Career Capsule: Growing up in rural Montana, I was addicted to the rush of Citizen’s Band. We used the CB every day and we needed it for everything: communication, comedy & tractor parts. I went to school for broadcast in Southern California (SCC) when editing meant reel to reel tape, a razor blade and peel off white China pencil; FCC licensed in Portland Maine at WMSJ (1992), co-host of the morning show “The Blonde & What’s His Name” and was the Music Director. A move to Nashville opened Z-Music Television, I was TV spot talent and female voice on their music video Countdown show. I worked at Morningstar Radio Network (1994) before it was Salem Radio Network, and have an on-air history with: WNAZ, WHMX, WXHL & WJTL.
ForeFront Communications & Ardent Records added me to their National Radio Promotions roster, and in 1997, Toby McKeehan & Joey Elwood welcomed me to Gotee Records as their Media Relations Mgr.
Nik, tell us what’s new at WJTL … news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
My husband and I have just celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary, we have three children (14, 13 and 12). He’s from Maine and I am from Montana; our children always have idyllic places to stay for free with family!
This Fall 2020 we will involve our listeners in one of their favorite on-air events: The Top 500 Countdown! This playful multi-day listener event, The Top 500, was last done in 2014. (We count down The WJTL Top 100 songs each New Year’s Eve).
How has your WJTL show changed during the pandemic?
The Junction Center is an intersection of community and we moved to this location in 2011; during the pandemic our sports fields were void of players, our stage void of acting, our Green Rooms missing the laughter of artists on tour, and the chronicle of CCM album cover art by Tim Landis without stories of “I remember…” and “this is when I first…”
We did continue broadcasting live during the pandemic. As host of The REQUEST Show it was a trip to hear our listener’s “go-to” tracks for hope and reassurance (“There Will Be A Day” Jeremy Camp, “You Say” Lauren Daigle, “Red Letters” DC Talk, “Thy Will” Hillary Scott & The Scott Family, “He Knows What He’s Doing” Jason Crabb, “When God’s People Pray” Crystal Lewis, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” Larry Norman among many others). WJTL has a deep musical history, music from the 1960s to today are accessible to our request show audience.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
“Stick to your guns,” (remain determined, resolute, steadfast)
In the mid 90s, I worked for both Eddie DeGarmo (ForeFront) and Dana Key (Ardent) to be ambassadors for upcoming talent and artistry. I was in a conversation when Eddie interrupted, tongue in cheek, “don’t let that guy change your plans for radio; remember he’s just a guy that used to set up gear for D&K.” (The guy I was talking to was TobyMac, the radio plan was for Jesus Freak).
“Perception is reality” (Is it, really?)
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
Since 1984, Lancaster, Harrisburg, York Pennsylvania have been home to WJTL, our listeners hearing us live and seeing us in the community. Initially, it was intimidating when The WORD FM and K-Love moved into the market. That being said, WJTL has always had a reputation of being a unique station in the industry, and last year I heard a quote about us that I loved: “WJTL’s listeners may be the most musically educated listeners in the industry.”
We have found an entrepreneurialism and consistency in leadership from Tim Landis (President), Fred McNaughton (GM) & John Shirk (PD), who have undoubtedly shaped the long history of WJTL.
What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?
WJTL began an endeavor into podcasting in 2020. Kristi Leigh hosts the “Praise & Worship Podcast” which gives worship leader interviews, including national artists and local church worship leaders; this podcast fulfills listener’s desires to examine something that is important to our daily playlist at WJTL, and celebrated on Sunday mornings. The podcast becomes a resource for local churches and worship teams. My hope is the launch of this podcast would become a litmus test, and ideally a template, to highlight long running specialty programming on WJTL like “The Archives” (airing since the early 1990s) where host Terry Phillips still does live interviews with those keystone artists which, really, have built the CCM Industry we have today. (“WJTL’s Official Archivist” showcases interviews from decades past, and with The Junction Center, we have been able to host these artists for live performances and listener reunions). I’d like to see a podcast with our “Some Sort of Rock Show” hosted by John Staffieri, and one to showcase the wealth of material written by our Program Director, John Shirk; his annually themed, daily biblical bites provide encouragement in various disciplines for our listeners and for our staff–since year one–which, looking back, almost seems like a prophetic title now, 1994 was “The Year of Discipleship.” Currently we are in the “Year of Vision” and highlighting “Today’s 20/20 Insights” (from God’s Word).
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
WJTL is having a great time with each of these age groups, we hope the long-term investment piques their radio curiosity.
College: 2018 WJTL partnered with Lancaster Bible College with their onsite construction of “Studio B,” an exact replica of the WJTL broadcast studio, their professor for Broadcasting has been a long time DJ with WJTL.
High School: I love to see the eyes of teenagers light up when they pile into the broadcast studio once a month. A local church youth group is selected to spend two hours doing different elements of programming and broadcasting (We haven’t been able to do Youth Group Nights in 2020).
Pre-teen: I field calls nightly from young people calling to get their personal favorite WJTL songs on the radio. Sometimes you can hear a parent coaxing them in the back ground, helping them select a song or say an artist’s name, teaching them not only to listen to their local radio station, but also to be an active member of what’s happening on the air during The REQUEST Show.
Children: Since 2012 we have hosted a free annual family event at The Junction Center. The Kids Cookie Break (KCB) is the back bone of this event, which has been in the WJTL community and on the air Saturday mornings since 1999. Founder/host Lisa Landis has even broadcast her show live from Kenya and Guatemala (and more) in partnership with a local non-profit.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
The biggest obstacle for Christian Radio is lethargy.
That’s a broad-based statement, I know. We have to continue to meet our audience where they are, and I believe that has to be done without diluting the power of the cross. I love this simple mantra from Matt Redman, a master songwriter in our industry, “did I talk about the cross today?” Did I point people to His Word, His Gift of redemption, His Church?
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
CB Radio-I was at ease with my community at my fingertips (or rather at my thumb lever).
Big Sky Country AM560 KMON-as child I used to study their format and try to duplicate it.
Paul Harvey-his product salesmanship (I still only buy Wells Lamont gloves), and his story telling
Andy Rooney-his candor
John Garabedian-“Open House Party” blew my circuits when it hit the airwaves