WPPJ unable to broadcast due to cybersecurity concerns

WPPJ, IT working to address current security issues


Photo by Emma Federkeil

WPPJ is back up and running after a technical difficulties at the beginning of the semester.

Written By Zack Lawry, Co-News Editor

As classes enter their seventh week of the Spring 2022 semester, the university’s student-run radio station, WPPJ, still awaits its first.

Located in an office on the first floor of Conestoga Hall, WPPJ serves as Point Park’s own student-operated radio station. Normally, the station operates 24/7, with shows hosted by students throughout most of the week and a steady stream of music to fill the gaps in between. However, technical difficulties have kept it from operating as usual.

“WPPJ is not broadcasting at the moment due to a security issue with the school,” junior political science major and WPPJ Program Director Andrew Bensch said. “We’ve been speaking back and forth with IT Services over the past few weeks.”

Bensch described the background behind WPPJ’s recent operational woes, explaining the technical issue that has held the station back from broadcasting this semester.

“Basically, what happened is at the beginning of the [calendar] year, the standards for the school’s internet insurance policy changed, and WPPJ’s streaming was labeled as a potential security risk,” Bensch said. “Since then, IT has been working to get the stream back up and make it comply with the new security standards.”

Zac Wittman, senior SAEM major and WPPJ’s General Manager, further expanded on the problem.

“Cyber security laws have changed,” Wittman said. “The way we were streaming prior that allowed us to broadcast off-campus prevented us from passing our cyber security renewal check, so our streaming was reduced until the issue was resolved.”

Along with the changes to cyber security laws, Wittman clarified that the station is able to broadcast on campus to some extent, albeit inconsistently, and provided some insight into when the station may return to full functionality once again.

“There is no for-sure answer to this, but I was assured by the administration that it would be working again ‘soon’ for a few weeks,” Wittman said. “The most recent update said that it should be up early this week, so hopefully it is fixed by the time you read this.”

However, he also said that the timetable for the station’s return is dependent on the IT Department finding a solution.

“We have talked to IT about this, but this is pretty much up to them,” Wittman said. “There is nothing I or any of my peers can do in either a leadership or student position, unfortunately.”

WPPJ’s current issues come following the success of broadcasts throughout the Fall 2021 semester, along with the station’s 41st Annual Rock-A-Thon, a multi-day charity event benefiting the Early Learning Institute that took place from October 26 through October 29.

As of now, the station has a total of 38 weekly shows listed on its schedule, including returning programs (such as “Point Punk,” “Romeo Is Dead!” and “Time Warp”) and new shows scheduled to start broadcasting for the first time this semester (including “Bangers Only” and “Restaurant Reviews”). Shows run on all days of the week at a variety of different times.

WPPJ’s schedule can be found in a school-wide email, titled “WPPJ Radio – Opportunity to Host a Show (On-Air or Podcast),” that was sent by Student Affairs on February 2 promoting the station to students.

“WPPJ is our student-run on campus radio station,” the email said. “We host both on air and podcasting content that is open for anyone to join! Want to talk sports for an hour a week? Want to play your favorite throwback jams every Saturday night? You can even have a sketch comedy show or recite poetry! The possibilities are endless.”

The email included a link to the current show schedule, which can also be viewed on the station’s website. However, the site, much like the station itself, has been experiencing some technical difficulties as of late.

“We’ve been having issues with WPPJ’s website for a while now that have made it difficult to keep it up-to-date and add content,” Bensch said. “We are currently looking at options to redesign our website. We’re hoping to have that finished before the end of the semester as well.”

For those looking to produce content despite the technical issues, there is still a way to do so, according to Bensch.

WPPJ’s Mixcloud provides a place for those who do not want to wait until the cybersecurity issues are resolved to get back into the recording studio.

“We already have an alternative to on-air shows,” Bensch said. “Since the pandemic started, we’ve had people who pre-record podcasts and then they get uploaded to WPPJ’s Mixcloud. That is always an option instead of on-air shows. I personally did some podcasts throughout the pandemic, and it was a lot of fun, though it is not the same experience as broadcasting live.”

Although Mixcloud is provided as a temporary alternative, it is not entirely enough to make up for the inability to broadcast normally.

“I am disappointed at how the semester has started, but I’m hoping we can get the issues resolved before the end of the year,” Bensch said. “It’s been more than just issues with streaming, but I’m still confident we can finish the semester off strong.”

Wittman echoed Bensch’s sentiment about the situation.

“It is painful,” Wittman said. “This station is my child, and I want to take care of it the best I can. I’ve been a part of it both as a DJ and board member since my freshman year. As of now, I only have about nine or eight weeks of shows left if we go up this week. The fact that there is so little time to do so much really deadens the catharsis of this long journey I have been on with this station. My primary concern now is to just make sure that the students next semester are left with a functioning stream, a better website and all the tools they need for a smooth semester.”

Despite the hurdles, both Wittman and Bensch are optimistic about the station’s future after the current problems are addressed.

“I want [students] to know that this is not the standard for WPPJ,” Wittman said. “We are usually on top of these things, but this was way out of our control. When we are on air, I hope that everyone is ready to finish off the school year strong.”

“I would just like people to know that I sincerely apologize for the technical difficulties we’ve been having and that I have been working to try and get things back on track,” Bensch said. “Unfortunately, some of the things are out of our control. To students who want to do shows, I would still highly encourage you to sign up for a podcast or an on-air show. I think we will be back online before the end of the year. To graduating seniors with existing shows, I’m sorry that you haven’t been able to do your shows over these past few weeks. We want nothing more than to get you back on the air before you graduate. And to students looking to join WPPJ for the first time, we would still absolutely love to have you on WPPJ. It’s unfortunate that these technical issues came up when they did, because we have had a record number of sign-ups this semester. We will get these issues fixed and not only finish off this year on a high note, but start up next year with a new-and-improved website.”

Disclaimer: This story features our paper’s music columnist Zac Wittman as a source. While we would usually not include one of our contributors, as well as a personal colleague and friend, as a source, due to his role as the General Manager of WPPJ he is an integral voice to this story and it could not be told without him.