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Radio Interview

Phil Fleischman

President and Managing Editor

 

Rip-N-Read news & information

To contact Phil click here
 

 

Phil's Career Capsule
I began my career in Christian radio in 1987 at WPIT AM-FM, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I worked as the WPIT News Director from 1987 until 1992, when I took a position with the StandardNews radio network in Washington, DC. StandardNews was begun by Pat Robertson, but it was eventually bought by Salem Communications and became SRN News in 1997. For a short period of time before Salem bought the network, I worked as a correspondent for Focus On The Family’s Family News In Focus program. Shortly after my return to what was now SRN News I was promoted to Bureau Chief and Managing Editor. My time with SRN News was very rewarding, but for a number of reasons my wife and I decided to move from the Washington, DC Metro Area to North Carolina. I took a short leave from the news business while I served as Vice President of Media for the Christian Research Institute in Charlotte. In 2007, I left that position to get back into journalism and start the Rip-N-Read news & information (RNR News) news service. As president and managing editor of Rip-N-Read news I have the tremendous privilege of being able to provide dozens of Christian radio stations with an affordable and easy-to-use news service. I also enjoy the added privilege of doing in-depth feature reporting several times a week for the Moody Broadcasting Network’s Prime Time America program.

 

1. Tell us about Rip-N-Read news & information (RNR News)… How the idea came about, history etc.

Rip-N-Read news & information is truly a one-of-a-kind news service: It covers all the major general news stories of the day, as well as CCM, and faith-and-values news at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional news wire services. Every story is written in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, and family-friendly style. That’s why I named the service Rip-N-Read.

The name comes from the old broadcast journalism term “rip-and-read”. To “rip-and-read” meant a news anchor had ripped copy from the old wire service printer and read it on air without first proof-reading or editing it. It was dangerous to do, because the anchor obviously wouldn’t know what was in the copy until they read it on the air. But the point of Rip-N-Read news & information is that the user can “rip-and-read” the copy, because it’s safe to read in every way. Of course, there’s no actual ripping involved, because it’s a web-based service.

Just as important as content is cost, though. What good is a news service if a station can’t afford it? I believe strongly that radio stations – especially Christian radio stations – should serve their audience by keeping them well informed. I also know from 20 years in the business just how tight Christian radio station budgets are. For that reason, I’ve worked to make the cost of the service such that virtually any station can afford it.

One of the ways we keep the cost down is by limiting the number of hours during which we provide news updates throughout the day. As I talked with stations in the development stage of RNR news, I realized that the greatest need for the service would be during morning drive. So, we move stories continuously between 5:00AM and 12:00PM, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. This covers morning drive for all the time zones of the Continental United States – but it also serves our friend and affiliate KICY in Nome, Alaska! We also post major breaking news stories whenever they happen, 24/7.

 

2. How do you determine what stories are important to Christian radio listeners?

In one sense, they’re the stories that are important to all Americans: the economy, national security, health and well-being, etc. So, we cover all of those types of stories. But there are issues and events beyond the realm of general news that are uniquely important to the Christian radio audience: the persecuted Church, religious liberty legal cases both here in the U.S. and elsewhere, the many facets of the life issue, well known people, places, and events within Evangelicalism, etc.

Broadcast journalists have a responsibility to discern what their audience wants to hear about while also determining what their audience should hear about. I’ve been doing that for nearly 20 years and I continue to take that responsibility very seriously every day I sit down to do my work.

 

3. Has the economic situation affected your service? Any changes?

I believe the current economic situation has affected Rip-N-Read news & information in both a positive and negative way. A couple of our stations have let us know that as much as they would like to keep the service, either donations or ad revenue are down and they have to make some cuts. However, because of the incredibly budget-friendly price of RNR news all of our other stations are able to utilize a robust news service even though they’re feeling the pinch of the tightening economy.

 

4. How does your service help stations on the local level?

RNR News does this in several ways. First, the RNR website provides a mechanism that directs the user to local news sources in their area.

Additionally, because RNR News is a text service and not an audio service, it empowers and showcases the local station and its personalities: It’s the local voice – the on-air friends that the listeners already know – who is delivering the news; it’s the local station that decides what stories will and won’t go over the air (have you ever cringed to hear a certain story in a network newscast on your air?); it’s the continuously updated feed of individual stories that allows every air personality to use the RNR service in the way that best suits the needs of their show – a top-of-the hour newscast, information updates between songs, discussion topics for listener call-ins, etc.

