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Joe Cheesman Interview

Joe Cheesman
Assistant Program Director/Afternoon Personality
Kansas City


Career Capsule: I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I Attended the University of Northwestern, St. Paul (it was Northwestern College back then) and graduated in 2011 with a degree in Electronic Media with emphasis in Audio Production. After college I worked at secular radio stations in Sioux Falls and Fargo. In 2016, I moved to Orlando and spent the next 3 ½ years at Z88.3. In 2019, I moved to Kansas City to be part of Life 88.5. Being back at Northwestern Media has been a dream come true. 


Joe, tell us what’s new at KJNW … news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

We’ve been so busy with so many opportunities to serve Kansas City during 2020!  We’ve been hosting drive-thru food donations and Free Slurpee with a Cop events with 7-Eleven.  Last month, we just wrapped up our “Raise the Roof” campaign. One of our underwriters wanted to donate a new roof to a family in need, and we narrowed down 5 finalists (each receiving a $500 Home Depot gift card) and then let our listeners vote for the grand prize winner! The new roof looks incredible, and the roofers even fixed up the winner’s dog house roof! The roofers are now working on surprising the rest of the finalists with work!!

For me, I’ve been in Kansas City for about a year now, and I’m still learning about my new home. Obviously the pandemic made exploring a bit more difficult this summer, but living in a city when the hometown team wins the Super Bowl was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. It was amazing to see the city come together like it did in February.


How has your KJNW show changed during the pandemic?

I’m noticing that the volume of calls may have dropped, but the quality of calls has gotten better. The news has been so negative, so it’s been nice to be a safe place for listeners to know that when they’re listening to Life 88.5 they will be uplifted. It has really afforded us the honor to connect on a deeper level through this shared experience.


What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?

Best advice… it’s always someone’s first time listening. They need to feel welcomed and served every time the mic comes on. Throw away breaks are unacceptable. 

I don’t think a program director has ever given me bad advice on purpose – just different philosophies. But one questionable rule I was told in mainstream contemporary radio that breaks need to be less than 45 seconds. I believe economy of words is important, staying focused and finding that perfect exit, but you should take as much time as you need  to make a connect – then not a second more.


Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?

I’m naturally a competitive person. I think competition keeps you from getting complacent and lazy, so I welcome it. If you’re serving the community correctly good things tend to happen.


What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?

Podcasts can certainly be used as a tool…If you have one that reflects your show and brand it could be a way to “build your tribe”. I also think they are a great way to share stories throughout the year with donors and have ongoing conversations with them without having to wait until fundraiser.


Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

I think they could come from anywhere! In fact, when I was in Orlando the most creative and naturally gifted personality I’ve ever worked with was the receptionist when I first got there. After years of training she eventually worked her way up to a full time air talent. It’s up to us to find passionate people with a heart for music and ministry and groom them.


Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I think stations being underfunded is a huge thing. Many stations are so short staffed it’s impossible for them to serve their market to its full potential.


Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

My mom, Suzanne Lynn was in radio most of my childhood, so some of my earliest memories happened at radio stations. I’ve been blessed with having worked for two of the best PD’s in CCM as well. Melony McKaye and Dean O’Neal have forgotten more about radio than I know. I’m grateful for the hours of time they’ve invested in me. Dave Gordon is a Station Manager that I strive to be like because of the way he treats his disciples. Dave is a guy who has all of the fruits of the spirit and would never ask his employees to do something he wouldn’t do himself. T.J. Jackson and Ryan Vaughn both understand how important taking the station to the streets is. Those two are consumed with loving KC and making sure the whole city gets a chance to know God’s love. Karla Cantrell is special because she took a chance on me and gave me my first full time radio job in Fargo. Ben Holsen has been my radio mentor since my first show in 2013. Connie Mills, Cara Madden, and Jack Moore all make my day a little better when I see them around the office.

One thought on “Joe Cheesman Interview

  • We live in the Z88.3 area but my husband is from Kansas City. Joe is missed in the Orlando area but we are so happy for Kansas City’s good luck in having him. It would be so great for Joe to interview Patrick Mahomes with regard to the role his faith has played. Go for it Joe!


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