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Feature Interview

Dean Christian

Station Manager/morning host

WTLR

State College, PA

To contact Dean click here

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Dean's Career Capsule

1993-94 Weekend overnights on a community station in New Zealand

1995-2004  electrical engineering study, computer repair, world travel, missionary work, summer camp counselor

2004-present  WTLR State College, PA.  Part-time host for kids' hour and now station manager and morning host




1. Tell us about Way Truth Life Radio and your role there?

We are a non-commercial teaching station with a focus on the local community.  Our coverage area includes a diverse audience from Mennonite farmers to faculty and students at Penn State University.  We have served this region for over 35 years after signing on as the first Christian station in the area.  Now we have four transmitters concentrated in central PA.

 

When I started with the ministry I was leading the summer camp program (see #2 below), as well as hosting the kids' hour each day on the air.  It helped us keep connected with our campers year-round.  In August 2011 we restructured and I assumed the role of station manager and morning host.  This was a time of new beginnings for the station.

 

When we first signed on in 1978 we were a full-service station - offering something for everyone - you just had to know what time to tune in for your particular something.  Now with about 9 different religious radio signals available in our area we have had to reinvent ourselves.  Working with Chuck Finney we have freshened our music, programming, and repositioned ourselves as the premier teaching station for central Pennsylvania.  We still do music during drive times and on the weekend, but our primary focus is on Bible teaching.

 

As a small ministry, each team member wears a few different hats.  Once I'm done in the studio in the morning I'll spend the rest of the day on marketing, donor relations, and engineering.

 

2. How is your station most impacting the community?  

We bought a summer camp.  It sounds crazy, but back in 1989 we purchased a Christian summer camp and operate it as a partner ministry with the station.  As a teaching station we serve an older-aged audience, and the camp ministry enabled us to also reach and serve the children and grandchildren of our listeners.  It's not a common partnership, but it is a fun one.  And the partnership has privileges - who else gets to host their show in the morning and spend the afternoon on a zip-line in the woods?

 

3. Tell us about your morning show?

It's an nice mix as we honor the older generation and serve a new generation of listeners each day.  A lot of the music is contemporary recordings of the great old hymns, along with other light AC/inspo tracks.  State College has some exciting stuff happening with different churches partnering together to reach the community, and lots of good local authors here - so there's always someone to welcome into the conversation in the morning.  

 

4. What are the best variables that make a great promotion?

Simple, makes an impact, easy to participate.

I think a lot of believers want to put their faith into action - but are often afraid to or just at a loss as to how and where they can do that.  Our promotions have been tied to getting listeners to put faith into action to serve and bless others.

 

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

Just when I think I have this question figured out, God shakes things up and surprises me.  A college degree does not guarantee excellent spoken or written English skills - but sometimes you find a gem in an applicant... and the opposite isn't always true either.  Sometimes those with few formal qualifications have some excellent soft skills that translate well on air.  Bottom line - keep on networking, keep your eyes open, look past the resume, and pray for God's leading.

 

6. What is your most memorable promotion so far?

For the last three years we have partnered with a literacy ministry that collects and ships new and used books to India.  After the USA, India has the largest population of English speaking people in the world and there is a great need for quality English reading material - and they love Christian books.  For three years we have hosted a Bible drive - collecting new and used Bibles and Christian books.  I honestly thought after the first year listener participation would decline, but it didn't.  Participation has increased every year.  Last October our listeners donated over 20,000 Bibles and Christian books.  It was close to a full shipping container load.

 

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

Distractions.  Content consumers (our listeners) have more choices, more messaging, and more stuff coming at them every day.  Soundcloud.com reported 12 hours of content is uploaded by users every minute.  100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.com every minute.  

Our role as content curators and content creators (very different roles and both very necessary roles for us) will continue to evolve.  In the early days of radio we helped listeners discover and learn about new music and new product (curator role) but we cannot just regurgitate other peoples product all the time.  We also need to create - create experiences, connections, and relationships.  In this high-tech world I really believe our listeners are looking for high-touch.  If we intentionally walk the fine line of both curator and creator we can achieve the high-touch connection with each listener.

 

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

There are many advantages to using syndicated programs, but with 100% syndication I don't think that you can fully serve a community as well as a local station can.  Sure, use syndicated elements, partner with other broadcast ministries, share resources, but the magic of live, local radio is lost when we aren't present in the community on more than a frequency and a billboard.  As a teaching station we use a lot of syndicated material, but we still need to add the local magic to keep the station connected.  There is still a lot of relational equity available in a handshake at an event.

 

 

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