Celebrating 50 years of WITF radio

Listen to the inaugural broadcast from April 1, 1971, and see 50 photos from throughout WITF radio's history

The needle dropped on Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” to announce the arrival of public radio in Central Pennsylvania. WITF, 89.5 on the FM dial, was born on April 1, 1971.

Listen to that inaugural broadcast below. Thanks to former WITF FM engineer Randall Miller for providing the file.

WITF FM expanded the organization’s mission of education and culture through the medium of radio. At the time, the station provided 19 hours of programming, including classical and jazz music, drama, and news and public affairs. “I remember feeling the sense of ‘moment.’ There was a formality to the brief sign-on ceremony; the importance of the moment was clear,” said Mike Greenwald, WITF Senior Advisor, who was at the station that day.

While our mix of programming changed over the years, our commitment to being part of the civic and cultural fabric of the region remains. Former Director of Radio, Mitzi Trostle reflected on WITF’s growing role in the community. “From our very first listener/members who eagerly anticipated our sign-on, to those who grew up in the back seat of their family car listening to NPR, to those who understand the importance of trusted news, we offer our deepest gratitude. You have allowed us to change and grow through five decades. You have told us that WITF is personally important to you. Indeed, our highest goal and privilege is to serve our community. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Over the last two decades, WITF FM has developed a nationally-recognized newsroom – covering major events like the September 11th attacks, the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting, and the coronavirus pandemic, to shining a light on issues like the opioid epidemic, bullying, and juvenile justice. The work of WITF’s journalists have earned 17 National Radio Television Digital News Association Edward R. Murrow Awards since 2007 – among the most in the nation in the small market radio classification over that time span.

As we approach 50 years of service, “Fanfare for the Common Man” feels like the appropriate piece to celebrate this milestone. Originally composed as a response to America’s entry into World War II, Copland titled it to honor the common man, during those trying times. As we enter the second year of a global pandemic and demonstrate the resilience of our community and working together, this uplifting piece inspires unity and a call to action.

“The impact of WITF FM over the years has always been reflected in the passion that our listeners developed for the station. They have tuned in not just for the programming, but for the companionship and the community that drew us all together,” said Cary Burkett, one of the most recognizable voices to grace WITF’s airwaves. “Our listeners have never been shy in letting us know their feelings, nor in supporting the station. And that’s because WITF FM has always been so important to them.”

Tune in at 11:52am on April 1, 2021, to hear us recapture this moment and Thank You for more than 50 years of community support. We are grateful to serve you as the region’s public media station!

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