Alex Gaterud takes the helm. Four cohorts station themselves around a table, each with a microphone in their face.

In the control booth Gaterud, his Dylan and Springsteen CDs scattered sloppily all around him and his fingers dancing between level-control knobs and a turntable, takes care of the technical side of things. Come show time, the others — Phil Hart, Caleb Melby, Rachel From and Jake Swede — will add attitude.

From this setup — and with appropriately chosen tunes, of course — they’ll talk about the issues of the day, what’s going on in their lives and what’s making news at their school: Mankato West High School.

Yep. High schoolers, once each week, take over the KMSU studios for an hour and have their way with the place. It’s part of a program devised by KMSU General Manager Jim Gullickson, who thought it would be a good idea to diversify the content even more than it already is, and to make a connection with young people.

For now, the only schools that have kids willing to do a radio show are Mankato West and Mankato East. Gullickson hopes to encourage participation from more schools.

The students think it’s a great way to have their voices heard.

“We find most of the stuff the school is dealing with is pretty bland, such as longer school lunch lines,” Gaterud said. “Although, we probably could fill an hour with that.”

Over at Mankato East, the students who take to the airwaves call themselves “Mods in Heat.”

“It took us four hours to come up with that,” says Mod Britta Moline.

She says the group, which includes Emily Myers and Amanda Lust, used to stress over planning. They used to plan out every second of their hour, calculating how much time they’d have for between song chitchat.

Their shows today, though, are free-flowing, spontaneous and fun — “You get a better show when you don’t plan,” Moline says.

Where the Mankato West show music strays toward the classic, the Mankato East show is a little more unpredictable. Moline’s favorites tend to have been created before she was born (and she never lets a show go by without playing a David Bowie song). But you’re also likely to hear contemporary music, and they even had a show featuring all punk rock.

Music is the primary focus of a Mods in Heat broadcast. They discuss the music, the artists and how infatuated they are with both. (Visit Moline’s blog at brittaruth.blogspot.com to find an actual message left to her by The Who’s Pete Townshend. Really.)

Still, she’s not sure who’s tuning in Saturday mornings at 9.

“I’m really not aware of anyone who listens,” she said. “I make a point of not listening to it. I’d be too embarrassed.”

A few weeks ago, the Mankato West kids recorded their hurricane show. Songs included Dylan’s “Hurricane,” and Springsteen’s “Lost in the Flood.”

Between songs they spoke of the devastation, the failure of government to step in and help, the media’s intense focus on the negative, how unfortunate all the finger-pointing has become, their pride over the Minnesota response.

The show also featured a dramatic reading of an essay on Dumpster diving, the practice of scavenging through large garbage cans for food or other useful items.

They take turns, play songs between turns. Eventually, it’s Rachel’s turn. She reads and reads, eventually coming to the portion of the essay that talks about finding condom wrappers and the shredded picture of what appears to be a woman’s former lover.

A few of them look at each other, and then all at once realize this was the portion of the essay — with its racier content — that they’d agreed would be skipped.

Hart jumps out of his seat and bolts out of one studio and over toward Gaterud’s.

“Way to pick a selection, Gaterud!” says Hart.

“We talked about this all day!” Gaterud replies in his best “didn’t you get the memo” tone.

Gullickson steps in, reminds them that the FCC won’t kick them off the air for uttering the word “condom,” and that everyone in their school is aware of that particular mode of contraception.

Cooler heads prevail. Everyone agrees it’s no big deal. Emergency averted.

Another day of KMSU’s School News.

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