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Radio Interview



Donny Webb


WMSJ / Freeport, ME.


Donnys' Career Capsule
I felt drawn to do radio from as early as my teen years.  As a kid in the privacy of my room I would host countdown shows spinning my personal 45's (remember those?)  I would tape commercials off of the heard me right...commercials!  Most people tape music off the radio but not me!  I wanted to have spots on cassette so I could take commercial breaks during my imaginary countdown show!  Growing up early radio influences included Rick Dees with his weekly top 40 countdown and Rush Limbaugh among others.  At age 17 it took just a week of working at Burger King to encourage me to pursue a career in radio.  Weeks later I got my first job as a board op. at a talk radio station, 550AM, KENI, Anchorage, AK.  I also DJ'd part time on their sister station which was Classic Rock.  About a year later I landed a job with one of the best stations in the market, 101.3 KGOT ,a great CHR station.  The PD who hired me just happened to be Larry Wayne who currently works with KLOVE.  I also had a brief stint as Production Director at KWHQ in Kenai, Alaska which was Country with an AC sister station.  I also briefly worked for KFFR, a Christian station in Eagle River, AK.  I've spent most of my career at KGOT, however, sometimes full time, sometimes part time when I was in college and was home for the summer.  Since 1998 I've been PD here at WMSJ.


