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Leor Galil/MEDILL

CHIRP DJ Kristin Marks takes care of some on-air duties during her Wednesday afternoon show.

CHIRP brings radio back to the community

by Leor Galil
Jan 21, 2010


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CHIRP President Shawn Campbell shows off the station’s secondary studio.


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CHIRP’s 880 square-foot space includes two radio studios, an office, a storage space and a small area that operates as the station’s lobby.

Leor Galil/MEDILL

CHIRP President Shawn Campbell explains how volunteers transformed the 880 square-foot space the station received in March 2009 into the station’s headquarters.

Related Links


Volunteering for CHIRP

Volunteers helped turn CHIRP into Chicago’s only community-minded, independent radio station and  keep the station running. Volunteering at CHIRP is an all-ages endeavor that only requires the time, energy and passion for radio.

New volunteer orientation occurs four times a year. For more information on how you can volunteer, visit the volunteer information page on the CHIRP website at:

The Local Community Radio Act

The Local Community Radio Act would allow nonprofit organizations to create low-power FM radio stations. That means schools, churches and other nonprofit community-based groups in urban areas could receive a radio license where they previously had no access.

The House of Representatives passed the bill in December and it is now awaiting a vote in the Senate. For more information on the Local Community Radio Act, visit the bill’s page on the Open Congress website at:

Chicago has long been without an independent, community-focused radio station. That is until Jan. 17, when CHIRP Radio launched as an online radio station.

The Chicago Independent Radio Project conceived the station in July 2007, and it has taken 120 volunteers of all ages, a pool of independent donors and approximately $60,000 to fund and produce the nonprofit, music-based station.

“The whole idea of community radio is that you have people who have an interest and a passion in radio,” said CHIRP Founder and President Shawn Campbell, who has been working in Chicago radio since 1998. “The airwaves are supposed to belong to the public.”

CHIRP operates as a web-only radio station due to licensing restrictions that make it harder for smaller stations to get radio licenses. That could change if the Senate passes the Local Community Radio Act, which would make it easier for community groups across the country to get licenses to create small, low-power FM stations.

While CHIRP members wait to see if the Local Community Radio Act will become a law, they’ve been strategizing new ways to involve themselves in the community.

“For the time being, our strength is our knowledge of music,” Dustin Drase, CHIRP’s operations manager, said. “But we do understand that we have a commitment that we are trying to fulfill.”

CHIRP has had a strong public presence for the past two and a half years at community events. The station will try to do more in the community in coming months. Drase said CHIRP is developing its news department. The station also hopes to host seminars to teach youth and community members how to be a radio DJ.

For now, the people at CHIRP are focused on one thing--bringing radio back to the community.

“A lot of people think that radio isn’t important in people’s lives anymore. What we see, time and time again," Campbell said, "is that people really do care. They care a lot. They just felt like there wasn’t a radio station anymore that truly spoke to them. Now that there is one, they’re really, really excited about it.”