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Radio Interview

                                     

Mark Laroi

Air Personality

WORD

Pittsburgh

 

 

Mark's Career Capsule
This wonít take long. Iíve been with the two station Salem Pittsburgh cluster of 101.5 WORD FM and 730 WPIT AM since September of 1999. I started out doing weekend afternoons, and now Iím the weekday evening and Sunday evening announcer on WORD FM. I host our public affairs show "Community Concerns" in addition to engineering for our "ethnic" programming block on WPIT AM. This is my first job in radio and Iíve learned a lot about announcing, hosting, production and all that other good stuff that makes radio stations go. You can visit me at MarkLaRoi.com

 

1. Tell us about your market and how it is unique?

Iím in market #23, Pittsburgh. I think that the way this area advances technologically, medically and educationally, is the location of many corporate hubs, yet still remains the kind of place where a person stopped on the street for directions wonít just tell you the way, but might jump in the car to lead you there, makes us a stand-apart town! Because we sit in the cradle of the Appalachian Mountains, (okay more or less; but wasnít that a great line?) we are geographically separated from other close cities, and that helps us to retain our identity where other towns would have changed drastically over the years. Somehow weíve remained a Blue-Collar town while hosting cutting edge White-Collar industry!

 

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about Christian radio?

Every time that I hear from a listener about how something Iíve shared has touched them personally or led them to dig into scripture, itís encouraging. The biggest blessing Iíve had was when God used me to lead a caller to salvation one night. I will never forget that!

 

3. Here is your chance to testify on behalf of your station...How has God used WORD?

The deepest aspects of what God does with anything and anyone wonít be revealed until we see Him face to face, but as far as what Iíve been blessed to see here personally, thereís a lot! Weíve been able to bring physical aid to many who needed it, like our "Feed the Hungry" campaign that takes place every year. We get to raise funds for kids and families through WorldvisionÖ when a historic local church made national news after being destroyed by fire, our listeners raised a 5 figure amount to help them rebuild. Almost every day I hear from listeners that have been touched in some way by either the ministries we air, the music we play on the weekends, or our devoted airstaff. Some of the ministry programs we carry are a focal point of learning for many of the people in this area. I know, Iíve heard from a lot of them!

 

4. What is the criteria that determines if a song receives airplay on your station?

Well, if it ranks highly in CCM ratings it gets on. The rest is added by our OM/PD Kenny Woods, and youíll have to catch him (if you can-he stays busy!) to find out how he chooses them.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for your station?

Those that touch people where they live are always the most effective. We try to get folks plugged in to events and people that can really get inside them. Concerts, motivational speakers, strong bible teachers, and so on. We also partner with local businesses to provide help for folks who need it. For instance the 12 free furnaces (and free installation) which we help get to the people who need them each winter. When the listeners know weíre doing something because we believe in it, no matter what it is, they respond. Then there are those promotions that are just plain fun! After all, who doesnít love free food or a concert, right?

 

6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?

By spending the time to fathom the deep pool of talent that exists in Christian oriented music today, and exercising the faith to push them. I am always surprised at the amount of truly excellent music that I find in stores and online which gets so little airplay. Itís too much like secular radio in that the big names rule while the little guys and newbees struggle to break through no matter how good they may be. There is also the constant push to keep artists separated by the belief that one type of music wonít cross over to the fans of another. We and the listeners miss out on a lot of great music because of it!

 

7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

The primary problem God has shown me is our patterning after secular radio. I remember watching an episode of the Simpsons years ago in which the character of a Christian artist described how a Christian group went secular to make more money, and all they had to do to their songs was change "Jesus" to "Baby"! While that isnít always the case, it too often is with the songs and even the stations that play them. Our business models follow secular plans that often donít work or conflict with what we should be doing. How can a Christian oriented station have a demographic that leaves out everybody else? We either copy the tried-yet-maybe-not-true , or are painfully dull. The problem is that so many of todayís programmers just donít believe that any other plan will succeed. Yet this belief is not based on trial and error, itís because few are daring enough to "risk" the money they have coming in. Another symptom of this problem is the overwhelming ethnic segregation in Christian oriented radio. Run through as many Christian oriented station websites as you can find and see how little variation there is in the faces you find. Very rarely do you hear the same station playing pop, rock and R&B music for Christians, and I believe this is a disservice to God. It has to be done carefully, but I know for a fact that it can be done, and that when it is, the audience not only grows, but comes together across all lines of color. (Hello advertisers!) Even if it is unintentionally done, when only one type of music is played, the subtle message is sent to a whole group(s) of people that "this isnít the place for you", and thatís just plain wrong no matter what color you are. If we "seek first His KingdomÖ" and do so with excellence and daring, weíd see our brand of radio gain a whole new respect and tremendous growth. Let me add the disclaimer that I donít think that all of these stations or companies are segregating for intentional separation of people out of personal prejudice. I just know that most people fall into a groove and never look outside of it.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality today?

As far as the job goes, itís the same as the secular personality: do the very best you can within the bounds youíre given to keep the listener glued to the radio through the next song, program or stop set. As Christians, we should be able to let the listeners hear real, everyday people but with a twist of Lime. They need to hear God coming through you without you needing to tell them every time you say something. You should also be radiating the joy of your salvation. DJís that do this are the ones Iíve always enjoyed hearing the most. I know, I know, not everyday is a gem. Youíre a radio professional, youíve gotta put it away for the sake of doing your job as for God Himself. Be a breath of fresh air for people scanning the dial for something to listen to.

 

9. What (if any) other Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

After reading your interview with Mike Carrier of KAFC Anchorage, that is the first station to come springing immediately to mind. Theyíre reaching out to the young and recognizing the (scary for some) fact that this is fast becoming a brown world, and programming that way. What I have found personally is that a lot of folks from 12 to 80 enjoy this mix too, when done well.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

If it doesnít begin to more fully trust God and step out of the secular mold itís been following, in 5 years it will be something that makes very little difference in the world at all, if it is even recognizable as different. If we strive for the quality which we all know it is capable of, it could certainly be the fastest growing sector of radio. In fact, I honestly believe that we have the best opportunity of any terrestrial radio of negating the growing advantage of satellite radio. I do!
 

        

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