When Dee Jackson was growing up in the 1970s and '80s in West Tampa, his neighbors helped keep him in line when he became too curious. They were quick to reprimand him -- all over the neighborhood -- before he even got home.
But many people are reluctant to discipline another’s child these days, which empowers them to do wrong things, he says.
“That village concept, we have to get that back,” Jackson asserts.
That’s the idea behind 96.3 low-power FM station WURK, a community radio station serving East and West Tampa and a diverse audience of 460,000 potential listeners 24 hours a day in Hillsborough County. Its broadcast area extends from Mango on the east to the Howard Frankland Bridge on the west, Lutz on the north and MacDill Air Force Base on the south.
Other platforms, such as the Internet, expand the 100-watt station’s listening area to the entire globe.
WURK is intended to be a positive voice in the East and West Tampa neighborhoods, reporting the good news instead of the bad. It will be working to boost literacy and reduce high school dropout rates through job training.
“I know we will utilize radio as a tool to get the village back in shape,” says Jackson, who co-founded WURK with Horace Bailey.
The nonprofit, locally programmed station was made possible by the Local Community Radio Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama. It was about five years in the making.
As a music producer, recording engineer and graphic designer, Jackson had been interested in doing radio programming as an outlet for musicians for a long time. He was inspired to actually start one while volunteering as an after-school youth arts coordinator in Brooksville.
WURK, owned and run by Rainbow Heights Neighborhood Association and Crime Watch Inc., offers music in a wide range of styles including Hip Hop, Folk, Latino, Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Classical and Reggae. It is intended to appeal to African American, Carribean, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Latino, Indian, Jewish, Chinese, and other local groups.
“Our goal is to eliminate the division and create unity,” Jackson says.
Jackson, WURK’s General Manager, wants the station to serve as an outlet for musicians, but it also is intended to be a training ground for journalists, producers and graphic artists. The process has begun with two youths reading public service announcements. Later on trainees could cover high school football games.
In the future, he would like to partner with other media, training broadcast trainees by having them read on the air news stories written by the partners. Attributing the stories to the original news outlets would help them gain potential new readers.
Those who are trained may find jobs at the station as it grows. Job and business opportunity announcements by the station are intended to help others find success.
WURK also intends to help bridge a generation gap by reaching out to seniors and young people. “There was a communication breakdown,” he explains.
Now the radio station is focusing its attention on recruiting advisory board members; it currently has five including Dr. Carolyn Collins, former NAACP Tampa Chapter President; businessman Willie Anderson; James Green, who retired from United Parcel Services; Ralph Smith of Computer Mentors of Tampa; and Benjamin Baisden of West Tampa Alliance.
It's also soliciting funds to better help what he calls the “underserved,” in Tampa. “Funding is the key to be able to initiate those programs,” he says.
WURK, which has been on the air since April 2, already has raised some $25,000 for the endeavor. “I think the market is watching,” he says. “Participation is coming, and we’re growing with the help of a lot of our volunteers ... sharing our info on social media.”
While the station’s name is in line with its mission to train youths for jobs, it was actually inspired by all the work required into getting its call letters approved, Jackson says.