It all began in a small, cramped space in the original University of South Florida Library on Sept. 13, 1963, when a group of dedicated broadcasters flipped the switch and put WUSF 89.7 on the air with a signal that could barely be heard beyond the campus boundaries.
Today, we mark 50 years of service to the Tampa Bay community.
From those humble beginnings we have grown to become WUSF Public Media — which today includes four TV channels, two radio stations, a vibrant online platform and a thriving video production department. Today, we are the only comprehensive media service in the Tampa Bay region.
The list of organizations and individuals who have helped us reach this golden anniversary is long. But it starts with the University of South Florida, which has been the home for WUSF Public Media from the beginning. The radio station started in the original USF library basement before moving into its own building in 1980. The television station moved from the basement to its own building in 2001. In 2010, the studio on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus was completed, and this year, news staff will occupy an office on the campus of USF St. Petersburg.
Countless USF students have learned all aspects of broadcasting at WUSF through classes taught at the station and through internships. Students work with professionals throughout the station in video production, radio reporting, media sales and the programming departments. Our partnership with the university has provided WUSF the opportunity to reach diverse audiences in new ways.
We have seen many changes in technology and the media landscape during the past 50 years: cable television, high-definition digital broadcasting, online and smart devices. We have not only kept up with these changes, we have pioneered them. To meet the needs of the community, we now go far beyond broadcasting.
Our journalists are committed to providing in-depth coverage of the issues important to Floridians, such as health care and education policy, veterans and military families, and the environment. WUSF journalists also provide a wide range of original, cross-platform content, including University Beat, Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, Health News Florida and State Impact. With our two performance studios in Sarasota and Tampa, our jazz and classical WSMR hosts have brought you great music, live performances and interviews with regional and internationally known musicians.
Although broadcasting is still our core, WUSF Public Media is a state partner in education. Through initiatives such as the Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program, PBS Raising Readers Library Corners, and Florida PBS Learning Media, we provide accessible, diverse, family-friendly educational content.
As one of 13 public radio stations across the state, we are a critical link in the state’s emergency management network during a crisis. WUSF Public Media is able to provide key safety and evacuation information updates to the community during hurricanes and other natural disasters.
These 50 years have been truly golden. As we begin our yearlong celebration, we must say thanks to all of you. Through your support, we’ve been committed to providing creative, entertaining, responsive, educational and trustworthy programming, and will continue to do so for the next 50 years. For that, we are most grateful.
JoAnn Urofsky is general manager of WUSF Public Media.