During my high school years my
parents were missionaries in South America, so shortwave radio was
my lifeline to keep up with news and sports from the U.S. The
impact of radio in my life drove me to pursue it as a career. I
graduated from Otterbein College (OH) in 1991 with a BA in Speech
Communication, and started working that summer at WMVO/WQIO in Mount
Vernon as Sports Director. Our stations changed ownership
twice and eventually became part of Clear Channel’s 10-station
cluster in North Central Ohio in 2001. I was PD for our Soft
AC station, did afternoons and was also General Manager for the four
stations housed in Mount Vernon. The door opened for me to
join MVNU full-time in 2005 to teach in the communication department
and oversee the broadcasting program. I also finished a
Master’s Degree in Communication from Spring Arbor University.
I also do afternoons on WNZR.
How has WNZR evolved over the last few years?
My wife Marcy is
Station Manager, MVNU alum, and has been at WNZR since 1996.
She and I work truly as a team- I handle the academic side and she
handles the day-to-day operational side.
consistent growth in listenership and listener support. When
Marcy came back in ‘96, the station was raising about $3,000
annually through sharathon. This year, we’re over $65,000.
In the last 12-18 months, we’ve made it a priority at the station to
re-define our mission and vision, and make sure everything we do
revolves around it. The key part of the mission statement is
to glorify God – making sure we are using this amazing tool He
has provided for His glory. That fuels excellence on the air,
building relationships with our listeners, and helping our students
learn and grow in their skills and their service. Our
university vision statement is to “change the world with the love of
Christ,” and WNZR wants to be at the forefront of making that
Two station “dreams”
are also becoming reality…the first was getting a remote vehicle,
which we did this spring and debuted this summer. The second
was a power increase and that was approved last summer by the FCC.
We are in the construction phase right now and hope to finish very
soon. This will increase our signal strength from around 130
watts to nearly 1300. On the grand scale of things, that may
seem small to others, but it’s a big deal to our listeners,
especially the ones on the fringe of our coverage area!
2. Has WNZR made any changes due to the economic
situation, been affected in any way?
Student-wise, we have to be more pro-active in recruiting because
going to school closer to home, or going to community college for
the first two years has become a practical financial option for many
of our potential students. That’s a challenge because ideally
we want students in our program 3-4 years so they are ready for the
marketplace when they graduate. Station-wise, we’ve had to
become more reliant on fundraising and underwriting because the
university budget to our program has tightened…but the economy has
obviously impacted the amount listeners and underwriters can give.
With the vehicle and
power boost projects on the horizon, the timing hasn’t been perfect,
but it’s just another reminder that we need to lean on God and NOT
on our own understanding. Our listeners have been faithful and
continue to amaze us each day with their generosity and belief in
what we’re doing.
How is your coverage area a unique Christian market?
We’re in a small
college town in North Central Ohio (MVNU and Kenyon are both
here)…about 20,000 in the city (Mount Vernon) and around 50,000 in
the county (Knox). But we’re nestled ideally between Columbus
and Mansfield, and we fill the gap between the great stations there.
Our signal boost is going to help us fill even more of that gap.
We also get a lot of chances to train our students in community
events, because in small towns, you get plenty of them.
criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?
Since Marcy is our
PD, I’ll defer to her: “We look for excellence in both the writing
and the music. We look for a message…it might be a biblical
truth, a positive message that promotes a better outlook on daily
life, encourages your daily walk with the Lord or encourages
relationships with the ones you love. The music also needs to
compliment the station’s sound through its creativity.”
kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?
The promotions that
work best connect directly to the listener and her life. We
want to give away experiences rather than just prizes. The
ideal promotions link your listeners and community and build
goodwill with both. Something we’ve done for over 10 years
now, is team up with MVNU and a local construction company to
purchase hogs at our county fair’s junior fair sale. We handle
the processing then give away the meat (bacon, ribs, chops) as the
grand prize the last day our fair coverage. We are supporting
our local kids, families win a freezer full of meat, and it’s a
win-win for everyone.
It’s not so much
about the prize; it’s how we frame it on the air. Think of
your prize basket not simply as CD’s and ice cream certificates, but
instead as a chance to have a night out with your family to connect
and create a memory.
6. How do you think Christian Record labels can
better serve Christian radio?
with more audio versions of “the story behind the song.” A few
artists/labels are starting to put these up on PlayMPE…it helps
radio connect new songs to a listener and I think it is a great
marketing tool that is underused. The story doesn’t have to be
extremely deep and spiritual, either- just the artist sharing their
Please remember that
the small markets (and I mean non-rated ones, like ours) have
listeners, they buy/download songs, go to concerts, and like to find
out about new artists. This means small market access to new singles
is critical. Small non-reporters tend to get “purged” out of
the PlayMPE system, and it is a hassle to get back in. Oh, and
when we call…please call back or e-mail.
7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles
facing Christian radio today?
Quite frankly, our
biggest obstacle will always be the enemy. He will try all he
can to throw us off of our collective mission to reach lost souls
for Christ. We must be disciplined in praying for our station,
staff and listeners every day. Border your station in prayer.
If you’re the GM, be the spiritual leader of your station or bring
in a community pastor to serve in that role.
In a practical radio
sense, it’s the same story it has been for the last decade or
so…trying to expand our footprint by embracing new technology.
That takes awareness, planning, and in most cases a willingness to
take on the financial commitment that comes with it. As we
move closer and closer to the ultimate convergent “do-it-all”
handheld wireless device, we need to make sure our stations have a
presence there, and that those who want our content can access it.
8. What do you believe is the primary role of the
Christian radio air personality?
It begins on the
inside. The first thing they have to do is leave their ego at
the door and embrace the mission of their radio station. If
they can’t do that, they’re in the wrong place. Ken Blanchard
and Phil Hodges nailed this in Lead Like Jesus when they
wrote about the two acronyms of EGO. The first is Edging God
Out…the second is Exalting God Only. We need more of the
latter. Once they are able to do that they can blossom to be
that companion and trusted friend to the listener.
9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you
consider as innovators today.
stations are the ones bold enough to follow the direction God calls
them to instead of what everyone else tells them to do.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?
My prayer is that
Christian radio continues to serve as an extension of the church- a
community of love, worship and evangelism. Christian radio
should be distinctive from anything else heard on the airwaves
because we have a great story to tell! I fully anticipate
there will be temptation for us to water down our message, but if we
can ignore that and continue use music and teaching to effectively
tell the story of hope, redemption and beauty that defines our
faith, we will make a difference in the areas where we broadcast.
Thanks to a recent
Focus on the Family broadcast, I found out about and am currently
reading Chuck Colson’s book The Faith, which has helped me
realize the importance of reaffirming what we believe, why we
believe it and why it matters (the companion DVD with Chuck and Gabe
Lyons is also excellent).
Christian radio will
remain strong if we remember to walk in the confidence that our God
is real and relevant, and as leaders of radio stations nurture and
encourage the spiritual development of our staff.