Career Capsule: Worked in General Market Radio in the late 70’s (KRMG, KWEN and KXXO in Tulsa). Worked in local Christian radio for 13 years at KCFO in Tulsa, KRDS in Phoenix, KFIA in Sacramento and KSLR in San Antonio.
Co-Host of Family Life Today radio program from 1992 – 2021: On-air announcer for Truth for Life with Alistair Begg from 2010 – present: Morning host on Family Radio since 2022
Inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame in 2022
Bob, tell us what’s new at Family Radio… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU and the morning show?
I’ve been so encouraged over the past year to see all that is going on at Family Radio! We’ve been working hard to upgrade our signal in our key markets and to continue to fine tune our music programming. We’ve been tracking with the growing modern hymn movement over the past five years, incorporating music from the Gettys, City Alight, Selah, Andrew Peterson, Phil Wickham and so many other artists who are writing and recording theologically rich and deeply meaningful songs for the church. We’ve added many of these new hymns to our library of classic, timeless hymns with fresh arrangements and instrumentation. We’re seeing audience growth in our key markets along with dramatic gains in our online and app listening. When you have a format where listeners can sing along with just about any song we play, that’s a win!
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life’?
I’ve learned over my years in radio that if I’m not taking care of my own soul and of my family, my work in radio will suffer. It’s easy to allow our accomplishments or the response of listeners to our work to draw us into the trap of thinking our identity is found in what we do. I want what I do on air not to be a performance, but an overflow of what God is doing in my own life. Working as part of a marriage and family ministry for almost three decades, I know how critical it is to make sure I’m keeping my priorities straight!
Overall, what is the best advice you could give to someone doing a morning show? The worst?
The best? Have an empty chair in the studio and imagine your target listener is sitting in that chair. Talk to him (or her) directly. One on one. I know it’s called “broadcasting” but in reality, we’re talking to one person at a time.
The worst advice? Use a lot of generic Christian jargon and cliches as you talk. Stay shallow and generic. Say things like “blessed” and “it’s all about Jesus” and “Good morning” a whole lot.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
I learned how lonely and isolated people are, and how damaging that can be. It’s been true for a long time (see the book Bowling Alone which came out in 2000), but the pandemic made it more obvious. Being aware of that, and realizing that we have an opportunity to be a friend and companion for someone who is isolated makes what we’re doing more significant. Of course, a radio friend isn’t the same as a real friend. But for lonely and isolated people, we may be the only warm, kind, comforting voice they hear all day.
What are your thoughts on AI in Christian Radio?
I think AI can be a content catalyst for us. Just like a Google search can open doors and spur our thinking and our creativity, AI can be a tool that can get the ball rolling when we need help. We have to be careful not to become overly dependent on AI or to think that it can provide us with a finished product. It’s like a research assistant. It’s our job to take the input it provides, and shape it and humanize it before we do anything else with it.
Where will new up and coming Christian Radio air talent come from?
I think it’s going to come from where it’s always come from. The best on air talent I’ve heard are people who have been long time fans of radio themselves. They’ve listened to and loved radio for years. Of course, as podcasting has proved, there’s a lot more to being good on air than just being a fan who has a microphone! But I think you have to love the medium to be good at it. The best air talent I know all share a common story – they grew up with the radio on all the time.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Radio?
The proliferation of audio options in our day means all of us face new challenges for time spent listening. I’ve long been an advocate for radio to be as locally involved and as personality driven as we can possibly be. People have unprecedented access to the music we play. Whenever I want to hear a particular song, all I have to do is tell Alexa to play it for me. But what Alexa can’t do is be a human companion. That’s where radio can win.
With regard to Christian radio (and American Christianity in general), I’m concerned with the shallow presentation of our faith. We’re working hard to reach as many people as possible, and that’s good. But in the process, we’re being careful to make sure we’re not offending anyone or saying anything that isn’t positive or encouraging. That’s like presenting a half-gospel. And as JI Packer said years ago, a half gospel is really no gospel at all. How we winsomely communicate the whole gospel to our listeners is perhaps our greatest issue as communicators.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I grew up in St. Louis listening to a radio legend named Jack Carney. When I worked at KRMG in Tulsa, I worked alongside Ron Erling. In 1982, I took a road trip with Paul Martin and Tim McDermott so we could study and analyze exactly what Ron Chapman was doing at KRLD in Dallas. All three men were masters of personality radio – warm, fun, funny, friendly, smart. They were real.
Over the years, I’ve tried to learn from master communicators – everyone from Paul Harvey to Steve Dahl to Don Imus. I’ve always tried to ask myself the question “why did that work?” When you can figure out the why, you’re halfway home.