1. How did God put you in His service at WMSJ?
      When I first got into radio I was not a Christian.  I became a Christian while working in secular CHR!  However, the PD who hired me was Larry Wayne, now with KLOVE, and if I recall correctly I remember him saying he had prayed for me.  Well, through his prayers and the prayers of others,  and through the power of Contemporary Christian Music I found my way to Christ.  It didn't take long that I sensed a burning desire within me to do Christian radio.  Christian music had been a huge factor in me coming to Christ and I felt strongly about it's potential to reach others.  I actually felt a calling from God to be a Program Director of a Christian station.  I have to be honest that after years of praying about it I was frustrated that God hadn't yet opened the door for me to fulfill my dream.  It's not that I aggressively pursued work outside of Alaska.  Instead, I really felt like a Contemporary Christian Station was suppose to come to Anchorage and that I would be a part of that.  In 1998 I found myself married to a wonderful woman, living in Ohio, selling furniture for a living, and having abandoned radio.  I did not want to go back in unless it was Christian.  I honestly couldn't play the kind of music I was playing anymore as I felt like it compromised the Christian message I tried to share with others off air.  I actually began applying for Youth Pastor jobs around the country but God closed all the doors.  I was getting frustrated and finally my wife asked me a pivotal question that changed my life, "If you could do anything in the world that you wanted to do what would it be?"  I said, "Christian Radio."  She said, "Then why are you applying for all of these Youth Pastor jobs?"  I felt pretty silly suddenly and realized it was time for me to get serious about pursing my dream.  I sent tapes and resumes out and I discovered WMSJ on the internet.  I sent them an email and asked if they needed any help.  I honestly wasn't expecting much.  The station manager emailed me back and told be that they had gotten my email the same day that their current PD put in his two weeks notice!  Talk about impeccable timing.  Two weeks later my wife and I are putting everything we own in a Ryder truck and driving up to Maine!
2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about Christian radio?
     When someone is brought into a first time of deeper relationship with Christ through our radio station.
3. How has God used you in your role at WMSJ?
     I have a couple of different roles here.  As morning show host God has used me to become a part of the lives of our listeners.  He's used me to encourage people in their faith and just help them make it through the day or put a smile on their face.  At least, that's according to testimonies we get back from listeners.  As PD, I'm honored that God has used me and the rest of the leadership here to really refine our efforts to reach lost people in our area.  We've become more effective at communicating to the unchurched while still keeping the churched tied in to our station.  He's also led us to make some positive shifts in our format to increase our competitiveness and appeal in the market along with helping the station to become more than just a station, but a ministry.  I really don't want to toot my own horn here.  We really are a team here.  It's a collective effort of folks using the skills and talents to move the station forward.  I'm blessed to have Mark Tordoff as a station manager.  He's been fully supportive of me and is one of the godliest men I know.  He's really the heart of this ministry.  He is a tremendous example to the rest of the staff.
4. How can Christian record labels better serve Christian radio?
     I think the labels are doing a good job.  We are a small station in a small market so understandably we're not going to get the same kind of attention a KSBJ might get and I'm fine with that.  I do however, wish that some labels would get the singles out to us just a tad faster.  Sometimes I'll find out about a song by seeing it on the charts and have to gently remind some of my label friends that I might like to play that song too!  I don't want to bug anyone, but my first obligation has to be my listeners so sometimes I have to nudge some of the labels to help keep me caught up.  Some labels give better service than others, and there are some folks that have really gone the extra mile to take care of us despite our small market status.  When a label works well with a smaller station, they're really not taking care of the PD as much as they are taking care of the thousands of listeners who will benefit from their service. 
5. How is the Freeport market unique?
Freeport is part of the Greater Portland area and we cover southern Maine and parts of New Hampshire.  From a secular standpoint this market is probably not much different than most small markets.  From a spiritual standpoint it's very unique.  Maine is one of the most unchurched places in the country.  In fact, New England is considered by many to be a mission field and churches from other parts of the country are sending missionaries here.   Doing ministry here is very different than in the south, where Christianity is more a part of the culture and there are tons of churches everywhere.  I've had many missionaries from the south tell me how the spiritual climate is different here.  Not that there aren't problems in the south, it's just that the types of problems are different.  We've done many things to better reach the unchurched here and there's not enough space here to go in depth.  But it starts with simple things, like cleaning up our language on the air by not speaking in "Christianese" but using words lost people can understand too.  I've been occasionally asked why we don't do bible trivia. Well, it's because the only people who would win would be Christians! It's great to have a Christian listener win a cd or Christian book, but I'd rather get it into the hands of a lost person. Therefore, we play games that would be interesting to anyone regardless of where they are spiritually.  Some of our strategies are actually concepts borrowed from successful "seeker sensitive" churches and we adapt them to radio.  According to George Barna's research and our own examination of our audience there are lots of folks who listen to Christian radio who haven't taken that final step of commitment to God.  We want to help them cross that line.
6. When searching for new CCM radio on air talent what do you look for?
Personality, teachability, humility, potential, and a desire to reach others for Christ. 
7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?
I still consider myself a newbie in the Christian radio world.  I probably speak for a lot of other smaller stations when I say "resources."  I just don't mean money but a lot of it inevitably starts there.  We have some incredibly generous listeners and Sharemedia has been a great partner to us, but I know that we could be a lot more effective in what we do with additional resources.  I know money is not the answer to everything, and I know PD's from larger stations could probably educate me well on that, but it sure would help!  I'd love to be able to have more research done in our market, better equipment, more personnel, a morning show co host, effective marketing, and a host of other things, but it all takes $'s!  I think lack of resources is an issue with the church as a whole, especially the local church.  When people gave a greater percentage of their income to churches in the Great Depression than they do now something is wrong.  I think when believers nationwide are more serious about giving to their churches, it'll have a positive effect on other ministries too.
8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality today?
To be a vessel used by God that glorifies and points to Him.
9. What (if any) other Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?
Radio U.  The Fish stations.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?
I think you'll see stations fairing even better ratings wise.  CCM has made great gains the past few years, but I still think that there is still a lot of untapped potential for growth.  There are a lot of people out there who still haven't been made aware of CCM that would listen if they knew about it.  Since becoming a Christian, and living in different places around the country, it never ceases to amaze me how many people haven't a clue about CCM and that Christian music is more than church hymns.  I actually believe you'll see growth in this industry for a long time.  We've just seen the iceberg's tip. 


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