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Feature Interview

Ace McKay

PD/MD Mornings


Grand Rapids

To contact Ace click here


Ace's Career Capsule

I've had the opportunity to work for some great stations over the years. From Heritage WZYP in the early days to WAY FM, STAR in Fort Wayne and now JQ here in Grand Rapids. I started way back in Birmingham getting a chance to work along side with people like The Birdman, Justin Brown and Jeff Cruz. Then Nashville, it was Jeff Brown, Matt Austin and Tommy Kramer. It's been a great ride. The opportunities God has given me from on air to programming as been a blast. It's all I've ever wanted to do and love it everyday.


1. Tell us about the recent changes (news) at WJQK...

We've gone through quite a season of changes here. With a few veterans leaving, it really opened up alot of doors for us to move some talent around and put our best team players in the right seats on the bus. I moved from morning to afternoons and teamed up with a new talent Jeff Veley to be one of only 2 team afternoon shows in the market. With that, Sabrina Fairchild moved from mornings to mid days and has had success in that time slot in this market before and then moving back to mornings was Ceci LaBarge and we teamed her up with our resident ball of energy Adam McNutt to create a fun, energetic morning show.


2. What is the best programming advice you've been given? 

Being on board with the early WAY FM days, John Frost made a statement that "we have to think from the listener back to the station, not the other way around." That nugget created a filter that served me well in on air, programming, how we create and handle contest and promotions. Being the moon and not the sun has become a mantra for me over the years and then coming to JQ and finding it in our mission statement showed me why I was called to West Michigan.

The worst?

Thats tough because I've been surrounded by some great people. Thats not to say I didn't get some bad programming advice but I quickly dismissed it. 


3. Regarding your career, what are you most proud of?

Well I could say the AIR Awards for my shows or the Dove Awards for the stations I was a part of but that seems to simple and I really don't even think about those things in the grand scheme. My proud moments are the teams and stations that were started in Tallahassee, the camaraderie with the Fort Wayne team, the energy and creativity of my team now reminds me of the TEAM POSSIBLE mindset that makes any station great. I'm most proud when I see my team do well because they trust themselves enough to open up on the air or suggest an idea that will impact the lives of our listeners. 


4. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job?

 A microphone!


5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

It will always come from 2 places. 1. The diamond in the rough that you cultivate in your own station. Those are hard to find and pay for sometimes but it is needed. I love coaching new talent and seeing them grow.  The 2nd comes from other formats. There are frustrated air talent in secular radio and if they are a believers now or later, at some point I believe God will call their talents to be used for purpose vs. a paycheck.  


6. Do you feel syndication is good or bad for Christian radio?

It has its place. I think local wins if you can pull off quality programming in music and the content is relevant and vulnerable to the listener.  We do syndicated shows and its good stuff. I'm still a fan of having local talent you can cultivate for the future but you have to do whats best for the station because then the listeners get your best.


7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I believe on the local side, we have to wear too many hats. Don't get me wrong I love what I do but its safe to say that sometimes its hard to take off the programming hat or get the logs done then shift gears to focus on the show. It's a beast we have faced for decades and always will but its shifts the focus greatly when you are spread too thin. Some days you feel like a great programmer and an OK talent and others your feel like a stellar talent and decent programmer. 

Globally, I believe that stations regardless of format have to think of themselves as not just a radio station. They have to think about themselves as a media outlet that starts with the website and social media but also happens to have a radio station. People can go anywhere to get music. Pandora & Spottify are changing how people listen to music. They really don't need us anymore so we have to engage them in all facets so there is a deeper bound. The greatest obstacle is true engagement! That may mean shaking off all that you have done and move in a direction that breaks the patterns and habits that have grown stale to the listener. True engagement is like writing a song; how can we say something like its never been said before and how can we help people feel something.


8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

I will always hold Tommy Kramer, John Frost and Matt Austin high on my list of heroes. I cut my teeth in Birmingham with The Birdman and the energy and passion he had for radio and his listeners still runs through me.  Tommy tells it like it is and shaped so many shows into great shows. Frosty always knows how to ask the right questions but make the good ideas seem like your own and the bad ones not seem to so bad but clearly points why you shouldn't do things a certain way. Matt's way of leading people and empowering people is still what guides my leadership style today. He was the first to ever tell me I was any good and respects peoples creativity with a daily investment that showed how to care for your team.



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