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Radio Interview



Smilin' Tom Fridley

APD/PM Drive

WZFS / Chicago


Toms' Career Capsule

Began broadcasting high school sports at WKBI-AM in my hometown of St. Marys, PA, in 1982 at age 16. Stations I worked at include WJET in Erie, WMJQ in Buffalo, KHYI in Dallas, WBZZ, WRRK and WVTY in Pittsburgh, and WBOB in Minneapolis. My first programming gig was at country station WBBS in Syracuse, followed by WCOL in Columbus


1. How did God put you in His service at WZFS?

I was jaded by the radio companies I had worked for and had lost most of my passion for radio, so I "retired" from radio in 2000. I always tried to attach a cause or mission to my job, and it seemed to be getting more difficult to make a difference doing radio. After a year of trying to find my "place in this world" I was asked if I would be interested in interviewing for the PD position at a new CCM station in Chicago. I didn't get the gig, but was hired as a jock and Assistant PD.

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about Christian radio?
Knowing that what I do now is more important than just entertaining and informing people.
3.How did your passion for Christian radio develop?
I was always a big fan of artists like PETRA, STRYPER, AMY and MICHAEL W. The first non-inspo or talk Christian station I ever heard was KLTY in Dallas when I was at KHYI in 1990. I used to imagine doing what I do on a Christian station. It took years, but now I can.
4. What is the typical day like in the life of a Christian radio MD?
Trying to ballance music scheduling and show prep with record company calls, local artists asking how they can get their songs on our station, promotional tours, and listening to the new music trying to find the right songs for our station.

5. What is your opinion on Christians working in secular radio?  
I believe it's critical to the ethical ballance of the industry. For years I felt like I was on a little island. In Pittsburgh. I was let go because I was "just too nice, too normal, and too clean cut" for the CHR station I was at. But I always believed it was important for me to be where God placed me, and it was my mission to make a difference.

6. When searching for the new CCM hits what do you look for?
The songs Fish listeners in Chicago want to hear. Songs that work in other markets don't always work here.  
7. What would you say is the biggest misconception (if any) the CCM record industry has of CCM radio?
That radio is a hit factory that just keeps rollin' 'em off the assembly line. There are so many choices and so much competition for people's time and attention. If the average listener hears your station for 20 minutes a day how can they possibly get to know a stack of new songs?
8. What in your opinion is the primary role of the Christian radio air
personality today?
That depends on the mission of each station. But I'm sure of this, we need to give people quality alternatives so they don't feel like they need to listen to something else because Christian radio "isn't as good." We need to give them our best.

9. What preparation do you do before you go on the air?
I have a show planner and I chart out every song I'm going to talk in front of. I try to have at least two breaks of artist information prepared for each hour. I make notes about personal antecdotes I might want to talk about. I read the paper and check the most viewed stories on Yahoo and make a list of the topics I want to talk about. It's always better to have too much stuff than not enough.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

Hopefully giving the secular stations a run for their money because the quality of the content, personality, and production values are as good as they can find anywhere else, and we give them something they can't find anywhere else.  



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