Academics on the Airwaves

By Jack Devine


The Benefits of Public Radio

Public speaking is a critical skill for aspiring doctoral candidates to further build their resume. Community radio stations offer a space that both academics in training and professors can share their work on a platform that reaches a widespread audience. Media appearances offer the opportunity to transmit academic research to the wider public. Scholars need to be ready to answer challenging questions about their work. Speaking to a live audience of tens of thousands prepares doctoral candidates to handle the different social pressure of an academic conference or panel interview. This is especially true of any PhD candidate aspiring to be a public intellectual.

CUNY Academics on WBAI Radio

One venue for reaching broader publics is Democracy Now!, a program launched on February 19, 1996, on the New York community radio station WBAI 99.5fm. The independent media sensation currently broadcasts on over one thousand radio and television stations worldwide.

Academics from the CUNY Graduate Center have appeared on this popular news program to share their analysis with a mass audience. Dr. Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, offered his analysis of public education through the airwaves on Democracy Now!: “I teach at the City University of New York. It used to be one of the crown jewels of the city and of the state. It has also been—systematically been underfunded and defunded, by both Republicans and Democrats alike. This is a national problem.” As Covid-19 ravaged communities across New York City and shut down in-person learning, Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore reached more than forty thousand listeners just on Democracy Now’s YouTube channel as she theorized the relationship between who was dying from coronavirus and racial capitalism.

Professional academics at the CUNY Graduate Center not only appear on WBAI’s programming but have also been paid content producers for the community radio station. Professor Johanna Fernandez, who teaches history at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, used to cohost A New Day every weekday morning on WBAI. Her program connected thousands of listeners to her scholarship through her historical and contemporary analysis of social movements attempting to shift the balance of power in the United States.

WBAI also provides a space for graduate students at the CUNY Graduate Center to develop their talents in public speaking and build their reputation as confident intellectuals. During my first year in the Master’s in Liberal Studies program I co-founded Revolutions Per Minute. The program began airing on January 8, 2019, and has grown its audience more than tenfold through both the radio station and a podcast network. Each week the other hosts and I interview democratic socialist organizers as the ascendant the social movement continues to spread its influence in New York. Now, as a PhD candidate in the History Department at the CUNY Graduate Center, I’ve expanded the relationship between scholars at the university and WBAI. Brendan O’Connor, author and PhD Candidate in the Geography Department, discussed his book Blood Red Lines on the airwaves of WBAI during the fall of 2020. Other graduate student workers, adjuncts, and professors from the CUNY have recently joined Revolutions Per Minute. They discussed the importance of public education and how the City University of New York system needs more funding through a New Deal for CUNY in order to continue its role as an institution that uplifts working people and protects democracy in New York City.

The growing connection between WBAI and CUNY academics offers the opportunity for students at the Graduate Center to further develop their talents and share their ideas to the world at-large.

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If you’re interested in sharing your academic research on WBAI 99.5fm please email