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Radio Interview


John Shirk

Program Director


Lancaster, PA



John's Career Capsule
I have worked in Christian radio since 1984 when we worked with vinyl and cart machines. In 1992, I became program director at WJTL and have been serving in that role since then. Before that, I was Music Director for a year and a half.

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

Lancaster County is an interesting area. Cars and Amish buggies share certain roads. There is a strong sense of heritage in the form of many people being committed to their families and communities. We have many growing churches, but still, there are many people to reach with the Gospel.


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

I would say, a daily, spiritual relationship with our listeners. No bond is so close than a spiritual relationship. It is an honor to be able to share my faith in Jesus with listeners day after day. I never get tired of it. So many Christians around the world do not have the opportunity to be open about their faith on public airwaves. I never want to take that opportunity for granted. I also enjoy meeting listeners at public events and hearing about their lives. I have met some wonderful people.


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

I do not think much about money. I do ask the Lord for my daily bread. I spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus. My personal view is to focus on being faithful to God, and commit whatever I do for His glory. The number one priority of our mission statement at WJTL is to glorify God. That is the desire of my heart too. There is no other agenda.


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

Are the lyrics understandable, honest, and true? Is the song memorable?  Does it connect stylistically with pop culture. Our average age listener is approximately 33 years old, so a song for consideration should not alienate that listener generally speaking. Artist recognition has something to do with it too. We have core artists like Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, Switchfoot, and Jeremy Camp. We rarely pass by their singles.


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

We have concert events at local amusement parks. They seem to be well attended. Also, our Creation Survival Kit Contest has become an annual event. Listeners attempt to identify voices in short snipets for a chance to go to the Creation Festival and win camping gear.


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

I am grateful to the labels for the way they have worked with WJTL over the years. They have supplied us with great service and great singles.


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

I don't know if I would categorize this as an obstacle, but with talk of Satellite radio and the invention of the iPod, there are more options available to music listeners. If we are not giving listeners a compelling reason to listen, they will have more reasons to stop listening. That means their attention span is probably shorter if they are not interested in what they hear from us.


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

I believe that a Christian radio air personality needs to be real. Listeners can detect phoniness if they listen day after day. This generation will respond favorably to someone who is true to their personality and convictions. At WJTL, the air staff has very different personalities and they have the freedom to use their personalities on the air as they share some of their interests. Having said that, we have not lost our distinctiveness as a Christian station. Christ is at the center of what we do.


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

Not sure if I can adequately answer that question at the moment. Earlier in my career I was more in tune with what Christian stations around the country were doing, but am not at a place where I can say which stations across the country are innovative now.


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

Christian radio is an exciting form of ministry. So many people have been encouraged by Christian music. It goes deep to the core of what they believe in ways that others songs do not. Many people have found hope and direction in listening to Christian music. Some have become Christians as a result of a timely song in their hour of need. If we keep our focus on matters of God's Kingdom, I believe we will be in a good position to be a voice of hope for tomorrow. The way the world is going, people will gravitate to people with hope, and Christian stations can be one significant place where they can daily hear a message of faith, love, and hope. It will cause people to stop in their tracks and think about what they are basing their security on. For that to happen, we will need to be connected with Jesus ourselves in a real and vibrant way, know our listener, and understand our times. And I believe we will have real and lasting hope to offer a world that needs Jesus.


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