Photo courtesy of Scot Bertram
Scot Bertram of WROK in Rockford, Illinois, will begin as station manager for the college’s radio station next semester.
Hillsdale hires WRFH station manager
By Breana Noble
Assistant News Editor
“The combination of Hillsdale and radio was immediately appealing,” Bertram said. “It fit like a glove — my interests, passions, and skills.”
The college hopes to have Bertram in Hillsdale before the beginning of the spring semester, Miller said. Students likely will have the opportunity to try their hand at broadcasting beginning later that same semester. Next fall, Bertram plans to teach a broadcasting course as a journalism elective.
“I’m looking forward to working with the students, people who want to take part, want to learn more,” Bertram said. “The ability to speak extemporaneously and think on your feet, it’s a skill applicable to many professions.”
Once in Michigan — his family of four will move from Illinois this winter — Bertram will start running the station after reviewing the automation system, mixing up the patriotic playlist with broadcasts from faculty interviews, events, and speakers.
“I’ve spoken with people, and the first thing to do is get rid of the patriotic music,” Bertram said. “I know people are getting sick of it.”
Bertram and the journalism program will also begin recruiting students who have mentioned having an interest in the radio station from doing talk radio to music disc jockeying.
“One of the things we’re going to try hard to do is create a very professional-type atmosphere,” Bertram said. “The content we put on the station is going to be worthy of being connected to Hillsdale College.”
Bertram has worked with WROK for eight years and his co-host, Riley O’Neil, for about a decade. He has produced and reported ESPN radio in Chicago, as well.
“He’s run a series of programs and knows all the parts of going into making a radio station great,” Miller said. “The other really important quality he has is an admiration for Hillsdale College. He understands what the college is about and what our mission is, and he supports that; he’s drawn to that.”
National Review’s Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center Jillian Melchior ’09 attested to his credentials, having appeared on his show numerous times.
“He’s the kind of host you always want to go on-air with, not just because of his big, fun personality — it’s also his genius for creating good conversation around topics that matter,” Melchior said in an email. “He’s going to fit in brilliantly at Hillsdale.”
In addition to Melchior, Bertram has interviewed Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, and “Shark Tank” stars Dave Barry and Kevin O’Leary, in addition to a number of well-known names in the conservative movement.
Gold Bold Media Group Founder and President Vince Benedetto, who donated the resources for Hillsdale’s radio station, said Bertram’s caliber is a “tribute” to Hillsdale’s reputation.
“He has all the skill sets that are critical to getting the radio program off the ground for the college and doing something historic that they’re going to be working on,” Benedetto said.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn agreed: “He is a graduate of one of the best college-based radio programs in the nation. He exhibits a keen insight into how that worked and how ours can work at least as well and in a way that fits our mission. He is a remarkable young man.”
Bertram graduated from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois in 2002, which the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System recognized as having the best radio station in the country. He said he enjoyed broadcast radio in college. He most vividly remembers covering the 9/11 attacks and working as a team with his peers.
“It was a real family, a real collegial atmosphere,” Bertram said. “It was a great way to make connections and get involved in the college.”
Though Bertram has never taught broadcasting in a classroom setting, he has years of experience training interns and part-time workers. He said he enjoys sharing the passion he has for radio.
Though Bertram cannot always hear audience reactions live, he said working in radio is worth it.
“The people who listen to radio at any given time in the week is extremely high,” Bertram said. “When people tell you they wake up every morning and you’re a part of their day and you’re entertaining people each day on the show, that’s rewarding.”
While Bertram said he will miss city life and living close to family in Illinois, he thinks coming to Hillsdale is an “unbelievable” opportunity.
“Building the program to become one of the most premier radio programs in the country, we can do it,” Bertram said. “That’s a feasible goal.”