Pittsburgh's independent music source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The evolution of WYEP’s program guides over 50 years

Part of WYEP's program schedule from November 1975.
Part of WYEP's program schedule from November 1975.

Before websites became a thing, WYEP needed a way to share information about its sometimes-complicated program schedule with the public. This need was served by printed program guides for several decades.

There is some irony that as soon as the anti-establishment people who founded WYEP launched the noncommercial station, one of the first major initiatives was to publish a program guide supported by advertising. But some kind of guide was necessary; WYEP’s program schedule in the early years could hopscotch from folk music one hour to a children’s show the next, followed by a show devoted to music from Eastern Europe.

The guide was originally named “View Voice” (sometimes written as “Voice View”), and while the first few monthly guides didn’t contain any advertising, the August 1974 publication features an entire page of ads. The advertisers, now all defunct, included the watering hole Taylor’s Bar, the Shadyside clothing stores Strawberry Red and Song of India, the shoe store The Opening Nite Co., and a discount art supply business which was apparently connected to the former Semple Street Food Co-Op located near WYEP's studios on Cable Place in South Oakland.

View Voice was printed on newsprint paper and was usually four to eight pages long. In addition to the core program schedule information, the program guides were an extension of WYEP’s on-air creativity. Artists drew elaborate covers and illustrations, and articles highlighted programs, promoted station events, or occasionally addressed issues of the day.

By 1980, the program guide became a simpler affair. Gone were the newsprint, the “View Voice” name, and the articles, and the guide became just a one-page schedule made on a photocopier (a.k.a., the then ever-present “Xerox machine”). It could be tri-folded and mailed without an envelope to station subscribers.

Throughout WYEP’s history, these guides were used as both a member benefit as well as a marketing tool. Members would be put on the guide’s mailing list so they could make better sense of the station’s complicated schedule.

Prospective listeners or donors would also be put on the mailing list for a limited period of time in hopes the recipient would discover programs they might enjoy and therefore listen more and also perhaps make a financial contribution.

WYEP had to sign off the air for two years in the 1980s due to financial and equipment problems, and the program guide was refreshed again after we returned to the airwaves in late 1987.

Titled “The Listener,” the guide reinstituted articles about programming and information about cultural opportunities around Pittsburgh, plus contests, music reviews, and other WYEP-connected material. This incarnation of the program guide also brought back advertiser support to help cover the cost of printing and distribution.

WYEP debuted a very primitive website in 1996, and the rapid rise in web browsing in the late ‘90s diminished the need for a printed program schedule. Eventually, the program guide evolved into a regular WYEP printed newsletter sent out to station members.

The newsletter no longer included a program schedule, but it frequently contained music reviews, album release dates, information about upcoming concerts, and material about special WYEP programming or events.

By the 2000s, this information was also being sent to members regularly via email. At first, we just referred to these emails as “Enews,” but in late 2006, we rechristened these as “In Tune”—the same email-based newsletter we still bring to you today.

Mike Sauter started at WYEP in 2004 and held various positions, including Midday Mix host, music director, program director, and station manager.