Career Capsule: I always wanted to be in radio ever since I was 3 years old and the nurse gave me the rubber-tipped plunger to a 60 cc syringe to use as a microphone. Here I am 28 years later, still talking away. My actual career started at Positive Life Radio, based in Walla Walla, WA, in 1990. Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work in Chattanooga, Fresno, Kansas City, in Walla Walla as part of the Positive Life Radio Network (heard in Washington, Oregon and Idaho), and now here. My wife, Lennaé, and I have four kids (Gavin-15, Dia-12, Rayna-10 & Linly-9) and keep pretty busy chauffeuring them from one activity to another. I enjoy playing the piano and love sports, being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL football), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA basketball), and the Kansas City Royals (MLB).
Don, tell us what’s new at KTSY … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
We’re taking the very scary and exciting step of restructuring our parent company, Barefoot Media Ministries, to address the rapidly changing landscape of communications media. We have to get real with the fact that radio is just one of several ways people consume content. So, we’re deep diving into what that will look like for us as content creators. We’re not taking anything for granted. We start at the top of the Brand Value Pyramid (Values & Beliefs) and methodically process and pray our way through all of it. Definitely not a journey that can be hurried. I get really uncomfortable at times, but I’m learning to embrace it with a willingness to grow. The journey is beautiful.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
I don’t worry about “balance.” I try to take an honest look about where I stand with my relationship with Jesus. Through quiet time with Him He begins to reveal and reinforce my true identity in Him. This identity has nothing to do with a title, skill, or reputation. I am His precious child. Period. Since I’ve made the all-in commitment to the process, He’s been gradually changing my priorities. I’m getting clearer all the time about what deserves my time and what needs to die.
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best: My boss, Brian Yeager: “Call Frost (John),” and “Run that by Alan (Mason).”
Worst: “You don’t need a talent coach.”
Collaboration with brilliant people is the way you learn and grow. If you want to be successful, invest significantly in these relationships.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
People need hope more than ever. When I say “hope,” I don’t mean the “when I wish upon a star”- kind of hope. Hope is used in the bible to mean an anticipation of what is certain to come. No matter what we face, no matter how painful it is, we can live with peace and joy in the middle of it all because we are connected to Christ. We all need constant reminders about this truth.
What is your opinion of podcasts for stations & air talent, are they necessary, must have one, etc?… Please explain…
There are a lot of lousy podcasts out there. I know because I did a couple of VERY short-lived ones myself.
You never do something just for the sake of doing it. That’s purely tactical and you will perish. If your talent has a passion for podcasting, a clearly defined niche that fits your station mission, and a passion for that niche, then go for it. Be ready to research, refine and reinvent. Also, be ready to mercy-kill (the podcast, not the talent).
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
You can find talented communicators all over the place. You have to share a compelling vision that will draw them in, then hire an excellent talent coach. Oh, probably the biggest obstacle in drawing in new talent is the abysmal pay. We need to make a significant investment in talent because they are the differentiators between your station and everything else out there.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
The biggest challenges come from inside. Fear to be yourself on the air. It’s a challenge to figure out what part of you is relevant/connects and what is oversharing. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a good talent coach. I’ve worked with Tommy Kramer for 20 years who literally saved my career. I’m now working with Angela Perelli who helps me pinpoint my areas of greatest strength and guides me to bring that to the air. If you want to be great, you MUST get excellent talent coaching.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Todd Isberner – He and Bob Augsburg let a snot-nosed 20-year-old kid tag along on fundraisers and learn the ropes.
Kevin Krueger – He gave me my first radio job and paid for my first talent coaching.
Dan Landrum – Taught me to write and anchor newscasts. His inspirational words after my first newscast will forever ring in my memory: “You sounded like a girl!” Thanks, Dan.=)
Tommy Kramer – My first talent coach who saved my career and guided me for 20 years.
Angela Perelli – My second talent coach who is taking me through a whole different process of connection with my greatest strengths and bringing that creatively to the air.
Brant Hansen, Lisa Williams, and Wally – Because they know EXACTLY who they are, who their listener is and how to connect with that listener. And they’re a great listen! I LOVE the team Frank, Starlene & Hudson in the Morning on KLTY. They are among the best in ANY radio format.
Jerry Woods – Nobody works harder and is as relentless about excellence. He’s my best friend which give him the right to call me out from time to time (which he gladly does).
Ty McFarland – A master programmer who is always willing to help me process through issues. He’s also the one who shattered my “no-math-in-communications theory” when he made me figure out a music rotation issue with an Algebraic equation.
Brian Yeager – KTSY’s big boss and the guy I work for now. He’s a brilliant leader who prioritizes resourcing his people with consulting and coaching. He’s always pushing me to break boundaries and has my back when I screw up. I’ve become the best version of myself under his leadership.
John Frost – He still gives me a headache as he continues to show me that even when I think I’ve got a good grasp of values & beliefs (Brand Value Pyramid) that I’m still a toddler who needs a diaper change.
Alan Mason – He’s willing to share knowledge with me. Whatever he tells me to do, I pretty much say, “Yessir, Mr. Mason,” and “Mr. Mason, how do you want your coffee, sir?”
Dennis Mansfield – He’s my personal coach and mentor who is specifically responsible for a complete shift away from a legalistic shame/guilt burden of religion to accept a growing, free, and joyful friendship with Jesus. He’s the only person to make me cry in my favorite place – a coffee shop.
Dave & Tristi in the Morning on KTSY. Yeah, my own morning show. They’re amazing because they’re uber-talented, work their tails off, and have Tommy Kramer coaching them. I even listen to the show as a fan (which isn’t an easy thing when you’re the PD).