Graduated from Westminster College with a degree in Communications.
1982-89 -- Afternoon drive (then
added MD, then PD, then OM) at WVAQ-FM, Morgantown, WV (West
Virginia Radio Corp.)
1989-2001 -- APD/MD (and later
mid-day host) at WWSW AM/FM, Pittsburgh (Clear Channel)
2001-Present – OM/PD at WORD-FM/WPIT
Pittsburgh (Salem Communications). In August of 2008 I dropped the
OM, but retained positions as Morning Drive host, AOM/APD, MD,
Webmaster, weekend host.
How has 101.5 WORD-FM evolved over
the last few years?
is in a bit of unique situation for a primarily talk-teaching
station in that, with the exception of a few low power translators
on our periphery, there is no Christian music station in the market
and certainly none done locally. Although we won’t be giving up the
heart of our station, our ministry programs, we are able to program
CCM on the weekends with our own local announcers. That was an
addition to our station after I came aboard. Prior to that, the
Christian concert traffic in Pittsburgh was practically
non-existent. Since we’ve begun playing music (Spring of 2002),
we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of artists who now stop
regularly in Pittsburgh. We’ve also benefited as a station,
financially from those concerts advertising with us, and
promotionally with the ability to tie-in with those shows.
2. Has 101.5 WORD-FM made any changes due
to the economic situation, been affected in any way?
attrition, we have not replaced our departed Promotions Director,
but we’re still doing the same amount of station promotions. Those
duties have been split between OM Gary Dickson and me. Other
than the already documented company-wide measures taken by Salem
Communications corporately, WORD-FM has remained fairly well intact,
especially in comparison to our Clear Channel and CBS counterparts
3. How is your coverage area a unique
Pittsburgh area, especially Allegheny County, is decidedly
Democratic (often there is no Republican on many local ballots!)
politically, but still retains very conservative values, socially.
That has worked to our benefit in that we can be a voice for those
viewpoints, but also look at them through a Christian world view.
There are no “mega-churches” here; our largest sanctuaries hold
1200-1400 people. But there’s a small church on every block in some
suburban areas. We hold a Pastors Appreciation Luncheon featuring a
nationally-known speaker every October at a ballroom at Heinz Field,
home of the Steelers, as a very cool way to say “thank you” to our
many area pastors who, in turn, remain or become big fans of the
4. What criteria do you require for a song
to be played on your station?
Being a talk
station primarily, we have no budget for music research. I use
MediaBase information from the top rated Christian stations in the
country to get a general idea of how songs are trending. But I’ve
been programming music most of my adult life, at some very
successful stations, and have developed an ear for what’s going to
be a hit. The same principles apply to CCM as they would to secular
music. A hit is a hit! I’ve also learned from some great
programmers along the way how to use whatever research I can get my
hands on and implement it in our rotations.
We often get
requests from local performers to play their music. While I have a
heart for them, being a musician myself, I also know that each
unfamiliar song is a potential for tune-out. If I ever play
anything from a local artist, it has to have Nashville studio-like
quality and it has to be someone who has paid their dues, built up a
following, and listeners are asking me to play some of their stuff.
Some of our local artist favorites include The Sparks and B.E.
5. What kind of promotions work best for
As with any
format, the best promotions involve doing something for the listener
that he or she can’t do or obtain for themselves. Free CDs and
concert tickets are great, but a chance to go back stage and meet
the artist is much better! We’ve given away things like chances to
sing on stage with Steven Curtis Chapman and a private breakfast
with the members of Third Day. You can’t go to the Christian book
store and buy a ticket for that!
6. How do you think Christian record labels
can better serve Christian radio?
There are some
great promoters out there: Kai Emler at INO comes to mind as one of
the best. He never fails to follow up when I send him my playlist,
thanking me for adds, asking if I need anything, etc. There are
others that don’t even return my requests; even a “no” would be
better than a non-reply. At least I’d know they got the message! I
try not to let that affect my music decisions, but it certainly
makes it easier to conduct promotions for the more cooperative
labels when boxes of product arrive within days of a request!
To be honest,
since we play music only two days a week, it used to be difficult to
get singles service from everyone, not being an R&R reporting
station. But now that most music is distributed via Play MPE or
TMStudios PraiseDiscs, that’s not really a problem at all anymore.
7. In your opinion what are the biggest
obstacles facing Christian radio today?
Christian stations, particularly non-music stations, I know it’s
difficult to attract top-notch talent. We have no lack of great
performers here, however. Our Production Director, Darren Eliker,
has won countless awards for his commercial writing and production.
Our Program Director, Gary Dickson, has won morning show
awards and shared in winning several Marconi Awards for his previous
obstacle, probably one we share with many stations, is a lack of
promotional funds. It’s forced us to be very creative in marketing
the station outside of our own airwaves. We try to have a presence
at every Christian event that comes through town, from concerts to
marriage conferences, just to keep our calls top of mind. We’ve
developed a group of loyal listener “ambassadors” who help us
publicize station events within their own churches.
8. What do you believe is the primary role
of the Christian radio air personality?
personality’s role is to build and satisfy audience, no matter what
the format. My philosophy has always been, whether it’s introducing
Chuck Swindoll or setting up the new Third Day hit -- let the
pastors do the preaching. Your job is to keep people listening. Do
some show prep and know the topics of your upcoming ministry
programs. Tease these to encourage recycled listening. Find some
facts about the artists your playing. Rather than say “Ayiesha
Woods is next,” say “Comin up, an artist whose music is featured in
the new movie ‘My Life In Ruins.’ We’ll tell you who that is
NEXT.” Keep ‘em tuned in through the break. And sound like you’re
enjoying your job. There’s still some bad Christian radio out
there, but there’s lots of good Christian radio, too! Our overall
product is definitely improving!
9. What (if any) Christian radio stations
do you consider as innovators today?
Actually, if I
can say so without sounding prideful, I’ve often wondered why other
Christian stations aren’t paying attention to us! We’ve been so
successful for so long for a station in our format. We’re
consistently among Salem Communications’ top-rated talk-teaching
stations, our on-line email database, now over 10,000 listeners, is
the largest of any of the non-music stations in the company, and we
have other promotions directors within Salem calling us to ask why
we always seem to have so much going on and what ideas they can
adapt from our success.
10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5
In a day where
people are seeking the Truth more than ever before, Christian radio
is positioned to be a lighthouse for that search. We can be used by
God to point people to Christ. What an amazing privilege that is!
Satan will always be trying to stop us, but I suppose that means
he’s worried about our influence. The Performance tax bill and
so-called Fairness Doctrine, if either or both should pass, would
have a grave effect on our industry. But we will adapt and God is
in control! So He already knows where we’ll be in 5 years, what
advances in technology we’ll be using, and how He will best use is
to continue spreading His message.