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Feature Interview

Bill Sammons

Station Manager

WKNZ

Salisbury/Ocean City

To contact Bill click here

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Bill's Career Capsule

Bill Sammons began his radio career in 1976, working in the newsroom at an AM/FM combo in Delaware while studying Journalism in college.  He eventually became news director, went on to work at an all-news station in Wilmington, DE, then moved into TV news at a CBS affiliate in Maryland.  After a stint in marketing & advertising, he put Delaware's first Christian radio station on the air in 1990 (WXPZ) and started a video production company doing TV commercials, documentaries and corporate marketing videos.  In 2010, Bill helped launch the 25,000 watt non-commercial 88.7 The Bridge, WKNZ, licensed to Harrington, DE and serving Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Southern New Jersey.  He has two adult sons, both of whom are video producers, a 6 year old daughter, and he and his wife Julie are in the final stages of adopting a teen age girl from Latvia.  Bill is the station manager and morning show co-host at 88.7 The Bridge.



 

1.
Tell us any recent changes (news) at WKNZ...

We've had a great year at 88.7 The Bridge.  The book last fall showed us #1 in the 10 county TSA and #1 in virtually every demo.  We were honored to win small market Station of the Year at CMB's Momentum conference in Orlando in September.  And we just came off an incredibly successful fall fundraiser.  We had raised our budget year to year by a pretty good amount, and we reached the need 90 minutes before fundraiser ended - and even raised some funds to purchase a back up transmitter.  We're also excited to be in the process of purchasing the license for the station from the church that owns us.  We've set up a new 501c3 with an independent board, and we will truly be a station owned by the community - hopefully by the end of this year.

 

2. What is the best programming advice you've been given? The worst?

The best: It doesn't matter what I like. The radio station is not my 25kW iPod. The worst: Let's just say I was a pioneer in the Christian Country format back in the mid 90's for a brief period of time. (You know how to tell a pioneer? He's the dead guy with arrows in his back.)

 

3. Regarding your career, what are you most proud of?

Coming back. I worked in mainstream radio and TV for many years before starting a commercial Christian radio station.  I operated the station for about a dozen years before selling it to a group that intended to keep it Christian, but the economic pressures were too hard and they had to flip it.  I also lost my way, going through a divorce and serious depression.  I thought God was done with me and I wanted to die.  I finally got some good counseling and the pastor who had the CP for  88.7 needed me and told me he had my back, and convinced me God wasn't finished with me yet.  I reluctantly gave it a shot and I am so glad I did.  I look at how many great things in my life wouldn't have happened had it not been for the bad things that happened - and the second chances that God gives us.  But we have to keep pushing forward.

 

4. What is the ONE thing you must have to do your job every day?

A dream.  One reason I crashed and burned is because I stopped dreaming.  I had accomplished everything on my bucket list at the age of 42.  If you stop dreaming and planning and hoping, you stop living.  Dream big.  And write it down. 

 

5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

One day, several years ago, a young guy came into the station around 6a to pick up a prize he had won and he asked if he could watch me do the morning show a while before he went on to work.  I said sure.  He didn't say another word for half an hour, but before he left he asked if he could come back the next day.  He did that for a week.  Honestly, it was kind of weird and I didn't like being watched.  After about a week of just hanging out at the station, and asking me the occasional question, he hit me with the zinger: "So how did you get started in radio?"   That was when I realized it was pretty much doing what he was doing.  Except my hanging-out was sanctioned by an internship through the college.  It totally changed my attitude toward this guy...who, by the way, ended up working for me.  So, long answer to the question: future talent comes from young people that show an interest.  Kids on tours, interns, the teens at church who like to do the sketches and play in the audio booth, etc.  Encourage internships from your local high schools and colleges! 

 

6. Do you feel syndication is good or bad for Christian radio?

Christian FM has been THE BEST thing to happen to 88.7 The Bridge since the invention of the Keurig. We've been an affiliate since we signed on. They allowed us to spend our time and money on being local and in the community rather than on automation and research and a big staff out of the gate. Used correctly, syndication is great. Christian FM complements what we do, and they are a great partner with The Bridge. Our program director, Bill Lurwick, works with them every single day on making The Bridge sound great. We take some day parts (including Brant Hansen at night) and we stay live & local during other day parts. I wouldn't be a fan of flipping a switch and letting syndication run my station 24/7...because to me, what's the point? I'm old-school. Broadcasters are supposed to service their community of license. If I'm not serving my community, then I'm shutting off the transmitter and going home.

 

7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I'm afraid what recently happened in the Carolina's may repeat itself around the country. Great radio stations that are financially stable, pulling great ratings, serving their communities, and cash-flowing are assets to organizations that own them. Sometimes the parent organizations may not understand the radio business, and selling the asset is a way to generate cash and allow them to focus on their main ministry. I hope stations that are vulnerable to those situations are talking about that and making plans to deal with those issues before it's too late.

 

8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Not sure I have any heroes, but my earliest influence was a guy named Jeffery C. Pringle. He was the one who taught me how to write and read news in 1976. He even taught me how to say the word 'news', with a soft N and U and I learned the little things become the big things. I've worked at enough stations over the years that I can watch or listen to many networks or major market stations now and I can say I worked with many people who 'made it', but I am most proud of my history with Jason Sharp who now manages KTIS. Jason worked for us here in Delaware right out of college and it has been so much fun to watch him grow and become a leader in the industry, and he and several others from his team at KTIS have invested back in our staff at The Bridge with advice and input and we are grateful. Randy Bronkema, Paul Martin, Jon Hamilton, Paul Tipton, Jack Eason and Tom Lewis have also been instrumental in helping us get The Bridge established much faster and more solidly than I could have ever dreamed. Also a shout out to Michelle Younkman at CMB for taking the reigns and helping transform our trade association into one of the best in the country. I've grown tremendously through Momentum and the CMB Summits and Forums.

 

 

 

 

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