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Radio Interview




John Owens


Operations Manager






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John's Career Capsule
I started in radio when I was 16 working at an AM station in Sanford, FL.  By my senior year of high school, I worked during the week at this little AM Country station, then weekends were spent in Daytona Beach on a new Country FM station.  When college started, I worked full time at the FM Country station (98FROG) in Daytona until I was hired to do mornings in Providence, RI, at Country 98.1.  It was during my time in Providence that the Lord got a hold of my life and I realized I was chasing the wrong things.  We missed Florida and 98FROG hired me back as the APD, then the PD until I met Rick Snavely at Family Life Network in NY.  I was a new Christian that wanted to make a difference and FLN was a radio network that needed programming help, so we moved to NY where I spent 11 years as Network Program Director and Morning Show Co-Host.  In 2008, we felt led to move to Columbia to become the Operations Manager at 89.7 WMHK.


1. How has WMHK evolved over the last few years?

89.7 WMHK has been on the air for over 30 years and during that time amazing people have worked here (David Morrison, Jim Marshal, Jerry Grimes, Tom Greene to name a few).  The amazing work these individuals and the countless others who are not named here have put WMHK in the position we are in today.  What a blessing to continue to carry on their work and ministry.  Lord willing, we’ll be going another 30+ years!


2. Has WMHK made any changes due to economic situation, been affected in any way?

Yes we have, but I think we ALL have tightened our belts.  We trimmed a little here and there, had to let some staff go and I’ll be honest….it wasn’t easy or fun.  Our sister station in Charlotte (WRCM) has been a huge help during this process.  Not only does our staff in Columbia help Charlotte, but Charlotte helps Columbia….we are really one staff in two markets under the Columbia International University umbrella.  We really have a great team.


3. How does WMHK connect locally with markets?

Well, I believe it’s important to come alongside the local church.  Does that mean we do EVERYTHING in a local church?  No, of course not.  There are many listeners who won’t step into a church for a number of reasons, but if we can be the bridge between the two, then I believe amazing things can happen.  Recently, we began working closely with local churches and concert promoters to plan shows better.  Too many concerts were on top of each other, often on the same day or weekend and we all know that doesn’t help anyone’s concert.  So, WMHK has become the spoke in the wheel working alongside each group to help avoid scheduling problems in this area.  We’ve already seen the blessings from those relationships in sold out concerts!


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

Duh?  The dartboard of course.  Mike Weston, our Assistant Program director, likes to talk about “working from the listener back”.  I believe that if we start with that in mind and not our own preferences, song choices become tools to minister deeply in someone’s life and not just another tune on our personal jukebox (remember those?)……


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

Well, what is important to her and her family?  We start there.  We aren’t going to do a Happy Hour at Hooters promotion for all sorts of reasons, but when you break it down it means nothing to her.  Surprise her by paying for a meal (like our Drive Thru Difference promotion), plan a free event for her kids, help her find ways to serve others (Operation Thank you – writing thank you cards to military)…..there are many ways of coming alongside her and helping her and her family make a difference.  Those seem to be the promotions that work best.


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

Continue to foster relationships between the radio crew, labels and the artists.  I can’t tell you how many times amazing relationships are built from a simple artist visit to the station.  We can sense their heart for God, understand the person better and use that to relate to our audience in a deeper way.  Besides, what we do is all about building relationships, right?  We do it on the air with our listeners, we do it with our donors and we need to continue to do it internally between us.


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

Forgetting who’s listening.  I can still remember what it was like before I was a Christian.  What I listened to, what I thought about, how I viewed “Christians”……often, the longer we walk with God, the more we can become like a club and we have secret words like “sin” and “salvation”.  More and more people don’t have a clue what those simple terms mean.  Ron Hutchcraft has written books about this and how to communicate to this generation.   This may be an obstacle that this industry faced since the beginning, but I see it as an ongoing issue.  Have you ever listened to your station with your “outside the clubhouse” ears?  You may be surprised what you hear.


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

Just be my friend.  I’m not talking about a friend that tells you everything is OK even when the sky is falling because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  I’m talking about the kind of friend who doesn’t hide truth from me, that will be there to celebrate with me and to cry with me.  Let your light shine before men…… can we do that when we aren’t real on the air?  Just be my friend and mean it.


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

Wow.  Better talk about New Life 91.9 in Charlotte…those guys are great….Joe Paulo is amazing…..he’s also my boss…..ha…..actually, I really appreciate the staff and crew in Charlotte and here in Columbia, they’ve been doing amazing things before I ever got here.  That being said, I’ve been really impressed with Dean and the crew at Z88.3 in Orlando.  Over the years I’ve seen those guys do unbelievable things to reach the community and I think they are to be commended for that.  I really appreciate K-LOVE and their willingness to invest in having pastors available 24 hours a day (gold star guys!).  As far as community outreach and promotions that really sink in, KTIS is outstanding.


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

Wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that one?  I do not think radio is going away and neither is Christian radio.  How it’s delivered (phone apps/internet), the type of content (user controlled) or even the type of talent we need may all change, but it will be here and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us next!




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