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Radio Interview

                                     

Roger Henderson

Program Director

WCRJ

Jacksonville

 

 

Roger's Career Capsule
Started his career in radio at the age of 14 at WSTX in the US Virgin Islands. Without official permission a 16 year old friend at the station allowed Roger to run the board. Eventually he got his own job doing afternoons at cross Island rival WRRA at the age of 16. A couple of years later as a freshman at Clark College Atlanta, Georgia and working part-time at college owned Classical Jazz station WCLK he was heard by Mike Roberts who offered him a job at Urban Contemporary WIGO. He later left WIGO with his radio mentor Roberts for a new Atlanta Urban station, WBUS. The love of his college sweetheart and now wife led him to relocate to Florida in 1986 where he was quickly hired by WPDQ with production duties for sister station WFYV, Rock 105. Two years later and after making a decision to serve The Lord, God opened the door to work for Christian Contemporary station WNCM-FM88 in 1988. The station has since changed call letters to WCRJ and Roger has been promoted twice, first as Production Director and in 2003 to Program Direct/Operations Manager overseeing both FM88 Jacksonville and 91.9FM St. Augustine operations.

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

The interesting thing about Jacksonville is it's the heart of The Bible Belt. When Promise Keepers was doing big stadium events we were told the most people who had ever responded to one of their alter calls was the event held here. We have 15 Christian radio stations counting translators and stations in nearby communities with strong enough signals to be heard in the Jacksonville market. Additionally, Christians are an important demo for several secular formats. If you take away the Christians from the local Limbaugh, Hannity, and Delilah audiences there's no question they wouldn't be as dominant. Many of the people in this area grew up in church even if they don't presently attend. Most people here aren't offended by Christian programming on the radio.

 

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

Knowing that you don't have to compromise your convictions in order to do your job. I worked in secular radio in Jacksonville and Atlanta before having the opportunity to work in Christian radio. I remember having to produce nightclub ads advertising their happy hours. Long before I was even trying to serve God I had a remote at a club where I was selected to be one of 3 judges for their pajama party contest. I was so naive. I thought I was judging regular PJs but it turned out to be young ladies parading across the stage in skimpy lingerie. Instead of American Idol it was Lingerie Idol! It was my job to say with a British accent "That was utterly appalling". Just kidding. Today my wife would kill me if I did a remote/appearance like that so its good to be able to stay alive and still work in radio. That's not to say their aren't good Christian people in secular radio. I have friends in secular radio who do a great job and get to be salt and light in that environment. What's most rewarding is knowing God is using you to make a difference.

I'm sure we all have our glory stories. I'll never forget the time a man called the station saying he was going to kill himself. He'd tried unsuccessfully several times before and was tired of waking up in mental hospitals. This time instead of swallowing a fist full of pills he was going to blow his brains out and to make sure he didn't chicken out he was going to shoot several other innocent people first. Long story short, we kept him on the phone long enough for police to trace the call where he was arrested with a loaded 9mm at a pay phone in front of a convenience store. The police told us he could have killed everyone in the store and they wouldn't have known what hit them. I also enjoy the fact that our station stays on the cutting edge of technology. Our station was the first in the market to go digital in our production room, eons ago of course. We try to stay current with the latest software because it helps us be more creative.

 

3. How do you personally keep the ministry in the business?

I think everything Christians do should be ministry. The Bible tells us to do everything heartily as unto the Lord. When a Christian goes to work everyday at his secular job he should see that as ministry. He's being an example to those around him. He's earning money to provide for his family, which the Bible mandates. Some of the money he makes will be used to support The Gospel. I see people going to work in corporate America as being on the true front lines of ministry because they have to deal with pressures from which we in "ministry jobs" are protected. For example, when I was in secular radio getting propositioned by groupies was a daily thing. In Christian radio it happens but its rare. We all just need to approach everything we do as ultimately advancing The Gospel even if not directly.

 

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

I'm from the school of radio that says you don't play guessing games. I want to see chart activity unless its a song from a tremendously popular artist or group first. I really don't put a lot of stock in what I personally like when it comes to airplay. If I like a song and I'm not certain the listeners will too, I can listen to it after work on my CD player.

 

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

You have to strike a balance between the fun stuff and the important charity type promotions. If we spend 100% of our promotional effort on Christian cruises, concerts, theme park promotions and things we have a blast doing we miss out on making a difference in the lives of people in need. Plus, people remember the charitable things we do when sharathon comes around. If all we do are remotes from the food bank, blood drives and collecting toys for missions it can be a little boring and listenership can suffer.

 

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

Thank you so much for asking! I would LOVE for there to be a secure, encrypted FTP server consortium only accessible by radio stations that post all the songs in Christian music separated by genre. Radio stations can preview and download songs they want to add. A download represents an add. No need to call because if we downloaded it its in rotation. Require a quick survey on our current playlist to determine recent drops when stations log onto the server. Only make music calls one day a week. The Southeastern area of the country gets called only on Thursday, for example. The Northeast on Monday, etc. Remember the non-com stations. Load us up with leftover promotional product for our sharathons. Thanks!

 

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

Competing with secular radio. Just because someone is a Christian doesn't mean they automatically listen Christian radio exclusively or listen to Christian radio at all. There are other "family friendly" formats out there and people have options. For example, Radio Disney is for kids but their target audience is the mothers of the kids. If they started buying FM stations and tweaked their programming slightly older I bet it would have an affect on Christian radio. We have to be as good if not better than anything else on the dial. I'll brag on out airstaff as being one of the most talented staffs of any station in this market.

 

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

I don't think that's too much different than secular radio air personalities. Be entertaining, be informative, be a good communicator, be engaging. In Christian radio we aren't crude so that's the biggest difference than with some secular formats. Some Christian stations want "preachy" personalities, others don't so it depends on the station.

 

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

Years ago I considered WCIE in Lakeland, Florida as an innovator. I see the Salem talk format as innovative.

 

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

The 2 biggest societal trends on the horizon are the growth of ethnic minority populations and technological advancements. In 4 states Caucasians are now a minority group. I've never been happy with the model that says listeners only want to hear radio personalities of their particular racial group. On most radio stations in America whether Christian or secular there seems to be an unwritten rule that says Hispanics can only work as announcers at Spanish language stations, Blacks can only work on Urban formats and stations that target White audiences must have only White announcers because that's what the listeners want. I think that's a silly idea. The largest demographic group that watches the Oprah Whinfrey show are White soccer moms. Imagine that, an African American who's never been married and has no children is the pop culture icon of White soccer moms. Will Smith, Jammie Fox, Halle Berry, a host of both Christian and Secular recording artists and others have proven the general public is a lot less uptight about race than we who decide who gets behind the microphone on radio stations and whether their skin color matches the format. I see Christian radio getting more diversified with African American and Hispanic announcers and probably a few more groups that sound like Salvador. When our station first began steaming audio on-line it was really just a novelty and more importantly a way that the station could be easily monitored by out of town leadership. Today its totally different. If our Internet stream does down our phones ring off the hook because listeners in decent numbers listen via the Internet. I think we'll see significant numbers of people who listen to US Christian radio in other parts of the world on-line. Our programming might take on a global appeal to some degree.

 

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