Jackson does not want people to attempt to be like him, but rather forge their own path in the business with their own skills and personality.
“Do you, but do better,” said Jackson after being asked what advice he would give. “Take as much as you can learn from me, and from anybody else, and do you. Do something that you like. Figure out how you could make it a living, where it doesn’t feel like stress every day. Life is stressful enough, stressful things will always happen, and unpredictable things will always happen. But if you can find a core of something that can make you happy, just go do that.”
It was a pleasant treat for all involved to see a national radio show be done in a place where many students have broadcasted and plan to broadcast. With this appearance, students hope to take what they have learned and apply it to their own respective paths.
Photo: Chris Gionta