WWGN Ottawa IL: My first job in high school, on air
Moody Radio Chicago: Music programming
Shine.fm (WONU): Program director & mornings
99.1 JOY FM St. Louis: Program director
WBGL: Mornings, digital media
Johnathon, tell us what’s new at WBGL… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
I’m thrilled and immensely grateful that my morning partner Lindsey Capperrune and I have been working together for over five years now and we have been given the opportunity and support to produce a morning show here that feels really purposeful, connected, and hilarious (at least to me). Since the last time I was interviewed on Hisair.net, the best news was that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and I got Elton John’s autograph.
(My co-worker Danielle Perez and I refer to Moody, Shine and BGL as “the trifecta”)
Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
I don’t feel the competitiveness and I don’t think about it much. That said, I completely recognize that doesn’t mean it’s not a reality as several of our station’s markets are served by more than one Christian radio station. I really believe that a quality, consistent, and winsomely provocative show or station will stand out like a light. That said, everything is a competitor.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
I don’t really have an opinion on this right now. All I know is that we’re pretty good friends with the other stations in the Chicago market.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The consultant Tracy Johnson told us, “Always be yourself – unless you suck.” I am not sure if this was the best or the worst.
What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job/show?
A positive attitude… We play the song “Fear Is a Liar” quite a bit right now, and it is equally true for listeners and Christian radio people. I know that fear can limit my own effectiveness.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
I don’t know, but I believe in making ourselves accessible and available to young people who have interest in what we’re doing. I remember being a very-possibly-even-overly-interested young person about 20 years ago, and I wouldn’t be here if the door hadn’t swung open to me by some very kind people who paid it forward and believed in me for some reason.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I think the obstacles are the same as any other kingdom-centered thing: unbelief, fear, greed, pride, you know, all the things that get us into trouble in real life.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I really appreciate being asked this. This is the main part of the interview. In fact, I was supposed to submit my interview answers several weeks ago but it took me so long to write all of this stuff. And I’ll admit, this is only a partial list. I hope I don’t get into some sort of trouble for writing so much. And if you’re not listed here, you probably should be.
Ken Hettinga – This man gave me my start in radio. The setting was my hometown of Ottawa, IL in approximately 1997; I was in high school and I have no doubt I was terribly annoying. He allowed me to watch him work at the small Christian radio station he managed (WWGN) and he gradually gave me some volunteer tasks and finally a part time job, my first experience. Ken’s home was in Green Bay, WI and he worked in Ottawa during the week away from his family and went home on the weekends. His mission was to plant local Christian radio stations and I am enormously grateful he said yes to God’s call in this way.
Jeff Scott – our station manager at WBGL. Kingdom-minded, friendly, open, and values vision. He really recognizes viable talent when he sees it, which I’m now realizing is just a failed attempt at a joke that I made since he called and offered me this incredible job in 2013. But then again, it’s true – the staff at WBGL is made up of some incredibly hard-working and talented people.
Bill DeWees – my college instructor in radio and first station manager, a person who taught by telling stories about his own career and talking through things he did on his own show.
Lindsey Capperrune – she is my morning partner and we have been on together for just over five years now. She is always positive and friendly and we have a lot of fun doing our show together. Our light and permissive style of teamwork is one of the things that has really made things good. And she legitimately cares about listeners.
Ryan Springer – our program director at WBGL. Detailed, empathetic, efficient, smart, understanding, encouraging, precise, reasonable, and weathered.
Joe Buchanan – our music director and midday dude at WBGL. We were friends way before I worked here, and he really helped me when I was learning how to be a music director.
Meridith Foster – one of the midday people at WBGL. I was a fan of her well before I worked here as well. The main word here is respect. Some people you just look at what they’re doing and you respect it. She has encouraged me greatly, as well.
Pam Peoples – currently our evening person, and she’s also part of the team that preceded us on mornings at WBGL and is loved by so many listeners. She’s just so friendly and caring. And I respect her journey bigtime.
Jason Rackow – creative services artist and storytelling czar at WBGL. He taught me every single thing I know about production. This man and his wife let me live with them in 2013 until my house sold. And he’s always up for a good controversial chat, even when I’m not. Check out his voiceover work here.
Eric Nichols – my morning partner Lindsey says he’s the nicest person on the planet. I don’t know for sure that this is true, but I suspect she is right. More importantly, his office is right next to mine and if he needs something, he will literally send me a text or a Marco Polo (our favorite app which is basically like video walkie-talkie) because he doesn’t want to disturb me.
Danielle Perez – she does afternoons with Eric here at WBGL. When I was working at Moody Radio, she was the one on the air during the midday doing traffic and weather and also hosted a kids show, where her name was Danielle Popsicle. I thought she was so cool in there sitting in the studio, and I still think this now that we get to work together at WBGL. She really wants to communicate the Gospel.
