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Tom Tradup

VP News & Talk

Salem Radio Network



To contact Tom click here







Tom's Career Capsule
Prior to joining Salem in 2003, Tom’s extensive broadcast credentials included serving as President/General Manager of WLS-AM/FM in Chicago; President of Syndication for Sabo Media in New York City; Vice President & General Manager of the Christian formatted USA Radio Network in Dallas, and held key programming/management positions at KCMO/Kansas City, WMCA/New York, KRLD/Dallas and WASH-FM in Washington, D.C.  


Tell us about Salem Radio Network, (a little history, etc) ?

The Salem Radio Network(SRN)—headquartered in Dallas, Texas—is a division of Salem Communications, the largest commercial U.S. radio broadcasting company that provides programming targeted at audiences interested in Christian and conservative opinion content, as measured by the number of stations and audience coverage. SRN was founded in 1993 by Greg Anderson, who literally began SRN out of the trunk of his car with two employees; today SRN has grown into a national radio network that syndicates talk, news and music programming to approximately 2,400 affiliated radio stations.


2. Describe your mission with SRN, goals etc?

SRN produces Christian talk programming (including The JANET MEFFERD Show which is heard on over 110 radio stations nationwide) and “general market” talk shows such as Bill Bennett’s MORNING IN AMERICA, The MIKE GALLAGHER Show, and many others. Additionally, SRN News—based in Washington, D.C.—is a 24/7 news service offering live news and special events coverage to over 1,400 primarily Christian-format radio stations. And our Salem Music Network unit in Nashville supplies both Contemporary Christian and Gospel formats around the clock. In everything we do, our overarching mission is to provide quality, values-based programming which it safe for the whole family. Even on our “general market” talk shows which compete for ratings and revenue with all of the leading networks in America, we hopefully comport ourselves in a more redemptive manner that pitches issues and controversy a little higher than some of our competitors. Less about “right vs. left” and more about “right vs. wrong,” issues that will resonate as much 1,000 years from now rather than just making the phones levitate over a particular vote in Congress this week.


3. In what ways does Christian Talk touch its listener unlike other formats?

Broadcasters’ formats may vary a bit. But under every radio group’s hood is still just an engine—some more high-performance than others. And whether it’s Salem or any other company, it’s still ‘show biz’ with a varying degree of glitz and pizzazz. We’re all after the ears of our listeners. And therefore, there are a great deal of similarities.

But the one thing that distinguishes Salem from other companies is our intricate involvement with the community in each of our Christian Talk markets. Other companies give to their communities too (March of Dimes, Breast Cancer Awareness, etc). But those humanitarian efforts are rarely, if ever, in sync with the format of those stations.

My friend Ron Walters was with the Ravi Zacharias team a few weeks ago casting the vision of some Salem Teaching/Talk station Pastors Events and hoping to entice Ravi to become a frequent keynoter. Halfway thru the meeting, someone asked; “What does Salem get from these events? What’s the payoff for you guys?” It’s a fair question because “what we get” is the matrix by which all ‘for profit’ companies are measured. All except for one…Salem—we give with very little thought of getting, as seen by the 45 free annual major banquets for pastors, 12 free annual golf tournaments, two free annual bowling tournaments, 25 free annual major women events, etc, Nobody does that, not even other Christian broadcasting companies.


4. How do you personally prepare for each day?

I thank the Lord for the blessings of my wife (we celebrate our 23rd Anniversary in August) and my son (17) and daughter (14) who are always an inspiration to me. I am in constant topic prep, following breaking news, catching national talk shows on radio and TV, and going through online and print news sources…seeking unique items tailored to each of our talk hosts. I also am in contact with sources from coast to coast who share their perspective with me and, in turn, I am able to pass along to others. But since each of our hosts has his or her own producer, my role is more “global” in nature, hopefully adding seasoning or a unique spin on how an issue or topic impacts our target audience.


5. Where do you find new talent for Christian Talk radio?

I have one basic rule: hire interesting, compelling storytellers who will engage the listeners and prompt them to action. That action may be as simple as praying for our national leaders (tough sometimes, despite what we are directed to do in Scripture) or it may require prompting men and women to sign a petition or donate to a worthy ministry or charitable cause. SRN assignments in recent years have taken me from the front row of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to slums in Mumbai and Hyderabad, India. I’ve been up close and personal with five U.S. Presidents and help babies suffering from malnutrition in Guatemala. At every stop, I’ve met people who clearly could—and one day might—make great Christian talk hosts. One just needs to seize the opportunities God lays in front of us.


6. What promotions have been most memorable for you at SRN?

I’ll give you two…one heartwarming and one a little more news-oriented.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction in 2005, SRN joined forces with Oklahoma City-based Feed The Children to deliver food, emergency supplies and essentials to the Gulf Coast. Marshalling the resources of all of our SRN network hosts, we joined forces with our Salem-owned radio stations and all of our company’s platforms including Web and Digital, culminating in over $2-million of support for Katrina victims.

In 2009, again bracketing both SRN and many of our Christian talk station hosts, we generated over 1.3-million signatures for our online petition opposing ObamaCare and expanded government intrusion imposing restrictions on organizations regardless of their beliefs. The signatures—the largest number of signatures on a public policy petition ever presented to Congress—were accepted at a Washington news conference by two U.S. Senators and 8 members of the U.S. House. Sources on Capitol Hill told us we had a real impact on the national debate.


7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian talk radio today?

Like all spoken-word formats, Christian talk radio must constantly attract and keep new audience members while continuing to build on the loyalty of the listener base it already has. But challenges from “the culture” present Christian talk radio with many obstacles: standing for Traditional Marriage, for example, is just part of our DNA. Yet declaring that Marriage is confined to one man and one woman is portrayed by some as “hate speech.” Ditto with American icons such as the Boy Scouts and other institutions. And even the recent headlines about IRS intrusion into the tax-exempt status of certain political organizations revealed that ministries led by Rev. Billy Graham and Franklin Graham were among the targets. As Dr. Frank Wright, president of National Religious Broadcasters so boldly stated: "Pernicious targeting of faith-based organizations by any state actor must not be tolerated." So Christian Talk radio is in the vortex of social and political issues which in the past were sometimes ceded to our General Market counterparts.


8. How do you communicate with the show hosts, help them with their shows?

In-person, on the phone, via e-mail and through their producers. Every day is a blank canvass, and since Talk Radio operates as a free and open exchange of ideas and opinions, there’s never a dull moment as we create compelling programming day-in and day-out.


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

There are many, but the “standout” in my mind is KKLA/Los Angeles. Continually innovating, and America’s most interactive and engaging Christian Teaching and Talk platform. KKLA superserves America's largest National Ministries (like In Touch with Charles Stanley, Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll.) Beyond that, the station is deeply embedded in and and trusted completely by the Southern California evangelical church community


10. Where do you see Christian Talk Radio in 5 years?

There are many serious challenges facing Christian media in general and Christian Talk Radio in particular as secular forces impact our culture and our listeners, many people in our core audience feel they are under the microscope and under attack. That leads me to believe we will continue to be the place they turn for the Truth, and therefore our future is extremely bright. Not just in the next 5 years, but for decades to come. As President Reagan was fond of saying, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”



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