WNUR is a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station broadcasting at a frequency of 89.3 MHz FM and a power of 7200 watts. The WNUR studios are located in the Barbara and Garry Marshall Studio Wing of Louis Hall, on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Our station produces a signal that can be heard by nearly 3 million listeners throughout the Chicagoland area. Our programming also streams on the Web to listeners around the world. Although WNUR is student-run, its roster of DJs comprises both students and members of the WNUR community.
WNUR is licensed to Northwestern University and its operations are subject to the authority and oversight of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees and its Officers.
Through its programming, WNUR strives to provide a forum for underrepresented music and ideas. WNUR promotes musicians, musical genres, news, public affairs issues, and athletic events often overlooked by major media outlets.
We aim to provide an inclusive space for people to learn and express themselves by exploring and promoting underrepresented content, and in turn sharing that knowledge with others.
WNUR is an institution that has served the counter-cultural communities of Northwestern University and Chicago for nearly 70 years. The station started operations with a 100-watt transmitter in the spring of 1950, reaching the communities of Northwestern, Evanston and eastern Skokie. From 1950 to 1977, programming was split between music and news, both attempting to emulate what could be heard on commercial radio stations of the time. In 1977, WNUR acquired a 7200-watt transmitter, and in doing so, cemented its place in the Chicago radio landscape. At the time, no other independent radio station in Chicago reached as many ears, and with this new power also came a change in broadcast philosophies at WNUR. Armed and fueled by the emerging underground musical movements following the breakout of punk rock in England and New York City, younger DJs began to make waves of change at WNUR.
During such a fertile time of new rock music, WNUR was able to stay ahead of commercial behemoths, featuring then-relatively unknown bands that would eventually become popular in the mainstream American radio market. In 1982, WNUR also began to focus on and support the local Chicago music scene with shows like Airplay dedicated to local acts and partnerships with venues like Metro. Over the years, these shows— Rock Show, Streetbeat, Airplay, Jazz Show, News, WNUR Sports and Freeform, not to mention the community DJ dominated weekend programming— have become their own alternative institutions containing histories of themselves.
Always in opposition to what was going on in the Chicago radio market, WNUR DJs helped push the station into more esoteric territory, leading to an eventual 1995 rebranding to “Chicago’s Sound Experiment.” This renewed commitment toward providing the people of Chicago with a true alternative to the mainstream bled into every show at WNUR, injecting obscure Chicago house and juke into the airwaves on Streetbeat and free jazz and improvised music on the Jazz show. These trends, and more importantly, the rigorous commitment DJs and show producers gave toward educating each other and pushing a higher standard of programming and musical knowledge led WNUR to gain national recognition in 2004 from SPIN magazine as one of the best college radio stations in America. In the last five years, WNUR has renewed a commitment to the Chicago music scene with programs like the Birdhouse Jazz Series, Sonic Celluloid and Transference Fest. While periods of commitment have ebbed and flowed, there always remains a core of individuals at the station committed to both honoring the past of WNUR and facing the challenges of the future.
Beyond the institutional history, the one constant for WNUR over the past 70 years has been its people. The students who gathered at WNUR over the years created what they couldn’t find elsewhere and directed their energies into the cultural communities of Chicago and beyond. There are, of course, famous alumni, but most of the people who have played a role in making WNUR what it is today are individuals you have likely never heard of. But the station is not just comprised of students- WNUR is a community station indebted to our incredible community members. Most importantly over the last 70 years, though, are listeners like you who have continued to come back to WNUR in its many forms and phases. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support and are excited to bring you 70 more years of underrepresented music and ideas!
Current WNUR General Managers:
Abigail Everding, James Barrs