Dave Margalotti Interview
Director of Radio Operations
Career Capsule: My radio adventure began straight out of college in 1986 as a Sunday morning host for a Big Band/Swing station in Hyde Park, NY. In the late 80’s, I moved on to an AC station in northern NJ where I eventually took on MD and PD responsibilities while also hosting afternoon drive. In 1999, I began a 15-plus year run as Program and Operations Director for an AM station in the New York City market. During that time, we transitioned the station from a music format to News/Talk. And after 28 years in secular radio, as I had become completely disillusioned and frustrated with the never-ending and increasingly meaningless pursuit of ratings and revenue, God finally opened the door to Christian radio for me in 2014 here at Family Life which has given me the opportunity to live out my faith while using the skills and talents He has equipped me with for His glory.
Dave, tell us what’s new at Family Life … news, changes, & new with YOU… etc?
2020 was a year of challenges, but it was also a year of opportunity and God has been leading us through it all. We launched a new podcast platform with some of our own original content about a year and a half ago. Since then, the number of monthly downloads has grown by more than 1,000 percent! Praise God. Terese Talk hosted by our morning show co-host Terese Main has recently relaunched as a weekly podcast designed to help listeners grow in their faith in fun and encouraging ways. Our Senior Production Assistant, Tim Powers has taken on the responsibility of producing a twice-monthly podcast called If That Makes Sense. It’s hosted by some of our twenty-something team members who talk about the challenges and questions facing their generation as followers of Jesus. We’ve got a few other offerings and some new ideas in the works too. All of our podcasts can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or at www.fln.org/podcasts. Brandon Dickson was recently promoted to the position of News Director and he’s done an amazing job of leading our news team through some of the biggest challenges and struggles of our time as we seek to bring a Christ-centered perspective to what’s happening in our country and our world.
How has your job changed during the pandemic?
Aside from the technical challenges of working remotely that a lot of broadcasters had to face, the pandemic has really given us an opportunity to grow in our understanding of listener expectations along with the ability to serve them better by being more focused on what they are coming to us for. I’ll give you one example. This past September, we launched a new initiative called Intentional Ministry Opportunities. The idea is to have a different focus each month, something that will help listeners grow spiritually and move into a closer relationship with Jesus. Our monthly focus areas are addressed and reinforced with content breaks from our on-air hosts, special imaging, creative spots and elements from our production team, special features from our news team, topics discussed in our podcasts, and with posts across our social media platforms. It’s been incredible to see all aspects of the radio department moving in the same direction, at the same time, for the same purpose, and of course for God’s glory! Some of our previous focus areas have been on Attending Church, Finding Peace in Trying Times, and Generosity/Helping Those In Need. This month (January), our Intentional Ministry focus is on Creation as we challenge listeners to embrace the biblical account of creation and the truth of the Gospel. Next month (Feb), we will be talking about Singleness as we seek to help people find their true identity in a relationship with Jesus instead of a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. I’m really proud of the work our team as done in this area.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I really can’t think of just one thing that would count as the worst or the best programming advice I’ve been given. My approach to programming has certainly grown and evolved over the years as the paradigm of media consumption has changed. To be successful today, you cannot be programming or doing your show the same way you did it 10 or 20 years ago. Radio, and especially those working in Christian radio, need to understand how our world has changed, that the way people connect and communicate has changed, and that the things they are coming to us for have changed as well. We need to understand of all that, and we need to connect with listeners with sincerity, authenticity, and a willingness to be honest and vulnerable if we are going to be effective messengers for Christ.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
I don’t know how you define what’s better, or not better. In most of the markets we serve through our network of signals in New York and Pennsylvania, there are other Christian radio stations on the air. They are not our competition. They are our brothers and sisters in ministry. We may have different approaches, different content, different styles of programming or music, etc., but all of us are united in our mission to grow the kingdom of heaven. I love that our General Manager, Rick Snavely prays for our ministry allies during each of our sharathons. He mentions them by name on the air, asks our listeners to join us in praying for them and to seek the Lord’s blessing and provision for them. No one radio ministry can ever reach one hundred percent of the population living within range of its’ broadcast signal. So in that regard, I would say having more Christian stations is a good thing.
What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?
Podcasts are not a threat and not meant to replace radio. But they do give radio ministries another platform for outreach. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been encouraged by the growth we’ve seen with our own podcasts. And what I love most about podcasting is that it gives us a chance to narrow our focus to minister to specific groups in ways that are targeted to their unique needs. For example, our podcast – If That Makes Sense – is hosted by a group of twenty-somethings who understand the questions and challenges of their generation. Because of that, they are able to equip and encourage young adults in ways that we could never do with our over-the-air broadcasts. By the way, those twenty-somethings probably aren’t listening to a lot of radio either. If they are not going to come to us, we need to bring the message of hope that we have in Jesus to them. Podcasting gives us the ability to do just that.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
Rather than looking for DJ’s, those of us in Christian radio need to be looking for people who have a passion for the Lord, a desire to serve Him, and the natural ability to speak of His promises and His goodness in connective, approachable, authentic, and non-preachy ways. If we make that the focus of our search, we can train them the rest of the way.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
There are a lot of ways I can answer this question, but I think the one answer that universally applies to all of us it this. We need to contently guard against pridefulness if we are going to be effective in what we do. The founder of our ministry, Dick Snavely gave us an edict that we still follow closely to this day, “To God Be the Glory”. Any success we’ve had as a ministry is because of God and what He has done through us. Not because of what we’ve done. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but without Him our best efforts are bound to fail.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I grew up listening to New York City radio stations in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a different era and a different time, but there was something almost magical about hearing people like Pat St. John, Scott Muni, Ron Lundy, Dan Ingram, etc. on the air. They had this unbelievable ability to make you feel like you were a part of something special. Like you were a part of their show and that they weren’t just speaking to a huge audience, they were talking to you and only you. I loved the intimacy and realism of that connection. It’s what got me hooked on radio as a kid and all these years later, it’s still helping me craft new ways to connect with listeners today.