It's been 30 years - officially Sept. 14, 1979 - since WMNF first beamed from a wreck of a house in Hyde Park. Now the digs are better, and the station at 88.5 on the FM dial has become one of the country's strongest community radio stations, drawing more than 100,000 listeners each week. The DJs and their shows are one of the reasons. Here's a look at three.
Duncan Strauss - Talking Animals
- First and second Wednesday of every month, 11:30 a.m. to noonWhen Strauss, 51, was 10 and growing up in Orange County, Calif., he wanted a mynah bird so much that he took on a paper route to afford the $27.50 pet. He named it, well, Bird. Fast-forward to 2003, when the animal lover and former journalist combined his passions to found Talking Animals, a variety show blending animal-related news, music and comedy that has called WMNF home since 2005. He boasts an impressive Rolodex, and he uses his connections and "sheer determination and persistence and e-mailing people" to nab guests like Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde, actor Janeane Garofalo and musician Moby. His program blends light-hearted segments with serious discussions on topics such as factory farming and the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. A vegetarian and pet parent to cats Homer, Elwood and Curtis, he knows not all his guests are hard-core animal rights activists, but listeners often say the program has led them to make small changes.
Lizz Straight - Poetry Is . . .
- Saturdays, 11 p.m. to midnight Iambic pentameter goes down easily for fans of hip-hop and neo-soul on this show, which fuses music with academic and slam-style poetry. It's bookended by R&B and hip-hop programs. "We're a nice little Saturday night sandwich. I'm the meat," Straight, 29, said with a laugh. When she started the show in 2005, she deliberately kept its title open-ended "because I feel poetry can be whatever we want it to be," Straight said. Her favorite part of hosting the show is listeners' reactions via phone calls, text messages, e-mails and comments on her MySpace and Facebook pages. "They don't think that poetry can be the type of things that I play," said Straight, a professional poet and English major at the University of South Florida. "They think Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson-type stuff."
Marcie Finkelstein - Morning Show
- Tuesdays, 6 to 9 a.m. The Baltimore native began volunteering at the station in 1982, shortly after she moved to Tampa for a job as a USF psychology professor, which she still holds. "I just thought it would be a great way to meet some fun people," said Finkelstein, 55. "We call 'MNF community radio. It was as much for the community part as the radio part." She got behind the mike in 1986. Today, Finkelstein's ecletic morning show features singer-songwriters in genres from rock, blues and Americana to reggae and world music. The program reminds listeners that "Americana music," as she describes it, isn't just for indie and hippie types. The show is like medicine with a spoonful of sugar, as Finkelstein introduces lesser-known acts while sprinkling in familiar names like Bruce Springsteen, Jack Johnson and KT Tunstall. Listeners turn her on to new music, too. "I'm learning as much as anybody else that's listening to the radio," Finkelstein said. "I always feel like this programming is a two-way street."