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Radio Interview

 

Bob Thornton

Director Of  Programming

Adonai Radio

 

 

 

Bobs' Career Capsule
I started out like many jocks, doing mobile disk jockey dances in high school, and then went to work at my hometown station in Clinton, OK when I was 16 on a part time basis. I worked at local stations through college and then jumped over to Oklahoma City where I got into the "large market" by becoming a News Director and Investigative Reporter. I actually won a couple of awards for that! I looked like Fletch in my Oldsmobuick (actually a '77 Chrysler Cordoba) going around investigating dirty day care centers. Exciting stuff! :-) In 1990 I went to work for Pat Robertson and his news-talk network. We had almost signed Rush Limbaugh before he decided to launch his own network. A year later I was able to flip the station to Christian music! I've been programming ever since.
 

1. How did end up at KXOJ?

I was working at KTLI in Wichita, had been for a few years and the whole time Jon Rivers and I had talked from time to time about how cool it would be to join him at KLTY. This was when Mark Rodriguez owned it. I had been down to visit a few times and it was just never right. Then in '98 they had the opening for PD and it sure seemed like it would be a good move. Well when I told my boss at KTLI (John Pohlman) that I was going to be going, he let David Stephens, the owner know and David approached me with a new idea. He said the company was growing fast, that KXOJ was in need of a local PD and he offered me the chance to be National PD with our growing chain as well as KXOJ PD. It was my dream job! So we moved here in late 1998 and have loved it ever since!

 

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

Without a doubt it's peoples reactions to the music and the way the music moves them. My personal calling is very simple- to get Christian music into as many ears as possible. I've seen what it does to people. My favorite seat at concerts is behind the stage watching people sing along with every word.
Christian music and radio gives us a unique opportunity to communicate the Truth of Christ without the baggage of ego, personal agenda and personality that become such a burden in other type sof ministry. I like it simple.

 

3.How has God used you in your role at KXOJ?

I don't know. From my vantage point I feel like a got the golden wrapper on the chocolate bar. These amazing staff people and opportunities still seem to fall in my lap. I'm more amazed at what He does in spite of me, rather then through me.

 

4. What is the typical day like in the life of a Christian radio programmer?

I know it's different than it used to be. When I started I thought a busy day was spending 3 hours listening to new music. Now I'm lucky to hear new singles 45 seconds at a time between calls or in the car on the way home. My day includes jock meetings with our AC crew (KXOJ), our Rock guys (KCXR), promotions, sales, and now so much technology- websites, streaming, automation systems. The constant seems to be meetings. We try to be constantly communicating with our staff on better ways to communicate with the audience.

 

5. How is the Tulsa Christian market unique?

I suppose we are in the buckle of the Bible belt, but when I look at so many stations today like the guys in North Carolina and Michigan and Atlanta I see many regions doing great radio that attracts large audiences. I remember having a 6.2 share 12+ two years ago and hearing that it was because we
lived in the Christian capital of the U.S. But I think more and more stations now are seeing that well-done radio can be extremely successful. There are many more examples now than their used to be. Tulsa is a little unique in that we now have what I think might be the world's only 24/7 commercial Christian Rock station (KCXR) so the reach we have here into two age groups is something we are just having a blast with.

 

6. When searching for new CCM radio on air talent what do you look for?

We look for communicators. Jesus was the ultimate communicator. He new where to go to find people to receive his message. Most of the time he went to them. No ego. Remember the lady at the well? He staked the place out when you think about it. He had this message about Living Water so he goes where the thirsty people go. Pretty simple and yet pretty brilliant. A lot of us are not willing to go where the thirsty people are. So we look for people who are sold out to communicating the Greatest Truth of Christ through music (not themselves) and who will present that in a very professional appealing way. It's funny because some of the most rock-solid Christians I have ever met are on our staff and yet they never preach, teach or "over share" on the air. They understand that our calling is to play music. We look for people who get that. They have to have some talent, yes but the mechanics and stuff we can teach You often cannot teach attitude, creativity and chemistry.

 

7. What events led to your decision to launch a Christian Rock station in Tulsa? (The Kross).

Wow. A lot of things. It had always been on the back burner. David Stephens and I talked about a CHR station back in 1998 and said it was "5 years away". Of course that evolved into Rock as we went along. There was an attempt to launch a rock station in the market that failed, but mobilized a lot of people. Then when we started looking into what kids are faced with today, the horrible media choices they have- we just new it was the next step for our company.

 

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

In our company it is to be as real as possible, live life with the listener, relate to them in everyday life and present great music. We tell our jocks that the only thing that belongs in the picture is the music and the audience. They belong on the frame. The frame is important- it has to be great- but it's secondary to the "main attraction". Our listeners and the music they hear is the main deal.

 

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

I like some of what Kevin Avery is doing at The Fish Atlanta. No two PD's are going to see eye to eye but I like what they are doing overall.  I admire what M88 and Radio U and some of those stations do to reach a new culture, albeit way outside the box of our typical industry. We need more innovators. There are legendary stations in our format (AC) that are still playing more mid 90's music than 2000-2002 music. We're right in the middle of a generation gap and pretty soon all of us are going to have to choose if we are going to follow this crowd into their 40's and 50's or refocus on
today's 26-34 year old which is much more into Third Day than Twila. Too many PD's are sitting back thinking they won't have to choose because for now they can play both. It won't always be that way.

 

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

Well in the larger markets I think it is going to be tough for single station ownership to make it. There just are not going to be single stations for sale, so we may see brodcasters buying small clusters and operating a talk Am or a Christian rock and a Christian AC or what have you, so the business
side will change. Salem already knows that. On the radio I hope we are more relevant musically and in between the records than we have ever been. We need to be focused on listeners who may be P1 ccm fans but not P1 Church goers, orbelievers at all. That's where the opportunity to change lives
really is.

 










 


 


 

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