Career Capsule: Dawn: While attending the University of Kentucky, I needed a job. In the newspaper Want Ads, the Christian radio station needed someone to work the morning shift. I had no radio experience nor did I listen to Christian radio but thought it sounded interesting. WJMM-FM/AM in Lexington, KY took a chance on me. I worked eight months until it no longer fit my class schedule. The PD who hired me moved back to MI and four years later called out of the blue to offer me a co-host position on the morning team, at an all music station in the Grand Rapids market. WJQK (now Joy99) would be my home for a few years and will always be in my heart. Thinking my radio days were over I was surprised by the Lord once again after moving to TN and being asked by Moody Radio if I’d ever consider returning to the air. Never say never, I’ve learned to pray first (I learned that the hard way, of course!) Serving part-time as a solo host for Moody Radio Nashville for 6 years, full time for 2 additional years, I then moved into one of the host spots for the Network morning show, Dawn & Steve in the Morning.
Steve: First radio class and air shift as a high school senior! Attended Moody Bible Institute to learn about the Bible and major in communications. Began working at Moody Radio, January, 1995. While working at MR, I began producing and co-hosting Open the Bible, the Bible teaching program of Pastor Colin Smith, which I’m still currently doing along with co-hosting a couple other Bible teaching programs. I left MR in 2010 to go full time with Open the Bible and other free-lance voice over and audio production work. In 2020, I rejoined Moody Radio as co-host of Dawn and Steve in the Morning, the Network Morning Show for Moody Radio.
Dawn & Steve, tell us what’s new at Moody Radio Nashville… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU and the morning show?
We’re enjoying our newest benchmark, Moody Tunes! We invite artists to come in studio and share their music live on the air. It’s been a great time of hearing God-stories and live music! We’re beginning to get the team out again and our first trip to Spokane, WA with our listeners at KMBI is coming up Aug. 17 & 18th! We’ve enjoyed Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, KY and connecting with colleagues at CMB! Our team does love to travel when possible!
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
Dawn: I’ve not always done this well but I’ll say that since returning to Moody Radio in 2016, I’ve tried to make this a priority. Spiritual health has to be priority ONE and time with friends and family, is a close second. Learning to say no to good things and even people, has been the most challenging for me as a morning host but it has been 100% necessary to keep my sanity and my health. Bottom line I had to ask myself, “as much as it depends on me”, how long do I want to do this job and love my family well. Since my passion is to do both of those areas of life well, I had to learn to set boundaries and stick to them (that’s hard for me but it’s happening!)
Steve: Admittedly, this has been a struggle for me but I continue to learn the importance of having a life outside of the studio. This current season finds me reprioritizing my schedule and re-focusing on time with family and serving in my church.
Overall, what is the best advice you could give to someone doing a morning show with a partner(s)? The worst?
Dawn: Best Advice? Love well, forgive often and as quickly as possible, talk it out, trust until untrustworthy, give voice to the strengths of the people on your team, be your co’s biggest fan. Worst advice? Make it all about you, pout, hold a grudge, get nit-picky, and don’t rest well (that’s a killer).
Steve: Best advice? Put your cards on the table right out of the gate and look for ways to play to your partner’s strengths. Laugh a lot. Worst advice? Try to make yourself look good at your partner’s expense.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
Dawn: The stations where I’ve served have always been about connection and companionship for the listener. I’m thankful for these stations! The pandemic revealed on a deeper level our need for one another and if radio is used to bring people together, amazing. It truly does not get lost on me that radio to some, is a lifeline to the Lord. Wow. Bringing that Word to folks post-pandemic is critically necessary.
Steve: I think I was just reminded of the opportunity we have to be a companion to those who are listening. There are a lot of lonely people and to be able to speak truth and encouragement really is a privilege.
What are your thoughts on AI in Christian Radio?
Dawn: I know AI is a threat in so many areas of life in the way we currently do things. It already impacted our lives before we even said the letters “AI” on a consistent basis! But, people need people and radio needs real people to be behind the mics. My hope is that the dollar does not cause us to disconnect the need for God’s image-bearers to be there for one another especially in a medium like radio.
Steve: While AI may be a useful tool, I hope we never lean to heavily upon it or become independent on it to do our jobs. I think there is an authenticity and connection that we can have with listeners that AI will never be able to completely replicate.
Where will new up and coming Christian Radio air talent come from?
Dawn: Oh I think there is talent everywhere with the platforms that acre so prevalent. My question is not where is the talent but what are they willing to commit to time-wise. Who is willing to put in the work and the hours? Will young talent be willing to arrive to a radio station at 5a? Will a live morning show be a time-shifted version of a show recorded on an afternoon to accommodate the fact that o’dark-thirty is not an easy time of the day? Will listeners adapt to a fully-recorded morning show because of the talent and the content? Will the personal connection for a live show be lost? If so, do you just let AI do it? This is already being done as far as morning shows, I know, but losing that connection with the listener to me, would be sad.
Steve: I think the next generation of radio talent will come from the digital world. People who are not afraid of microphones and cameras, because they’re using them already. They’re honing their skills, on the digital platforms, and learning how to be more effective communicators. I think the radio industry will take note of those effective communicators, that can fit with the station’s brand, and bring them on board. These folks will likely see radio as another platform for their brand and message.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Radio?
Dawn: idolatry. The Cultural Research Center has released reports over the past three years that share data which should alarm us when it comes to living out a Biblical worldview. The reports say that in 2020, the US had a 6% biblical worldview. In 2023, that has decreased to 4%. If we’re not reading, studying, and living the Word then something is replacing it in our lives and those things become little ‘g’ gods even if that is not our intent.
Steve: With the increasing secularization of our culture creeping into our churches, I fear we have a growing number of Christians who want to be entertained and want to be told that they’ll “be ok”. The audience is shrinking who want to hear the truth of the Gospel and what it looks like to live out the life of a sold-out follower of Jesus. I also think that with so much content available for free, support for a Christian radio station that is challenging listeners to live counter-culturally and a life of obedience and sacrifice to Christ, will diminish.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Dawn: I appreciate everyone who dons the headphones and gets behind a mic on a radio station, to a very large degree. We all started somewhere! My heroes are the ones who give you your start. The ones who look at someone who isn’t necessarily a “radio jock” but can see that there’s potential and are willing to risk a little time, money and training to see if their hunch is correct. The ones who let you fall asleep during a program and scare the wits out of you, so you won’t do it again but also let you keep your job. My heroes are the ones who stand in the gap when you’re having a bad day and remind you that God has called you and equipped you and He will sustain you even through the messiness of life as you’re learning a new lesson of what it means to trust in Him. The influencers in Christian radio in my life have often been the ones that have no “name” that you will recognize but God sure does know the heart He is working in them to lead and trust the people over which they have influence. My heroes are the unsung names and faces in radio that have sometimes taught how not to do something but most of the time have taught how to lead and love, well.
Steve: Mike Kellogg and Don Cole both had a love for the Bible, a love for their listeners, and a desire to honor Christ and did so faithfully on the air, for a long time. Jonathon Brandmeier, Roe Conn, and Garry Meier showed me that you can both entertain and make a personal connection with the audience. Wayne Shepherd because he can do everything in Christian radio, well.