Career Capsule: I started in radio in December of 2012. I kind of fluked my way into a job with my college radio station, KSLU at Southeastern Louisiana University. I would eventually become production director there before moving to WBSN LifeSongs in New Orleans and finally ending up at WayFm in Huntsville, Alabama, where I just celebrated 5 years.
James, tell us what’s new at WayFM Huntsville… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
WayFm Huntsville is undergoing many changes. Brent Sears, our former Station Manager, moved to WayFm Colorado late last year. I was promoted from Operations Coordinator to Operations Director at the beginning of this year. Many things are on the horizon for us! WayFm and its merger with KSBJ has been a blessing and I look forward to continuing to see the positive changes for our joint organization.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
A work life balance is paramount in our industry. And in my opinion, your work should never come before your family. My family is my everything. I love my job, but my wife and daughter give me my purpose. While it is important to be committed to your job, your team, and your company, for me, my family will always come first. Not to say that balancing it isn’t difficult. I wake up early to spend time with my daughter and make sure our house gets off to a good start, I work a full day, go pick her up from school, get home, spend time with her, make dinner, make sure the house is presentable, get her to bed, spend some time with my wife, or even just spend some time relaxing by myself. It’s a full day. I have a computer set up at home to be able to remotely manage anything that crops up, but if it is not an emergency and I can hold it off while I am spending those precious few hours I get with my whole family, I will.
Overall, what are some ways you are able to connect with the local listener on WayFM Huntsville?
Pre-pandemic, we were at events often. Concerts, local remotes, festivals, you name it. Post-pandemic, even years later, the landscape has changed. We are at big concerts, but much more selective with our outings.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
The staying power of Christian radio. I’m not the target demo of Christian radio, and I never really “got” it. I’m not a traditional radio listener. During the pandemic, I honestly thought about the hit radio would take with people not in their vehicles regularly. However, seeing the encouragement and hope that listeners found through Christian radio throughout the pandemic completely changed my perspective on who we are and what we do.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?
I am an avid podcast listener. I listen to everything from true crime, to rewatch podcast, to leadership seminars. You name it, I’ve listened. That includes WayFm’s very own Wally Show Podcast. While Wally has an amazing show specific podcast, not all radio shows are fit to be done in podcast format. Wally, Betty Rock, and Gavin have a chemistry that translates well from on-air to podcasting. However, I think that Christian Broadcasters and companies should look into developing ideas that could translate to the podcast realm and serve our listeners. Once again looking to WayFm and Hope Media Group; we have just launched the On-Ramp podcast. It’s a daily Bible reading podcast for those who have trouble getting started with reading the Bible regularly. We also have the Holy Mess Podcast with Bekah and Joy, where they tackle issues that listeners can relate to with honesty and transparently. Podcasts like that, along with show specific podcasts, could really carve a niche in the Christian Radio audience. But the talent or the subject matter have to be right.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I have a feeling that more and more radio content, talent, and companies will come out of or move to the greater Nashville area. Its fertile ground.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
I think air-talent must be prepared to venture into territory that may be uncomfortable. I was a youth pastor and have worked with teens for many years. They are very quickly joining the ranks of our target demo. The upcoming generations seek transparency. They do not want phony, surface level, conversations. They want deep, honest, hard conversations that tackle real-world problems. If someone is on-air and not prepared to venture into this authentic territory, then I believe we will begin seeing more and more tune out and less and less retention.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I was never a radio guy growing up. I liked having control of what I listened to. My oldest brother, Chad, actually was the one who got me into radio. He was the underwriting director for my college’s radio station. I would visit his office throughout the week and got to know the staff. When he left, he told the manager to give me a shot. The rest is history.
Since then, my influences have been the people who have taken chances on me and poured into me for the past 8 plus years.