Career Capsule: While in Seminary in 1976 I was inspired by Pat Robertson to get into Christian Broadcasting. After graduating, the only job I could get was night jock at a local Rock & Country station, KRMS in Osage Beach. I left that for a job in Christian radio at KHYM, Gilmer, TX in 1979 and was promoted to station manager of KLXL-FM in Dubuque, IA, in May 1980. In late 1982, the owners decided to go country and I said goodbye. After meeting with several people, we formed a board and applied for KCVO in 1984, were approved in Oct, 1984, and got on the air in Sep 1985. I have been blessed to stay here for 38.5 years, growing that one station into 23 signals across Missouri. But after 45 years on the air, I am retiring at the end of June and looking at a new challenge.
Jim, tell us what’s going on with all the changes happening at Spirit FM etc… and what’s new with YOU? Your future plans?
Over two years ago I approached Jason Sharp to see if Northwestern Media might be willing to buy the LAEBF stations. It worked out that we were able to put a deal together and NWM will officially take over Spirit FM on July 5th. I had set 70 as a goal retirement age and only beat that by two months. But what is retirement? It’s more like refocusing on a new ministry – Connect Media Ministries. I hope to be able to help struggling media ministries, by helping to provide financial grants for equipment, software and engineering needs for which they have no budget.
What do you accredit your long successful run to the most?
I would not be where I am today without the great Christian radio organizations that I have been a part of for 40 years. NGRS, NCRS, NCRA, CMB, and now CMB+ — those broadcasters who have been and still are bonding together to make each other better. They are a major part of why I have been able to do what I do. Another reason for my success is the leadership of my board, especially my wife, Alice. The board always encouraged me to stretch the boundaries. Alice provided the financial acumen to make our donors dollars go ever further. My goal was to get Christian radio to those in Missouri who didn’t have it from some other station.
Overall, what is the best advice you could give to someone entering Christian Radio? The worst?
Honestly, the best advice for anyone wanting to work in Christian radio is to get your own spiritual “house” in order. Don’t get so familiar with the music that it no longer moves to you worship. If you are not filled with His Spirit, how are you going to share that Spirit with your listeners? Worst: pre-record all of your breaks and never ever talk to a listener in person.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
I learned that what we do every day on Christian radio is what our world NEEDS desperately to help people overcome the growing isolationist culture. We need people interaction in ways beyond what we can directly control. Christian radio can challenge a generation to be proactive in engaging people one-on-one or in large groups to become more than they ever dreamed through Jesus Christ.
What are your thoughts on AI in Christian Radio?
At this point, I see AI radio as just another form of voice tracking. I’m not a big fan of tracking because it’s really hard to interact with your listeners when you are miles away from the station. Our personalities have to BE accessible PERSONS. I encourage my staff to talk on the phones with listeners, engage in texting conversations, get addresses and send notes of encouragement. Make listeners into superfans! If you are just a voice on the radio…AI can replace you.
Where will new up and coming Christian Radio air talent come from?
There are several Christian colleges that have great programs feeding talent to stations and that’s awesome. But look for talent everywhere. There are great young people in a bunch of fast food restaurants or in other service jobs, who have the right people skills. Just look for the person that everyone wants to be their friend. That could be someone 25 or 55.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Radio?
An industry that does not believe in itself. Now that doesn’t apply to many great Christian stations. But by and large, radio is capitulating to other audio recreational sources by taking away all the elements of a radio show that make it great. Like someone said, “You can get music anywhere. It’s what happens BETWEEN the songs that make a radio station great.”
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I have mentioned so many of these people before, but thankfully I was able to thank many of them in person at Momentum for their influence and contributions to my life. Jon Hull, Rick Tarrant, Mark Rider, Bob Augsburg, Chuck Finney, Wayne Peterson, Jeremy Sweat…I could go on and on. The best thing each of these people did was to treat me as a peer. As far as radio size and influence, I was like a guppy to an eight pound bass, but they all treated me like I was one of them…and I guess I really was.