Career Capsule: I got started in radio part-time in 1990, working for KAWW-FM in Heber Springs, Arkansas. From there I moved to evenings at KWCK-FM in Searcy, Arkansas, and spent a few years back-and-forth between radio and television production, working up to Operations Manager for the Western Colorado CBS/Fox affiliates. I went back to radio full-time in 2000, programming the now 50k watt KAWW-FM in a Classic Rock format. My wife, Julie and I, along with our newborn first child, moved to Missouri to “flip” KCLQ-FM and in the process, God got ahold of me, and life changed dramatically – getting a call “out of the blue” one day from Jim McDermott from Spirit-FM. We spent nearly 9 years with Jim, until God called us to Arizona to take the reins at KGCB-FM. When the station was sold, God moved us to our current place at The Promise FM, a small network of stations that covers most of Northern Michigan, into Ontario, Canada.
- Fred, Tell us what’s new with The Promise FM… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
It has been a very exciting year, to say the least. We have made focused changes to our music matrix and imaging that really emphasize who we strive to be, as a ministry that, according to our mission statement, seeks to “change lives, strengthen families, and impact communities for Christ in Northern Michigan and Ontario.” We have been blessed to work with local and international ministries and organizations to make a difference in the lives of families around the world through Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child, and local community charitable organizations that benefit our Veterans and other members of the community. We’ve also teamed with area Christian summer camps, sharing our airwaves to put out the call to parents and church groups, to encourage the attendance of youth to summer camp, where they can have not just fun summer experiences, but an encounter with Christ. We want to be active in ministry in our community, and we’re traveling all around our coverage area to not only attract new listeners, but to inspire our current listening family into joining us in action – and it has been a thrill to see how well we’ve been received already!
2. What is your typical day like regarding getting ready to go on the air?
Honestly? I’ve done afternoon drive-time for the past 15 years of my broadcast career, so now, doing mornings – after 10 months, I still praise God every day for coffee! The alarm goes off at 4am…then again at 4:10…probably again at 4:20 or 4:30…and by then my wife is ready to hurt me, so I roll out of bed. I get to the studio at around 5am, and work on weather forecasts, news cuts, devotional time and show prep…and hit the air, coffee in-hand, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6am!
3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I’ve been blessed to work with some fantastic people, and they have poured the love of Christ into me in a lot of different ways…I don’t think I can pick just one great piece of advice, but I can give you two: 1) My first mainstream radio PD, who was very much NOT a Christian, said something to the effect of, “If you can take the dumbest, dirtiest bumpkin who comes out of the woods to your event, put them on a pedestal, and make them feel like a star – you’ll be their favorite.” What he didn’t know was, he was really giving me a biblical example that has served me well in Christian radio, and that is to not be concerned with how someone looks, sounds, smells, or whatever. If they come up to you – treat them like a human being, love on them, don’t be afraid to hug them or lay a hand on them to pray, and you’ll be showing them the love of Christ, and you’ll be their friend, and it will change your life and theirs. 2) My good friend, Sally Barton, imparted a nugget of wisdom that I should wear around my neck: “We are a blessed and privileged people,” and we have the opportunity every day to use the airwaves to God’s glory – so let’s not waste a moment. I try to never do a “throwaway break,” because I don’t believe there’s such a thing. Every moment is precious, and we have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life with what we do. That’s precious, indeed.
4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
One thing that Jim McDermott has always been pretty adamant about is that he wouldn’t try to expand Spirit-FM into a city that already had an established CCM station, because we aren’t in ministry to compete. I’ve always admired that, and have grown to enjoy an attitude where stations in the same area can come together at an event and cheer one another on. DC Cavender’s bunch at Fuel-FM come immediately to mind, Dave Borowsky and James Alexander from Family Life Radio, and Matt McNeilly have also been shining examples of folks I’ve had the privilege to rub shoulders with, without having a territorial spirit present. I haven’t personally considered research to determine the health or benefit of having multiple like-formatted Christian stations in one market, because I’ve always felt that my job isn’t to “compete with the other guy,” but rather to program the ministry as God leads, and just know that He will work all the other details out. It’s a luxury that working in a smaller market has over larger markets, where population is much greater, and numbers play an important role in many programming decisions. I would think in those situations, some healthy competition might serve to inspire stations to strive to hone their craft and reach to the sky a little. (Total Country-Boy conjecture, there…)
5. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?
