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Brittany Riva Interview

Brittany Riva
Program Director
WCSG
Grand Rapids

Career Capsule: In a way, I’ve always been in radio. My grandfather started one of the first radio stations in Northern Michigan and my mom is one of the longest standing radio news announcers in the state. I grew up at a radio station. My “actual” career started by working part-time for the group of iHeart stations (at that time ClearChannel) in Grand Rapids. In 2011, I moved over to WCSG’s WaYfm station as a producer. Over the last 10 years I’ve served in various roles including WCSG’s Midday host and Afternoon co-host. I also worked for about a year and a half at a local TV station co-hosting a lifestyle show. In 2019, I became the Program Director at WCSG. I’ve been very fortunate to have many people come along side of me and help me grow in each of the roles I’ve played.

 

Brittany, tell us what’s new at WCSG … any news, changes etc, plus what’s new with YOU?

Well, what’s NOT new at WCSG?! After many faithful years at WCSG, Chris Lemke has stepped away as Executive Director. In the last year and a half WCSG moved into a new building, we launched a new Afternoon team, added a cohosted portion to our midday slot, and had several very successful station fundraisers. Last week our donor wall was installed at the new building, representing thousands of listeners that got involved to fund our new building! It’s been a time of transition at home as well. My husband and I welcomed our first child, our daughter, in May of 2020 (one great thing about the year 2020!).

 

In your experience, what ingredients are needed to make a Christian Radio music show work?

I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking or really that different, but I think you need to provide the listener with what they want. On a music station, of course that involves a good mix of music but then I think you look at your demo and your market. Do your listeners want to hear the news? The weather? A joke? Their child requesting a song? I believe another important piece which we have really tried to focus on at WCSG is to try and make the listener the star of the show. Our best radio comes through when our hosts are real, relatable people that allow listeners to connect to each other and to share their unique stories and experiences.

 

Overall, what is the best show/programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

Best advice: go with your gut. Worst advice: go with your gut. 

 

What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?

I learned how generous the community can be during times of widespread uncertainty. We have a very generous listening family at WCSG, but going into our two major fundraisers in 2020, I wondered how that would be impacted when so many were laid off, lost their job, or worried about the future. It was an eye-opening thing to witness God’s faithfulness through the strong financial support of our listeners.

 

What is your opinion of podcasts for stations & air talent, are they necessary, must have one, etc?… Please explain…

Depends on the station. When podcasts first started gaining in popularity they were seen as a way for radio to “keep up with the trends”.  Doing a podcast for the sake of doing a podcast is a waste of resources. Ask where your station is going, how a podcast would fit into that vision, and think about what you could bring to the table that others can’t. You might find that means not doing a podcast, maybe it means doing something else. It’s a wonderful idea to have enough resources to do all the things and do them all well, but for most of us…it’s not realistic. I think it’s important to strategically invest in “trends”.

Most people engage with content on a “when I want it and how I want it” basis. Everything is on-demand and accessible at any time (for a fee). How will radio meet the listener who is used to that kind of media consumption?

 

Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

From the basement, car, store parking lot…or wherever they are filming their next TikTok video. Everyone can be an influencer now. Everyone is used to having an audience. I think if young people invest in learning how to both tell AND listen to stories they can be successful in radio, tv, or other forms of (social) media.

 

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?

To be truly authentic and relatable on-air is to open yourself up for criticism and missteps. Those can be difficult to shoulder. To produce a “canned”, good, positive, cookie cutter show can help you avoid some of the criticism and missteps, but you will also begin to harden your heart to the work God is doing through you and through the station. I think that leads to resentment which leaves everyone feeling miserable.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

My mom, Becky Carlson, is my radio hero. She has been a News Announcer at WCSG for over 30 years. She is a master at her craft, while remaining teachable. She continues to look for ways to learn and grow. She is always ready to help, and she does her work without complaint.  I know this comes from her belief that God is using WCSG to influence West Michigan and that she views her job as an opportunity to be a part of that. That’s a kind of humility, faithfulness, and patience I can only hope to emulate.

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