I am somewhat of a rarity in the broadcast world.
As I sit here typing at my desk in the radio station, I am less than 3 miles from the high school where I graduated in 1975. I am 4 miles from the hospital where I was born, and I’m just 19 miles from the college where I received my degree in Journalism.
Other than a couple of years in Wilmington, DE (market size #82 according to Nielsen, and only 64 miles from where I sit), I have spent most of my 44-years in the broadcasting industry working in a small market. (Salisbury/Ocean City is ranked #134)
If you are a broadcast veteran working your dream job in a large market, you may feel sorry for me. But please don’t.
I am here because I want to be here. When I was younger, and working in TV news in this market, I got the itch to move to a bigger station in a bigger city. Mostly because it meant a bigger paycheck. But the urge went away and I stayed here.
I’ve never been fired. I’ve never uprooted my family to start over in a new city. And I don’t have to fight traffic on the beltway driving to work. That’s because we don’t have a beltway. Or an airport.
What I do have is roots. Deep, life-long connections and relationships in our community. The kind that go back decades in some cases, and give me a unique perspective on what’s happening here. Denise Harper, our PD and my co-host on The Morning Show, grew up 8 miles from here. She and I just celebrated the 30th anniversary of our first broadcast together at a station here in town. Our afternoon guy, and Assistant PD, Mark Dickey also grew up in the market. In fact, most of our staff can say the same thing.
Sure, we’ve hired people from other stations and other states, and there’s nothing wrong with honing your craft and moving up from city to city. It’s the norm for a reason.
But it was never my desire, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
I do admit to sometimes feeling ‘less than’ when I am in a room full of broadcasters who work in large and major markets. Many of them are doing great things with their resources, and their stations are doing things we can only dream of with our smaller staff and smaller budgets. But that doesn’t lessen the impact small market stations are having in small markets.
It also doesn’t lessen the talent found in most small market stations. I’d put my team up against any large market station. Because the reality is most everybody in our building could be working at a much larger station if they wanted to. But like me, they choose to serve here. And most of us are happy to wear multiple hats because it makes life way less boring.
Being small doesn’t mean you have to think small. We dream big. We write BHAG’s (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) on sheets of paper and we develop plans to make them happen. We think big, we pray big, we serve big and we love big.
Even the most successful and highest rated small market radio stations don’t have a massive cume. But I rarely see a successful one without massive heart, commitment and dedication to their community.
As a small market broadcaster, it can be intimidating to be in meetings and conferences with people from major market stations. I sat at dinner just a week ago with someone who manages a radio station with a weekly cume higher than the total population of our market. His staff is 10 times bigger than mine. And their impact blows me away.
I returned home feeling a little discouraged, and caught up in the comparison game. Until I walked into our station on Monday morning, and we started getting calls from listeners, and I started catching up on emails and letters that came in while I was gone. One letter was from an inmate in a local prison. English is his second language, but he told us how much impact The Bridge is having on his life, and on some of his friends who gather every day in his cell to listen and to pray and read the Bible. He sent us $30.
His name is Joel, and he could care less about how many watts our transmitter is, or if it is licensed to a small town or a big city. He’s just happy we’re here doing what we do.
And so am I.
If you work in a small community, remember God chose a small market to announce the greatest news in the history of the world. If He had been going for cume He would have announced the birth of Jesus in Jerusalem. Instead, He chose to broadcast to a few shepherd’s working the night shift. He did it because they were the audience that needed to hear the message. Just like your community needs to hear the message that you are called to share.
Fellow small market broadcasters – you are not second class. The population count in your city has nothing to do with your calling or your impact or your talent or your potential.
What you are doing is no small thing!
Bill Sammons is president/general manager and morning show co-host at The Bridge (WKNZ/Dover, WNKZ/Salisbury, WNJH/Cape May). After a career in mainstream radio and TV, Bill started Delaware’s first Christian radio station in 1990. He is married to Julie, and has 5 children. He’s a lifelong resident of Delaware.
Contact Bill at [email protected]