WDET’s new transmitter goes live. So long, static on Detroit public radio

Detroit — The static and buzz had become so severe at Joan Isabella’s house in Farmington Hills that she had stopped listening to WDET-FM (101.9) on the radio.

Since she is the station’s program director, the annoyance must clearly have been considerable — and the relief was evident Tuesday as the public radio mainstay’s new, $150,000 transmitter, funded by the Kresge Foundation, replaced one machine that’s old enough to drink and a backup that’s nearly old enough to run for president.

As WDET served celebratory donuts and cider in the shadow of its 550-foot-tall Midtown tower, Isabella and other staffers said the lengthy replacement process helped tell a tale of both the condition of the station’s city and the devotion of its listeners.

Ryan Patrick Hooper, right, hosts WDET-FM's CultureShift program on Tuesday during a special remote show near the station's Midtown tower. He interviews Wendy Lewis Jackson of the Kresge Foundation, which donated $150,000 for the public radio station's new transmitter.

It also helped introduce them to a condition called frequency creep and a part called an exciter, two terms they hope to forget.

When vibrating capacitors in an outdated piece of equipment created an aggravating crackle, Isabella said, she simply tuned in on her laptop. In Detroit, however, “lots of people don’t have Wi-Fi in their house. They don’t have internet. They don’t have access to broadband.”