NORFOLK, VA — In 1980, Drs. Stanley Tickton and Wilbert Edgerton signed onto the WNSB 91.1 FM frequency for the first time in Madison Hall at Norfolk State University. Their legacy lives on over 40 years later, and the station is coming back home.
From the moment of conception, Madison Hall was the perfect location to house the radio station due to it being dubbed the English and Mass Communications building. But even the ideal building came with its challenges, as the cinder block structure made it hard for the station to transmit continuous signals to its listeners. This hindrance proved too challenging to ignore, and WNSB ultimately moved into Spartan Station in 1996.
After 26 years, a global pandemic, and countless setbacks, WNSB is getting the homecoming it deserves.
“We’re really excited that they’re returning back to where WNSB began, but in a way that’s different because the building is newly renovated, and it is equipped with the right kinds of materials, the right kind of insulation and mechanisms, and power that is really needed for a radio station to operate efficiently and effectively but also for the 21st century,” Dean of NSU’s College of Liberal Arts Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander said.
Newby-Alexander added that WNSB was in danger of signing off for the last time.
“At one point, one of the previous presidents was going to sell off the radio station, and that would have been a loss of an important voice. Now, we have not only that voice, but we have real support from the administration. Not only to continue but to expand,” she said.
Maynard Scales, WNSB’s new general manager, believed that the updated technology will help 91.1 FM become more competitive in the digital space.
“Radio is now doing double duty as it’s serving as television in some respects as well as radio. Many people may see the Breakfast Club, and you see the clips on YouTube every day, but they’re also running a radio station obviously, and we want to be able to compete in that space as well.”
The relocation process started five years ago with the previous station manager. However, the project stalled due to staff turnover and the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Scales stepped into the role in January 2022, the first to hold the position in three years, more setbacks arose as global supply chain issues crippled projected shipping times and much-needed equipment was not delivered on time.
“We do have a handful of items that we’ve ordered that are taking longer than 30 days to show up,” Scales said.
Regardless of the setbacks that the station faced, Scales sits in his office and remembers his time at Norfolk State University and WNSB fondly. He credits the university radio station as the place where he first “cracked a mic.”
His current office is coincidentally the site of the station’s original recording booth.
“When I was with the University as a student in 1992 through 1996-’97, I never wanted to leave the building because something was happening in the radio station or someone was doing a television project…I didn’t want to leave the building because I wanted to be a part of all of those things,” Scales said. “I want this place to have the same kind of energy for the students who are coming through in our current space and in the near future as well.”
Braxton Harris, a graduate student studying media production, worked with WNSB since his freshman year and understands the need for increased visibility, especially with journalism students who could benefit from internships or work experience at the station.
“A lot of mass communications and journalism students don’t even know about Brown [Memorial Hall], the most important building on campus,” Harris said. “It’s offered as an internship or work-study, but you may not know about that if no one tells you. So moving into Madison is crucial because we’re getting that exposure.”
WNSB rebranded as Hot 91.1 FM, previously known as Blazin’ Hot 91.1 FM, and almost moved into their new old space. Scales does not doubt that the pendulum will be on an upward swing for years to come.