Career Capsule: I have been very fortunate to be at WJTL since 1984. I worked at 2 local stations prior to that. The way I got into radio may interest some. I was singing at a local fair and a guy came up to me and asked if I had ever considered working in radio. He invited me to audition for an on air spot. The next day I went into a little room and read a couple of promos and commercials. The Program Director came in and listened to the tape. He said, “Hey that’s pretty good. Better than my first demo was. Come over here.” He took me into the on air studio and said, “This is the right turntable, this is the left turntable, this is the microphone. You are on the air. I’ve got stuff to do in the other room.” I had been there less than 10 minutes and was on the radio. Thankfully I took to it pretty quickly and I loved it. I have been in radio ever since. Many of our staff at WJTL have been here for a long time. John Shirk, Lisa Landis and I have all been here 30 plus years. Many others have been here over 20 years. We really are like a family. We are very fortunate to have such consistency and familiarity on the air all these years. This has allowed us to develop long-term friendships with our listeners. That’s really what WJTL is all about and I’m thankful to be a part of something so special.
Fred, tell us what’s new at WJTL … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
We are excited to be doing events again at our campus. We have a 700 seat auditorium and this past month we’ve had concerts, fundraisers, banquets, and local theatre. That’s a great post-covid sign. The end of last year we received the GMA Radio Impact Award recognizing the career impact of our now President Emeritus Tim Landis. Tim retired in the Summer of 2021 and we were pleased his contribution to radio and our community was recognized by the GMA and his peers.
Personally, we just welcomed our 7th grandchild! I’m also recording a new music project. I do music for kids and families and I have been in the studio with my friend and producer Steven Courtney.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life’?
It doesn’t matter what line of work you are in, work is part of life. It is important to invest in family, friends, church, hobbies, the community, and yourself. Work is a part of life, it can’t be all of life. We have all seen families that have been negatively affected by people being overworked. It’s important that family is a priority. We’ve tried to reflect that in our decisions with our staff at WJTL. We’ve made mistakes but our goal is to allow our team to achieve that balance as best they can. There are a lot of demands on people these days. Grace is a great offset to all the pressure we face.
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Remaining Live and Local is what WJTL is all about. Any encouragement we’ve received to keep plugging away at being live on the air and involved in community events has been the best advice and encouragement we have received. Any words to the contrary has been the worst.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
I don’t think we’ve learned anything new but it has reinforced how personal and important radio is. During the pandemic many of our listeners felt disconnected from work, church, family and friends. Radio’s ability to be your friend, keep you company and encourage you in such a personal way, became even more evident during a time our listeners felt isolated and alone.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?
Podcasting is like anything else, if you are energized by it and feel a calling to do it, then it is important. Everyone should not feel compelled to have a podcast just because they have a radio show. We have a Praise and Worship podcast that allows our host to dive deeper into interviews of worship leaders, song writers and local worship team members. We can give the 2 minute version on air and invite listeners to the half hour podcast if they are interested. In my opinion that is they key; to have podcasts that are integrated but offer more detail for those who want it.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
Radio is not on the radar as a career or calling like it has been in the past. WJTL is very fortunate to have a relationship with Lancaster Bible College and their communications department. Kristi Leigh from our staff has been the Professor of their “Intro to Radio” class for the past 5 years. Many of her students have interned with us and some of them have been asked to stay as on-air staff here at the station. I realize this is not the norm. To tie in with your last question I guess future talent could come from podcasters. Podcasting does allow for anyone to stretch and develop their communication chops.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
We face many obstacles. Perhaps the biggest is the perception that radio is dead – It is an outdated medium. I don’t believe that is true. There is still nothing like radio for its ability to be personal and yet at the same time, unobtrusive. I don’t like the insinuation that radio is no longer relevant. While we do have a lot more competition for our listeners ear I believe we can thrive as we continue to meet the needs of our listeners and our communities. Let’s not give up on radio yet!
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Hal Raymond was my first radio hero. He was on our local AM powerhouse – WSBA in York, PA when I was a little kid. This would have been in the late 60s and early 70s. He was the morning show host and he was a natural communicator. Talk about playlist curating before that was even a word, that was what Hal Raymond did. He owned the music choices and he integrated his schtick into what the station was playing. He played tons of novelty tunes too. He wished people happy birthday. He was involved in the community and was constantly talking about events and places in the community. I felt like he knew me and I knew him. Looking back on it now I see how listening to Hal every morning shaped my love of radio. My second radio hero is Art Sell. Art had a one hour Christian Radio show on FM97 in the late 70s and early 80s. This was before I knew Christian Radio even existed. I was a new Christian and Art’s show (cleverly called Sell-a-bration) introduced me to Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, The 2nd Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire and Keith Green. Art was not a radio guy. He managed the local Coca-Cola distributor. He was so conversational on the air. He wasn’t trying to be a professional announcer. He came across as just a regular guy who loved the music he was playing, AND he loved the Lord. He talked about his faith in that same down-to-earth way and it had a big impact on me at the time and continues to inspire me in the way I want to be on the radio today.