David: "WUOG News...bringing you the hard-hitting investigative journalism you deserve and asking the important questions of important people."
Chris: "What the hell is this? Who the hell are you? Where the hell are we? What the hell is this microphone looking thing?"
--from a promo script already aired and transcribed on wuog.org
WUOG is the student-run radio station at the University of Georgia broadcasting on 90.5 MHz FM. If you tune in at various times you'll hear a lot of different music -- including rock, jazz, reggae, country, and all kinds of foreign stuff -- as well as a range of talk programs, news reports, various announcements, remote broadcasts, and even live performances by bands playing at the radio studio itself.
I have often heard a mature radio professional reading the news on air, and he identifies himself as Chris Tucker, the news director. But one Wednesday afternoon while sitting in one of our white university vans, I tuned in to 90.5 and caught the show "All Up in Your Grill," which is apparently a regularly scheduled bitch session for none other than Chris Tucker and friends. I was suddenly exposed to the disgruntled, violent, and -- most importantly -- tee-totally hilarious side of the guy. (Hilari-ass would be the appropriate adjective.) Basically, he is funnier than the celebrity of the same name. I decided that you, gentle reader, needed to learn more about him, so I climbed the narrow, winding stairway of Memorial Hall to the fifth floor to talk to him (yes, I could have taken the elevator).
Tucker is an international affairs major in his senior year at UGA, and his studies focus on the profileration of weapons of mass destruction. He started at WUOG his freshman year and worked for a year and a half as the public affairs director before moving into his current position last April, so all his broadcast journalism experience is based at this station. He chose UGA over Georgia Tech after graduating from Collins Hill High School in Lawrenceville, the "land of surburban horror" as he described it. He interns at the Center for International Trade and Security, which provides him the chance to expand his studies, visit Washington, D.C., and be apprised of special opportunities. He said, "The funny story is that I was recruited by the CIA, the part of the CIA that doesn't exist ... operations. Operations doesn't explicitly exist -- that's like the spies and stuff. And I wanted to be a desk monkey, so I was kind of confused as to why I was there."
So what does the news department at WUOG do? "I coordinate a small group of journalists. We do top-of-the-hour newscasts, we do a weekly news magazine called Athens Journal Wednesdays at five ... and then we also do special events, like, you know, if another football coach got fired for doing something ignorant, we do live coverage of that, or if someone punched president Adams in the face and stole his wallet. And then we did a seven-hour election special on election night ... I still do a talk show called 'All Up in Your Grill' at six o'clock on Wednesdays, which is just these anger-based rants upon whatever upsets me on any given week. ... You have the crazy version of me. ... I welcome callers that want to argue with me because it's not like Bill O'Reilly where we'll cut you off if we don't like your point. ... Like today, I bashed the Amazing Students thing on the UGA website because I think that's just the biggest crock ever created."
Yes, you'll find that Tucker can be just as opinionated as he can be professional or funny. He was involved in an hour-long bashing of the Red & Black newspaper once: "What a horrible fishwrap crapfest of a paper it was, a giant grammatical deluge, sentence fragments and incoherent ideas. The other thing that I've gotten some flack for is that our news department and our public affairs department will not cover SGA [the Student Government Association] because I do not believe it to be a real organization. And I've gotten some heat from the Athletic Association for calling the addition to the stadium a monstrosity that blocks out the freaking sun." He agreed with my observation that apparently some people take his comments too seriously, which must be the case since the stadium undeniably has grown to monstrous sun-blocking proportions, eclipsing the attractive architecture of Memorial Hall and Reed Hall with its utilitarian concrete mass. He isn't the only WUOG member to complain about the loss of sunlight on the fifth floor. Anyway, because he so often vehemently defends his views on the air, when people recognize him he feels he has to immediately apologize.
He explained more of his position on the SGA: "I feel like SGA is people going for lines on the resume and not making any real accomplishments. If you watch -- and watch -- the president of SGA is always a dopey-looking shaggy-haired frat guy, the vice president is always a very tall, very slim blonde girl -- without fail. Just watch. It's uncanny. I think there are parts of SGA that do great things -- like their minority board, their public works board -- but they never publicize, you never hear about it."
So Tucker really makes an impression on the community. He was recently asked to emcee a music festival held for the benefit of the Athens Justice Project, though back at the station he has made the place a welcome media outlet for student organizations and university representatives to visit in order to share news and announcements. He enjoys talking to a variety of people on the air, the most notable people being comedian Patton Oswalt and the creators of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming.
We talked a bit about the music played on WUOG. "It's a music philosophy that you either love or hate. It's all independent artists. Sometimes it can be just ambient noise ... sometimes you hear what's obviously the next great band. ... Our music philosophy can be described as really hit or miss, and what's interesting about our audience is our audience is not college students at UGA. I mean, yeah, there are college kids that listen to us, but thae vast makeup of our audience, I've found, is the townies of Athens," which includes those into the music scene as well as county employees at work. He said that WUOG is lauded at College Music Journal conferences by other stations for having such an independent voice, which surprises Tucker "because up here to me it's just like we're just a ragtag bunch of thugs doing whatever we do on a daily basis."
So what does Tucker think of Athens, Georgia? "I truly love this town, I love this campus. I bash certain aspects of it because ... anywhere you go there are things that upset people. I seriously want to go to law school here, not because of the law school, but because I don't want to leave here. ... Part of me knows I probably should branch out and get a change because I know the rest of the world isn't like this." He said that the unique character of Athens is revealed by its attraction to national figures, such as when Patton Oswalt came to Athens a second time to record his CD: "He said this place is like no place else, that these little college towns like Athens are like these wonderful sanctuaries, is how he saw it, these sanctuaries of progressive thinking -- which is debatable, but I'd agree with that -- progressive thinking, friendly people, and I agree with that. I'll admit that I despise the really pretentious indie rock alliance members ... I despise the really air-headed drunken Greek system that we have here. I've found very few pluses from those sides. But as far as the townies, the people you meet ... Here's an example: This music festival I was emceeing, benefitted the Athens Justice Project, a wonderful cause -- anyone can go look into it, research it -- and there were literally seven bands donating their time and energy to play. And on top of that there were these professional stage crew people that built a massive, fully functional wooden stage from scratch -- stayed up until four in the morning, volunteering their time for this to make this event happen. I gotta love the people, I gotta love the atmosphere."
Tucker is grateful for the skills the radio station has helped him develop and for the opportunities for fun experiences and interesting interviews, and when I asked what more he like to add to this article, he said he wanted to encourage students to go out and explore. One can do as he did with WUOG and just find a flyer advertising a club or an opportunity and go check it out.