Beyond that, RNR News’ thorough and efficient coverage of national, international, faith-and-values, and music news frees up the station’s staff to gather the important local news.

 

5. What is the advantage of using a service such as yours?

There are actually a number of important and meaningful advantages for the radio station that uses the RNR News service. Among them are: relevance, cost, flexibility, connection, and shared values. 

Any station is more relevant to its listeners when it demonstrates that it’s aware of and cares about what’s going in the world.

When it comes to news services, Rip-N-Read news & information is simply an unbeatable value.

Because it’s a text service and not a network audio service, RNR gives each station the flexibility of deciding what stories to use, as well as where, when, and how best to use them.

By having all the major general news, music news, and faith-and-values news instantly available at their finger tips, stations can use that information to connect with their listeners.

RNR news gets it; we’re not a broad-based media service that’s attempting to super serve a particular demographic. We’re part of that demographic. RNR News, its affiliates, and those affiliates’ listeners all share the same values and care about the same issues. That’s evident in RNR News copy; it’s nuanced, respectful, and intelligent in its coverage of the events of the day.

 

6. What place does news have on a CCM station?

Listeners of CCM radio are a loyal bunch, but when a station fails to provide them with something as important as news is in the 21st century it gives them a very good reason to tune away.

That’s one of the major reasons behind my decision to start Rip-N-Read news & information. There was no service that allowed Christian radio stations to adequately, affordably, and ethically keep their listeners up to date on the latest news and information. But Rip-N-Read does.

The news of the day is just another tool that we as Christians can use to reach a lost world. Jesus did this. The first five verses of Luke chapter 13 tell the story of Jesus referring to two “news stories” of the day as a means of helping the people around Him gain an eternal perspective.

There exists a special relationship between CCM radio stations and their listeners. The stations have a tremendous opportunity to insure that those listeners are getting their news from a source that respects them and shares their values.

 

7. Do you use any other sources/services… tell why or why not?

Rip-N-Read news & information does not subscribe to any services such as The Associated Press or the Reuters news service. We go directly to the source of stories whenever possible and attribute other news sources whenever they’re used to help cover a story.

By doing this we maintain complete independence, can offer the service at a very low price, and are free to allow our affiliates to post our content on their station website.

Understanding all that is involved with sourcing stories, violating and respecting copyrights, confirming stories, and so on are all issues which we take very seriously at RNR News. We are painstakingly careful about the sources we use and how we use them.

Not only does Rip-N-Read adhere to journalism ethical standards, we also strive to abide by Biblical standards in all that we do.

 

8. What do you think are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

Money.

The non-commercial station is encouraging its listeners to include them on the list of ministries to which they’ll give; the commercial station is working to generate revenue from a limited pool of advertisers. Both face the major challenge of bringing in enough money every month to keep the lights on and do the very best ministry they can.

I’ve watched it up close and personal for 22 years and I can’t begin to adequately commend the owners, managers, and staff that make it happen. The dedication, commitment, passion, hard work, and love they demonstrate are nothing short of remarkable!.

 

9. Do you think there will be more or less morning syndication in the future of Christian radio?

You know, I’m not going to venture a guess on that one. But I will say this: I don’t think local Christian radio is going anywhere. There is a unique connection to the local community that can only be achieved between those who live and work in that community.

On the other hand, syndication can be a great thing. It allows a lot of stations to have quality programming that they otherwise may not have been able to have. And in a lot of ways good syndicated programming can transcend many of the aspects of local programming.

I thought WAY-FM’s Brant Hansen made an excellent observation in his January 2009 interview with HisAir.Net. He said, “The best ‘local’, for me, isn’t about being in the same town. It’s about sounding like you’re in the seat next to them.  Or even part of the family.  Local is *a* way to be personal.  But ‘personal’ is still the issue.”

I love local radio and always have. It was local radio that lit a fire within me to choose the career I did. But it wasn’t long after I was in local radio that I couldn’t wait to work in network and syndicated radio. Each has a special place in my heart.

 

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

Even more interactive with its listeners than it is today. If we look back at the last five years, we can see the dramatic impact the Internet has had on the way in which the morning show and its listeners interact with each other. As we look at current and emerging technologies, the prospect for the next five years is amazing.

Just the growing use and availability of mobile connectivity alone could lead to a profound increase in the level of interaction between Christian radio morning teams and their listeners.

In order to benefit from and not be diminished by those advances, each Christian morning radio team must be aware of and utilize the advances in the best way they possibly can.



 

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