Weez Stockton B – she works at WBGL doing promotions, music programming, and something else I think. I know she runs the Single Mom Saturday thing we do where single moms get free oil changes at car washes at like 16 locations in one day. She is also Wonder Woman. Sometimes you just know you’re in the presence of coolness; that is how I feel when I’m around Weez. We enjoy talking about Chicago radio and 90s Christian music, and she prays differently than anyone I know.
Ginee Scott – She does overnights and the community calendar promos, and she has worked at WBGL since day one, I’m told, which is 1982. She is also always at the YMCA whenever I’m there which leads me to think she’s a very disciplined athlete, and I need to be more like her in that way. She’s also a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but that’s fine.
Andy Decker – this guy is no longer living, but he let me tour WCMY, the full service AM station in my hometown of Ottawa, IL where I grew up, and he even let me cut a fake spot for a local race track, and he sat there in the production room and produced it in front of me using things like analog reverb. I listened to him host the Radio Trader show. He was an incredibly creative and talented actor and producer of great radio commercials. He is one of those guys that made radio seem bigger than life when I was a kid. He is also the reason I first learned about one of my favorite songs “Harmony” by Elton John.
Jake Moore – Jake was a student worker at WONU Shine.fm during the time that I was there. The first time I talked to Jake, he was a high school student listening to my afternoon show on Shine, and he ended up attending Olivet and we got to work together. Toward the end of my time at Shine, I trained him on how to schedule music with Selector as I was about to leave, and he picked up on it very quickly and did an excellent job. Jake is intentional about staying in touch with people he cares about, and I thik that’s a great quality to have; I want to be more like him. I don’t know very many people who are more of a positive person than Jake. He really wants to reach people for Jesus with radio.
Randy Zachary – A guy who worked here for a couple of years whom I would call a coworker-turned-friend. You appreciate the people who want to go deep. BOOM.
Rob Rodewald – Back in the day, Rob showed me how to gather and write news. Is an example of someone who incorporates generous portions of common sense into radio.
Matt Angell – he and I created our own radio station in our dorm room at college which broadcast down the hallway. Floormates served as guests and cohosts. Matt served as our morning show producer for a season then went on to pastoral work, but still likes radio and has a hand in it to some degree. I truly value referencing our thousands of inside jokes.
Brant Hansen – he and I were in the kitchen once and he told my friend Matt Angell (the one I wrote about above) that Matt should switch his listening from my show to the Brant Hansen show. He even said, “You’ve had enough of him” (meaning me) and encouraged Matt to attend all of his “Brant Hansen events” and buy all of his “Brant Hansen products.” But I can only hope that Matt will do the right thing and ignore Brant.
Scott Herrold, Jayar, and Rick Hall – These are just cool guys I’ve enjoyed talking with for years. Not consecutively, of course. They are all busy doing very good things.
Steve Scott – today he is the afternoon news anchor on WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York, but he was hosting morning news on WLS 890 in Chicago on the morning of 9/11. I was in my bedroom listening to the radio before school…the hosts Don Wade and Roma were doing a bit about how Michael Jordan had just announced he’s coming out of retirement, and Steve Scott interrupted with the news from New York. Kind of strangely poetic, in a sense, that New York is where he’s working now. Just one of those pro news guys.
Kai Elmer – This guy works with Fair Trade Services and has been there for quite some time. We got to know each other at Moody Radio in Chicago, I believe he actually took over the job I had after I left. Or was it the other way around? Anyway, that doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you just interact with quality people who really care about what they’re doing and like to engage when you talk with them, and Kai’s one of those guys. I have a lovely memory of having lunch at Mere Bulles with Kai, Dan Michaels and other INO team members one day when it was my birthday.
Mike Tomano & Steve Touhy – These two were on-air partners for a long time with stints at multiple stations in the south Chicago suburbs in multiple decades. Think freeform-style comedy morning radio. Not even sure how much they talk to each other anymore. Just observed a lot of unique teamwork and chemistry with those two when I had the privilege of working with them.
Brian McClure – A guy who just showed up at the radio station one day and basically started hanging out there without ever really asking for permission. A former east-coast cop and radio DJ, he would submit jokes to me in writing in hopes that I would use them on my show. A true individual and we miss him dearly.
Seth Hurd – We share a special connection which stems from our time together working at Shine.fm. He had me on his podcast once and let me share my whole story about our journey in foster care.
Chad Hovind – my cousin who is the pastor at Horizon Community Church in Cincinnati. When I was a teenager and just getting started in radio, Chad shared with me about his experience working at WCIC (which is the sister station of WBGL) and was the first person to describe to me the process of “hitting the post.”
Chris Hauser – If you know Chris and you were writing a list of your radio-heroes, you would probably list him for the same reasons I have, so no need to go into the details.
Chuck Finney – he called me out of nowhere in the summer of 2012 after I left a job just to check on me and see how I was doing. He shared about a time when he was without work and gave me some pointers. All of this from a guy I’d never spoken to in my life and who had absolutely no agenda.
