“PsychTalk” explores new ground on WCOM radio

By Kevin Collins
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

Jose Drost-Lopez is in the right place at the right time.

The 21-year-old hosts “PsychTalk,” a weekly program on Carrboro Community Radio that delves into the science behind why people do what they do. He’s found success by taking advantage of his location and his generation.

Jose Drost-Lopez is at home in front of the microphone, and his passion for his subjects keeps him motivated (Photo courtesy of Jose Drost-Lopez)

“The show has made me very grateful for the area. RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro are all very university-centered and research-centered.” says Drost-Lopez. “Without that, the show would be missing half of itself.”

The show began when Drost-Lopez, having just finished his freshman year at Princeton University, decided to take a gap year to be with his family in Chapel Hill. He says he needed a way to be productive, and he chose radio as the creative outlet for his passion for neuroscience and psychology.

Drost-Lopez invites local professors and counselors onto his show to discuss topics ranging from brain trauma and schizophrenia to addiction and psychedelic drug use. He says the area’s vibrant scholarly climate inspires him and fuels the show’s success.

“The area is so unique in that it has many opportunities to do academic-oriented work without being a student,” says Drost-Lopez. “The whole academic side of it wouldn’t be as easy if there weren’t so many professors swarming around ready to speak on the interesting work they’re doing.”

In conjunction with his show’s local flare, Drost-Lopez takes advantage of today’s technological offerings to enhance his craft. He makes the show available in podcast form, easily downloadable from iTunes, Stitcher and other content aggregators. He also maintains an active Twitter feed for the show, and credits social media with helping him reach wider audiences.

“I’m just glad that there’s this moment in the last few years where amateurs have just as good a distribution medium as the big shots,” says Drost-Lopez. “I feel privileged that I can join the fray and, I think just by arbitrary circumstances, get a decent following without having a big brand behind me.”

The techniques that benefit “PsychTalk” have also done wonders for Carrboro Community Radio’s visibility, and Drost-Lopez has been generous in sharing his expertise. Ernie Hood, WCOM board member and host of “Radio In Vivo,” credits the “PsychTalk” host with helping the small outfit’s shows reach more ears than ever before.

“Given WCOM’s low-wattage on-air signal, it’s vital to our efforts to maximize our use of new media such as Twitter, Facebook and especially internet live streaming, podcasting and archiving,” says Hood. “Those techniques extend the reach of our station to anyone anywhere with a broadband Internet connection, and Jose has done a great deal to bring us all up to speed in those areas.”

“We are relying a lot on the Joses of the world and some of our younger program hosts and interns to help us out,” says WCOM intern coordinator and “Talk of Hope” host Sean Wellington. “It’s easy for them, but it could take us months to figure out.”

Drost-Lopez embraces his role in the cloudy scene of new media technologies. He’s managed to put his own spin on a classic medium, and attract a geographically diverse audience, by understanding and identifying with his technophile listeners.

“It’s a hard sell to get people not to watch a YouTube video when YouTube videos are available,” says Drost-Lopez. “So if they’re going to listen, I think it will have to be on demand and in some very accessible format. I don’t think people are going to put up with anything other than exactly what they want to hear when they want to hear it.”

With a keen eye on media trends and a laundry list of brilliant brains to pick, that’s precisely what Jose Drost-Lopez and “PsychTalk” will continue to provide.

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