Mark-ing My Territory: "That's Jacked!"

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Mark-ing My Territory
That's Jacked!

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published April 13, 2005

Cruising down the 405 at a steady five mph with nothing to entertain myself but, well, myself, I popped on the radio. After plunking through my presets and finding nothing good on—save for some savvy mariachi music and the bi-hourly dose of Nirvana on KROQ—I decided to forego mix tape syndrome and broaden my horizons of radioland. I soon happened on some quality mid-90’s music from Better Than Ezra, and after sticking on that channel for 20 minutes, I had heard Madonna follow the Rolling Stones, the Gin Blossoms lead in Depeche Mode, and Sugarhill Gang (w)rap it all up in a nice little package of eclecticism. The station? Jack 93.1 FM.

The new station took the place of the long-standing god of classic rock radio Arrow 93.1, leaving aging Los Angelino rockers and those with an appreciation for Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan and the like in a—shall we say—“funk.” You’ll be happy to know—or unhappy, depending on your take on this—that Los Angeles is just a small part in a sort of radio overhaul that has been sweeping the country for the past year, and which gains more momentum every day. How much momentum, you ask? LA’s Jack FM began March 19, only six days after a station in Indianapolis changed their format, and less than two weeks before much-loved Star 100.7 FM in Detroit became Jack 100.7 FM, something which most listeners thought was some cruel April Fool’s joke but have since realized this Jack guy is serious.

Since you’re wondering why radio stations across the country are being taken over in an Alexander the Great style conquest, here’s some quick insight into what has made the format so popular. With the out of control growth of the iPod and now the iPod Shuffle, the idea of switching off the radio and plugging in one’s mp3 player on random play has irked broadcasting moguls. So, they’ve begun to take the next logical step in radio evolution—fire the DJs, create a playlist of the top 40 hits from the past 40 years and do what radio expatriates have been doing for months—hit “shuffle.” Thus, we unhappy few who have not yet bought into the iPod phenomenon can enjoy hearing the Police, the Pretenders and Primus all in a 15-minute span.

Many have begun to wonder if this style of radio will actually catch on and—perhaps more importantly—last. From a purely business standpoint, it makes great sense for broadcasting companies. With everything computerized, there are no DJs to pay, no morning shows and theoretically, no phone calls, as most Jack stations adopt a smart-alek/rebel attitude of “We play what we want. No requests.” What about the listeners, though? Radio has long been the place to hear the newest tunes and grow in one’s music repertoire, but if all your favorite station plays were the songs you grew up listening to in high school or in utero, you’ll soon be living in a broken-down cottage in some horrid place like Montana or one of the Dakotas, thinking everything new is bad and mumbling incoherently to yourself about the “good old days” while trying to throw a football over a mountain. It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly not happy.

Still, one thing Jack has going for it, paradoxically, is that despite playing all old hits, the station presents something new and different in style and format. Jack takes a giant step away from traditional radio with DJs playing the same few songs in the same genre and gives its listeners something that will keep them guessing while keeping them entertained. And for me, that translates to letting me finally clean out all those old mix tapes that have infused themselves with the carpeting of my car through a unique melting process involving 100 degree weather, rolled-up windows and discarded pieces of Trident. Sure, cleaning won’t be a fun job, but at least I’ll have some chill tunes to bob my head to.
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]
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