Dale Crawley – worked hard at learning radio in college, graduated, but never really “caught a break” in the radio business, which was his goal at the time. He’s currently one of the best employees Advance Auto Parts has ever had, and occasionally he mails me custom-made mixtapes on cassette.
Dan Young – similar to the Chuck Finney experience above, Dan sent me a note out of nowhere about seven years ago with some massively kind and encouraging thoughts and told me he was praying for me. He also writes really well and you can just tell the guy’s really smart. I like and am inspired by smart people.
Dana Carrigan – she was my cohost at Shine.fm and a friend to this day. She brought her dog into the morning show once. Also one time she made pollo tacos the morning of Cinco De Mayo
Erick Karl – coworker at Shine.fm, a smart one, and like I said above, I like and am inspired by smart people. Erick is a person whose friendship far outshines (see what I did there) any work connection. Today he’s a darn good voice talent and you can check him out here.
Frank Stella – a cool guy who used to call in to my afternoon show when he was a high school student and has done a bunch of stuff and now is an overnight board operator for Entercom in Chicago.
Jason Gray – some of my most fond memories are interviews and conversations shared going back ten years or more. The guy’s ideas resonate with me, and I appreciate him recommending one of the greatest books I’ve ever owned: Every Moment Holy. One funny memory is having him on air and in studio at WBGL while we were on a remote. We were at the location, Jason was in the studio. I think FaceTime helped us that day.
Jim Brandt – operations manager and midday guy at a commercial cluster of small market stations in Kankakee, IL. A super friendly, consistent guy.
Rick Smith, Greg Kaurin, Joe Rother, Larry Roethe, Jared Stuemke, Thane Moore, Don Johnson, Gary Dearth, and Dave Obergoenner – these guys are the friendly and professional radio station engineers and I.T. people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working in my career thus far.
Mike Haile – he does the morning show on a Lite Rock station here in town, and I think he’s been doing it for over 40 years. He told me once that he gets up at 3:30 in the morning and has never once had to be woken up by his alarm. He wakes up before the alarm because he doesn’t want to disturb his wife.
Morgan Wood – I learned some solid promotional things by listening to her speak at a GMA or CMB thing quite a few years ago. Today, she is our female underwriting voice, and she says funny things between takes. I should be keeping an outtakes reel – she is actually that funny.
Therese Romano – she came in to help during fundraisers for the last several years at WBGL and she was one of the easiest people to work with that I’ve ever encountered.
Tom Greene – I understand he did a pretty great job programming some Christian music stations on the east coast a number of years ago, but I came to know him after that run, and I really appreciated some of the kindness he showed me. I don’t know where you are now, Tom…but you’re a good dude.
Dan Hennenfent – After Ken retired and left the station I mentioned above, Dan came in to manage the station and increased my opportunities. When the station was sold to an outside organization, Dan fought hard to keep it a local entity.
Sandi Brown – During my time at JOY FM in St. Louis, I learned a lot from Sandi about clarity of messaging and the right way to do things.
Jay LeSeure – My local hometown radio hero. When I was in grade and high school, Jay was the voice on the AM full service station (WCMY) I would hear announcing when school was canceled for a snow day. Later, he hired me at the age of 15 to do some part time weekend work. He fired me the same year because I did dumb things. A few years went by, and he hired me again when I was 18 to do sports on the morning show, which I did until I left town for college. When I was in 7th grade, I heard Jay speak at my school’s career day about his job in radio, and I was completely star struck and enthralled. Now just a few years ago, Jay and I had the chance to go back to the same school and speak to communication students on the same subject, and that was pretty cool.
Justin Knight – He was my first program director, later general manager and gave me some incredible opportunities to expand my responsibilities and get some real experience.
John Hayden – he was the PD at Moody Radio Chicago while I worked there
Jon Hull – I enjoyed him giving me some on-air coaching once and he said regarding putting together your on-air break, “Just remember PC&D. Not Phillips Craig and Dean. Plan, Condense, and Deliver.”
Kelly Corday – she is one of my absolute favorites.
Spike O’Dell – he is the winsome, cool, rural guy who inspired me a lot during his morning tenure at WGN in Chicago. He also allowed me over an hour of one-on-one time in his office while I was in college, you know, because “I had to interview a media professional for a report.”
Mancow – some people look at me weird when I say he’s one of my heroes. I won’t try to make a case for it here, but he has always fascinated me.
Rick Koshko – news director at WCMY, the full service AM station in my hometown of Ottawa. I listened to him do the local and state news when I was growing up, I got to work with him there, he taught me to pronounce Blagojevich and indict, two words that I never realized I’d have to use in the same news story one day. He is still at the station today.
Grandpa Russ – My grandfather who supported me always, took me to Chicago as a teenager, always had the radio on. Wouldn’t be doing any of this without his influence.