Prayer. I have Aaron Shust in my head most mornings in prayer, because I just don’t have the wits, the vocabulary, the smarts, or the depth to do what I’m called to do without God’s help through His Holy Spirit. On my own, I’m nothing, but in Christ, I can be used to make a difference. I love how most every morning, I’ll pray, and then as I’m looking through some devotional thoughts, I’ll start to see a common thread that weaves throughout the messages, and then I’ll be, “Okay, Lord – I see our direction for the day…let’s go!”
6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I started in radio back when you had a lot of “hangarounds” – young folks who were just fascinated by the mystery of being a radio dj…and they’d sweep floors, clean bathrooms, haul remote gear – just whatever they could, to get their foot in the door, on the chance that one day the production guy would poke his head out of the prod suite and say, “Hey you – come here a sec, will ya? I need you to read this line for me…” Nowadays – there’s just not so much of that happening, at least in smaller market areas. With all the downsizing and stations farming talent out to voicetracking to cut costs, the life just isn’t as glamorous as it used to be. But I think we have a real gift in this new generation of kids who are growing up and not waiting for a church to form a committee…not standing around while someone deliberates on whether or not they give permission…these kids see a need, and they DO something to meet the need. If we can connect with some of these young people through what we do, and catch their interest, I think we have a real shot at throwing the radio rulebook through the window and creating a new kind of radio ministry, that is more connected and active than ever before.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Just remember – you asked for my opinion on this one…I’ll have to go with Connection. Technology has streamlined what we do so beautifully, and computers and digital conveyance of media has given us the ability to do our show on the go…we can record a week in advance, or bring in a talent from halfway across the country, and – oh, wait. What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah – connection. There is something that is so beautiful, so organic, so imperfectly perfect about live radio, where the people you listen to are the same people you bump into at the store, or at the gym, or at church – where you can really get to know one another and become friends. Some of my sweetest friends, that I interact with regularly now via Facebook – were people I got to know because we bumped into each other at local events through our radio stations. Technology has taken a lot of that perfect imperfection out of play, creating a sanitized product that is ultra-analyzed, studied, computed, and run by the numbers…and it’s not connecting. There are people who are doing a bangup job, and make a genuine effort to engage and connect with their audience, even though they are voicetracking from another state – and I also realize that because of budget constraints, there are some stations that have only that option. I just don’t feel that you can beat live, local radio, where we live, work, and play together. I think if we were to see a resurgence in live, local talent in our churches and communities – we would see God set this nation on its ear with all of the action He could inspire through the relationships we would develop.
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Wow, that’s a long list! I have been influenced by a TON of people…some of my heroes would have to be, in no particular order, Jim McDermott, because he’s not afraid to march to the beat of a different drum, because he’s marching according to God’s call on his life. Sally Barton, because I’ve never met someone who is more gifted to bring out the story in someone, nor more acutely aware of the importance of being a good steward of the story. Dan Young has been a trusted friend and confidant, and is just insanely talented. Mike Kankelfritz has been a great influence, through his ability to be kind and humble, and his word-efficiency is otherworldly. And I can’t leave out Jon Hull, who has a sweet spirit for telling people about Jesus in an excellent way. I could run on for some time…Kevin Robinson, Lisa Williams, Terese Main, Dave Schreiber and Kelly Blackwell – my goodness, I have been blessed to be surrounded by some truly spectacular men and women of God who make serving in the broadcast ministry fun, exciting, and more impactful than I could have ever imagined. I am truly blessed.