The Marconi Awards are the highest honor given in professional and college radio broadcasting, and no college station has more of them than North Central College's WONC.
WONC received the first three of its sixteen awards in 1992 at the twenty-third annual Loyola Radio Conference for best college radio station in the areas of news, sports, and promotions. That was the first year the Marconi Awards were presented to college radio stations. There were six categories, including outstanding college radio station, best in public affairs/community service, and best in programming. North Central's WONC was the only station to walk away with more than one award.
In 1993, WONC brought home an additional three awards. This time, out of twelve possible categories, WONC was nominated for eight. It was named best radio station in America in the areas of outstanding newscasting, sportstalk, and sportscasting achievement.
In 1994, there was no conference, but that didn't stop WONC from continuing to exhibit its impressive broadcasting talents. In 1995, the station again refused to go unnoticed. Two Marconi Awards were brought home, this time in the categories of outstanding sports play-by-play and outstanding sportstalk, and another three in 1996.
"The thing I'm most excited about is our ability to repeat," said WONC General Manager John Madormo. "WONC is a quality station, and it is recognized as one of the premier broadcast programs in the country."
WONC has been under tough competition, being judged by some of radio's professionals during each Marconi selection. To enter, a radio station must submit an audio cassette tape of broadcast material for each entry and a written narrative explaining the program purpose, scope, and appropiate audience response. The entries are then judged and nominated by a board comprised of broadcasting professors from universites such as Northwestern, Marquette, Loyola, and Illinois Sate, by Chicago radio personalities from stations such as WBBM-FM and WGCI-FM, and by the executive producer for Chicago Bulls basketball.
In terms of competition, North Central has been up against colleges and universities up to five times its enrollment and stations with staffs considerably larger than WONC's. According to Madormo, a small school like North Central is in the same competition with larger Division I schools such as Michigan State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Georgia. North Central still comes out a winner, no matter the competition.
You can always tell when it is time for Marconi submission. The air at WONC is charged with excitement. Every radio student is involved; the whole station competes, not just individuals. The production studios are constantly occupied by students frantically splicing tape to produce the winning entries. When nominations are finally announced at the weekly radio staff meeting, it becomes even crazier than usual. The late nights of gathering and producing material invariably pay off. Though it is small, this hard-working staff of dedicated students continues to make WONC the award-winning station it is today.
The Marconi Awards are not the only honors WONC has to show for its achievements, and its competition has not been limited to college stations. The Illinois Associated Press (ILAP) recognized WONC in 1992 as first place in best play-by-play reporting. The ILAP awards are open to all non-metro radio stations in Illinois. Individual students also can compete for awards, such as the Silver Dome awards, given by the Illinois Broadcasters Association to small market stations in the state. These were awarded to two WONC staffers in 1993. The College Media Advisors also recognized two staffers in 1994 and named Madormo "Broadcast Advisor of the Year." In the past ten years, WONC has received countless awards from the National Association of College Broadcasters, College Media Advisors, the Collegiate Broadcasters Inc., the Society of Professional Journalists, the Illinois Broadcasters Association, not to mention the Marconi's.