Career Capsule: 1989-1993: AM Drive/MD/PD/Interim Station Mgr – WLVX/Hartford, 1993-2004: VP, Nat’l Promotions and Business Development – Christian Media Promotions/Atlanta GA (CMP), 2004-2006: Instructor, Communication – Central CT State Univ., 2006-present: Professor, Communication/Media – Manchester (CT) Community College, 2011-present: Producer/Show Host/Promotions Coordinator – WSDK/Hartford, LifeChanging Radio
Al, tell us what’s new at Life Changing Radio… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
As part of the largest commercial Christian Talk Radio Network in the Northeast, we’re now up to 12 signals across 5 different states (CT, RI, MA, NH, and ME), the newest & largest market is now Boston MA on WILD Radio. Next Spring ‘23, it’ll be 12 years for me w/ LCR (which, “coincidentally,” has been at the now same signal where I originally got my 1st-ever Christian Radio job back in 1989 at WLVX. Life does come full circle sometimes!) Working for a family-run business has been such a privilege – Bill and Debbie Blount have carried a continuous vision and torch for New England, along w/ Dave Young, our VP of Operations. They continue to tirelessly finalize some FM translators and shore up some of our aging facilities. Christian Radio is alive & well across New England! What’s new w/ me? My wife & I continue to be dual-professor empty nesters, seeking out new adventures whenever possible. Being a college professor continues to be a blessing, where I’ve enjoyed being Faculty Advisor at our award-winning college radio station, training up “young skulls full of mush” to become effective on-air producers and communicators.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
Of course it’s vital to balance family and work. We both work hard to create a relaxing sanctuary at home, and make time to (re-)connect every day/evening. I count it a unique & special time in our lives now as empty nesters, because it’s kind of back to where it all started – just my wife & I. “Having a life” outside of your job/ministry is important to keep healthy, resilient in these challenging times, and to always “look for the funny!” And I do live by the “Happy wife = Happy life” principle!
Overall, what is the best programming or show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best pieces of programming advice I ever rec’d:
“Create destination listening” (Mike McVay)
“Take the 1st exit ramp” (Tommy Kramer)
“Super-serve your P1s” (Brad Burkhart)
“Interested means interesting; the personal becomes universal” (Val Geller)
Worst: Me, naively, to a morning jock once: “Hey, want some potato chips before ya go on the air?!” [he wound up choking on air…]
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
That Christian Radio continues to grow well, reach more listeners, start more new stations, and still is a primary driver to help sell music! The future is indeed bright – and – there are talented, eager college students who are ready, willing, & able to fill your internships and jobs! (#CMBU)
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?
Podcasting is fun, relatively cheap & easy to produce, w/ distributions platforms aplenty. Some of my students find these digital editing skills so empowering to be creative with and even find a new career trajectories. But just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should create a pod. Everybody, and their brother, and their Lyft driver’s cousin – all have a wannabe pod. So… Have something to say, but it should be compelling and unique in some way. I’m also a big fan of “shorter” vs. long-form pods. It’s more time efficient to both create and consume shorter content (3-5-10 mins.) vs. 30-60-90(!)-min. pods (must be nice to have so much free time on your hands…) I like to listen to briefer pods myself, so…
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I just returned from Nashville in mid-Nov. after attending yet another CMBUniversity Conference weekend. So fun, so inspiring, and such amazing networking opportunities for both me and my students that I chaperoned! It was so encouraging to see scores of enthusiastic college students and recent grads who are sincerely ready to roll up their sleeves and join a Christian station somewhere around the country. If they are ready to make a move out of state, my one humble suggestion to PDs & station staff would be to help these bright-eyed young’uns find some decent housing (which is obviously a major expense) and continue welcoming them warmly into your station “family”!
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
Finding that authentic balance between wearing your faith on your sleeve, all while being “real” w/ your audience (“1 listener at a time”). I think that making the time to do some solid show prep will always benefit you and your listeners. The best radio hosts I know are constantly doing show prep before, during, AND after their shows – keeping their target filters constantly at top of mind. And stay plugged into a local church – it’s mission-critical to your own spiritual health, and keeps you in touch w/ some real “audience members.” Lead by example.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I would not be where I am without Ed Lenane and Lloyd Parker, who gave me my 1st Christian radio job(s), and then invested time to mentor me and take me under their wings. I learned promotions, production, but especially (CCM) programming from them. They imbued trust and high expectations in me, which meant quite a lot. I knew I found a calling to Christian broadcasting when I realized that every time I drove to that station outside of Hartford for my long, lonely, overnight weekend shifts, I’d feel excited everytime; and that when I went on-air, I knew I was “in the zone.” Brad Burkhart was also someone who plucked me out of CT to move to GA and work not only with him, but under the tutelage of his father Kent (who practically invented Top 40 Radio, and legendary radio consultants like Lee Abrams. Thru Brad, I met and worked w/ dozens of programmers and GMs – plus amazing record label execs – many of whom I’m blessed to still call friends and colleagues (some who have generously become brilliant guest callers and Zoomers in my college classes over these past 16 years – I’m intensely staring at you: Jen Allen, Kai Elmer, Mark Giles, Dan Michaels, Nik Curtis-Beal, Todd Stach, Doug Hannah, Dave Cruse, Melissa Montana, Neal Hopson… Scott Smith – you’re next!) I was reminded of this powerfully during my brief weekend in Nashville attending the recent CMBUniversity and fondly catching up w/ the likes of people I’ve known now for 20-30+ years: Jeff Scott, Brian MacIntyre, Chris “The Lemmer” Lemke, Bill Sammons, Paul Anthony, Grant Hubbard, Rob Dempsey, and of course – Michelle Younkman! I was reminded powerfully that you can take the girl out of the country… [nope, that’s not it] you can take the Korean busboy out of the Chinese restaurant… [no, still wrong] Er um, anyhoot, CCM is truly a family that transcends miles and years, and reunions with old friends always feel like home. So blessed to still be a part of it all!