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Radio Interview

                                     

Steve Sunshine

Program Director

WMHK

Columbia, SC

 

 

Steve's Career Capsule
The very first time I was on the radio was when I was 14 years old.  I won a call-in contest and got to be on the air for an hour.  The tape is locked up under tight security!  Later, I worked in mainstream radio in Indianapolis, Benton Harbor, MI, and Eau Claire, WI, primarily in oldies.  I became a Christian in Eau Claire and several years later moved on to The Fish in Sacramento before coming to WMHK in November of 2003.

On a personal note, we are working on adopting a little boy from Haiti.  Weíve been in this process since August of 2005 so itís really taken a toll, especially psychologically.  There have been many delays and complications.  Weíd appreciate your prayers! 

 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the ďbusinessĒ? 

Itís very easy to get so lost in the day to day details that I forget the eternal impact of what we are doing.  But when I am more focused on God in the rest of my life, I tend to be more focused on Him here as well.  I also think that whenever we hear from a listener who has been touched by the radio station in some significant way; itís kind of like a wakeup call.  It reminds me that weíre not just here to be a good radio station, but to play our part in doing Godís work here on Earth.  I think itís important to take a step back once in a while.  Think about what we get to say on the radio.  We get to share the hope of the Gospel.  Thatís pretty amazing!  Sometimes Iíll try to listen to the station as though Iíve never heard a Christian AC or any of the music before it reminds me what a privilege it is to do what I do.

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?

Five years ago I was still pretty new in the format.  I had been in it for less than a year.  I think that my perspective has changed, I donít know if that correlates to an actual change in Christian radio itself.  There are more stations doing this format well than I realized.  More people on Christian radio stations seem to be focused on being transparent and real rather than as setting themselves up as role models.  I think this creates a stronger bond with the listener.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of todayís Christian radio PD?

Just like in every position at a Christian Radio, a Christian radio PD needs to know God and know radio.  Thatís a tough combination to find.  Because what we do has eternal consequences, itís non-negotiable that a Christian radio PD be in an active relationship with Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, he or she needs to have all the strategic and management skills a mainstream PD would have in order to be competitive with the mainstream stations in the market.  I think itís critical to have a passionate belief that our format offers something of value to listeners that no other format does.  It creates a sense of urgency and a desire to attract listeners from other stations that goes beyond simply wanting to be #1,

 

4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?

There is no exact formula for that.  The simple answer is that it needs to be one of the best songs for our audience.  How we get to that conclusion is another story.  The lyrics need to in some way glorify God.  As you know there are many ways of doing this; direct worship, encouraging or edifying people by pointing them to Him directly or indirectly are a couple of examples.  But that doesnít eliminate many songs that are sent to us.  The best songs make some sort of deep emotional connection with the listener in their words and music.  Gauging this is not an exact science but we do our best!  Obviously the music itself needs to be great and it needs to sound like it belongs on our station.  Research is an important tool for us as well.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

I prefer promotions that in some way relate to the listenerís real life.  If itís a game or a contest I think it should be compelling for the thousands of people listening, not just the one person playing.  Games that bring out stories in an entertaining way are some of my favorites.  The best events are like the best on-air content.  They relate somehow to the listenerís life.

 

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

I think the labels are doing a pretty good job as it is.  The main thing we need is great music, and we get it.  Itís also helpful when label folks understand that we have a strategic music structure that dictates that we only have a certain number of slots for songs.    

 

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

Getting people to give us a chance is a continuing problem.  I still run into people who think all Christian music is lame and expect everything else on the station to be the same.  So often if they give us a try they are very surprised.  Also, of course the increased competition from new technology is an issue for everybody in radio.

 

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

Make a connection with the listener.  It can be done with humor, stories about your life, topical content, or other things.  Talk about what is relevant to your listener, but do it as a real person.  Donít be afraid to be transparent and show your flaws.  It makes people more comfortable with you.  When youíve made this connection you will have a stronger platform to stand on when you say something overtly spiritual.

 

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

There are a number of stations that sound great, but two that always come to mind for me are KCMS and WPOZ. 

 

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

I think under normal circumstances I would say weíre going to continue to grow, get better and gain larger audiences.  But with new technology adding more competition I donít think we can look at it that simply.  People will soon have so many choices that we are going to have to look at ourselves as content providers rather than just as radio stations.  Anyone can play our music.  We need to be compelling enough between records that people wonít want to leave us for a jukebox.  I think wireless internet is going to be big, so website development will be very important.  I sure hope we can get this streaming royalties thing worked out.

 

 

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