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Radio Interview



Gary Thompson






Garys' Career Capsule

I started off volunteering weekends at a local college station KNGX 91.3 from '89 to 'early '93. Then I did overnights and eventually middays on KXOJ from '93 to '95. Went 'cross town to KCFO for mornings from '96 untill late '99 or so. Took the PD/morning Gig at WCVO in Columbus from '00 and stayed untill late '01. Spent a year at AMI Radio group in Joplin as Creative Services guy for the cluster and morning jock for their top 40 station. Then I had the tremendous honor of coming to Tulsa in late '02 for middays/imaging/music. I feel more at home here than I have anywhere.


1. How did you wind up at KXOJ?

This is actually my second run here at KXOJ. GM David Stephens hired me to do overnights one week before I graduated from High school back in '93. I had an aircheck tape that I made from a weekend shift I did as a volunteer on a college station the previous summer. That college must have needed jocks badly. I didn't have hour 1 of experience but the college needed warm bodies to play records. David put me on overnights and from there I went to middays about six months later. I spent from '93 to '95 here. Then, for the next 7 years I did the sometimes obligatory "moving around" that so many of us do in the biz. I made a stop at KCFO here in Tulsa. Then, I PD'd and headed up production/imaging for WCVO in Columbus, Ohio for a while. Then I moved to Joplin to be Creative Director for a mainstream group. In the late summer of last year, I saw that Bob Thornton was looking for someone to come do middays and imaging. I had to apply. I was a huge KXOJ fan.  I had followed KXOJ closely since it was kind of an alma matter of mine and especially because they had been so successful. Most of that programming success was due to David Stephens' decision to bring on Bob Thornton as National PD. When Bob got involved with KXOJ it wasn't long before Dove awards and some of the highest ratings in CCM radio followed.  Bob and I met after I applied and within a month my family and I moved to Tulsa for this tremendous opportunity.

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

I love the fact that what we're doing is eternal. It may sound trite. But that's it. The music we play is positively potent. It gets into hearts and minds like and antibiotic and starts killing all the bad stuff. People's hearts are healed and family's are brought closer. There really is a sense of community here on AND off the air. It actually feels alot like a  family.

3.How has God used you in your role at KXOJ?

I would hope that the imaging sounds good. I would hope that I've been a help to Bob in talking some of the more mundane day-to-day music duties off of him. All of what I do in music is stuff that needs doing. But alot of it
is grunt work for an MD that a PD shouldn't have to deal with. A Program director's mind and time should be free for oversight, strategy, planning and vision.

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

It has to convince us that it can connect with the listener's life. If it isn't of any use to the listener, then it's an automatic toss. It has to be relevant and real. And it obviously needs to be ear-catching and heart
grabbing. Coincidentally, that sounds alot like some of  the same criteria that we have for our jocks too.

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

Here again, if it helps our target audience it's a winner. Promotions need to be simple, creative, and have an obvious payoff for the audience.

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

Continue to foster current sounding artists that really have something to say and those with true hearts for God and People. Those are the artists who continue to win for us like Mercy Me, Nichole Nordeman, and Chris Rice. And
this may sound obvious, but I think we at radio can help labels by being honest with them about what our listeners want. Don't blow smoke at them about a song just to avoid an uncomfortable call.  If you think a song is good or bad then let the label know. This way they can make adjustments and continue to stay on the cutting edge with their artists and the management thereof. In the long run, everybody is better off with honesty.

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

I think a mindset that we're inherently inferior to mainstream radio is rampant today and hurts us as an industry. Sometimes we assume that our listeners think we're not as good as our secular counterparts when we shouldn't. We undercut ourselves too much. We've got no reason to. There's no reason today that a CCM station can't sound great up next to the alternative. Our product is better than ever. If we present it with joy, skill and confidence then we've got nothing to worry about. Along those lines as well, if you think you're inferior you will end up that way.

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

Our roles as hosts is to keep the listener and the music in the center of the picture. Everything else is the picture frame. The jock, the time and temp, artist info, weather, news, etc. It all revolves around connecting the listener with this great message in the music. As a result, we need to remember that we as jocks are not the star. We should get in, connect, and take the first exit.

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

I like what Salem has done in broadening the reach of CCM into the big markets. They've got a solid product. They hire good talent. And I believe they're moving in a good direction overall.

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

I see us as an industry continuing to shore up our weak spots and expanding the proliferation of stations. I see a continued concentration on professionalism, and staying current and relevant. I would like to see KXOJ's programming philosophy duplicated in as many people as possible, in as short a period of time as possible using any and every means available to us.


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