Donna Cruz Interview
Career Capsule: When I was a kid I’d go into the pantry and pull out anything in a box and pretend to do a commercial for that product just to entertain my family! I’d read the brand names on things around the kitchen and make up jingles while I was doing the dishes. My family was NOT entertained by that but rather annoyed.
At 19 I got serious about doing radio and voice overs. I started volunteering at KXCR in El Paso and two months later got my first REAL job at P-P-P Power 102.
My dream at the time was to make it onto the station I grew up listening to in San Antonio, KTFM. Three years later THAT happened. Other highlights for me include KZEP also in San Antonio, which led to tv entertainment reporting on the local NBC station with “The Hot Ticket” on Friday morning. From there, KS95 in Minneapolis which also gave me the opportunity to be a part of VH1’s Rock Across America and the Big Bad Movie Review.
I felt like I ignored the first tug at my heart to cross over into ministry radio so I did something really scary and took the leap to WAY-FM as Program Director and Mornings. Most recently I was at Spirit 105.9 in Austin which has been sold. My dream job is to be the voice of a cartoon. A smart, sarcastic one like Phineas and Ferb.
Currently I’m voice tracking for KCBI in Dallas, His Radio Network and Word FM network as well as almost 10 years on syndicated Keep The Faith.
Donna tell us what’s new with you … news, changes, etc?
Like many since the pandemic I’ve lost work. Lots of work. The silver lining? It’s given me the opportunity to really be a better storyteller. Joel Burke, KCBI PD has been a great coach in story-telling. Putting to use the art and science I’ve learned from the best of teachers I’ve ever known, John Frost and Tommy Kramer over the last 18 years has been revitalizing.
How has your show been affected by the pandemic?
Not only has Covid made it easier in my opinion to be more transparent than ever before but what we’ve been hurting through and healing through together as a nation has given opportunity to deliberately find common ground.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best programming advice I’ve ever been given was to put my own thumbprint on the station. Had I received it with more of a humble heart it might not have also been the WORST advice I’d ever put into action. Simply put, I moved too fast like a bull in a china cabinet and that caused an uneasy work environment. Maturity has shown me the value in slowing down.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
Competition has caused me to up my game in all areas, especially in radio. Whether it’s another Christian station coming into the market or another jock who’s doing a better show. Some markets have been over saturated by Christian stations to the point where they just subtract from each other.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I hope there are still kids who grow up dreaming about being on radio. But for that to happen they need to be able to listen to dynamic personalities! There were so many back in the 70’s and 80’s who were truly creating art. Theater of the mind has gone by the wayside in so many stations because employees are wearing too many hats. I was once Program Director and morning show plus writing the e-mail blast, checking in on the listener advisory board, music testing, speaking engagements and appearances, crafting station liners, promos and spots and I would spend 12 hours easy each day at the station and there was still not enough time to be as creative as I wanted to be. It became a job. And you know what they say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. For a while, I stopped loving it.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
I think it’s always been the balancing act. We can sometimes get too far inside our own heads and stress about “if I say this than a listener might call and complain” or “this might come off as too churchy”. We really to have the most challenging on air jobs in any format- Keep it real, reflect the lister’s lifestyle, live it out, be fun and engaging but not so goofy that when you’re sharing about faith you can’t be trusted.
This year is really different because people are more open to hearing about faith. And some people are not but they’re STILL looking for hope. I’ve heard plenty of mainstream personalities sharing quick bits about faith recently too.
The second obstacle for so many stations in our format is money. The kind of coaching we have available in our CCM format is second to none. It’s a matter of applying it. Sounds like something my parents would say about getting better grades. Either the resources are available to bring in talent coaches or they’re not. Many stations can’t afford to pay their personalities enough to keep them. And even though I’ve seen this area improve greatly in the last 18 years, the qualifications from the top down of an organization are just not “there” in some cases because the station’s financial infrastructure just can’t support leadership of a certain level.
This year even mainstream radio went through more management changes than I’ve ever seen.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I love listening to a wide variety of talent! Mainstream and Christian. It’s hard to pick favorites because I listen to different personalities for different reasons. Plus, I’d read this article somewhere down the line an realize I’d left someone out! BUT…Keith Stevens is one of my recent listens. He’s really delivering theater of the mind! His cadence, beds and voice differentiation are spot on! Heather Sheppard uses her soft, kind, natural voice and can just make you feel right at home instantly! And Julia Taylor is truly entertaining, sharing the real life (you can’t make this stuff up) stories from her family. Sheesh! I said I wasn’t gonna pick favorites.
One thought on “Donna Cruz Interview”
Keep up the good work, Donna!