Career Capsule: While pursuing a degree in broadcasting, my radio career started in 1999 through a college internship in promotions at Reality 101.1 in Birmingham, AL. Eventually, I moved into working on air and doing production. I also worked as a traffic reporter for Metro Networks in Birmingham. Then in 2001, I moved to Tupelo, MS to work for American Family Radio in their production department and as air talent. After a three-year stint, the Lord lead me to Augusta, GA in 2004 to do mornings at 88.3 WAFJ.
John, tell us what’s new… news, changes, at WAFJ & with YOU… etc?
We are celebrating 88.3 WAFJ’s 25th anniversary this year. It has been a joy to be a part of 15 of those years and see God move in this ministry and our community. Our yearlong celebration started with an open house at the station in January, where we saw over 500 listeners come visit on a Saturday afternoon. We have some of the most loyal listeners who are like family, and it is rewarding to see how much they love and value the radio station.
This year marks a change with me personally as I’ve taken on the music responsibilities and really enjoy getting to be a part of the picking the best songs for our listeners. Also, we now have a full year behind us with the new morning show and feel like we are finding our way. My co-host, April, came to us from her native Wisconsin, and it has been fun teaching her how to be a Southerner.
Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?
I view every radio station as a competitor, whether they are Christian or mainstream. In our market, there are very few live and local morning shows, so we incorporate local news, traffic from a local radio veteran and as many local references as possible so that listeners know this is our community too. I love running into listeners in public places while I’m out doing everyday life and taking the time to engage with them. They can’t get that from the network and syndicated morning shows.
As a station, we try to be visible in the community, whether it is sticker stops, local concerts and events or community outreaches. I’ve been to some events locally where other stations were present with just a van and a promotions assistant sitting inside the vehicle reading a book. What a wasted opportunity! When our station is on-site, we’re in front of people and engaging in conversation. Every face to face contact we make is important to creating new listeners and further solidifying our relationship with existing listeners.
What is the best show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I’ve always remembered something that I read from Valerie Geller. She said that the highest compliment you can receive as a radio personality is for a listener to come up to you and say “We’ve never met, but I feel like I know you!” That comes from being real and letting them in on your life…quirks and all. When you can create that type of relationship, you have a loyal listener who will stick with you and tell others about you.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
In any industry, competition causes businesses to find ways to sharpen their focus, stand out and create the best product possible. The same should be true of us. With increasing network expansion in Christian radio, chances are we are all going to have same-format competition in our market. I believe if you are creating a product that the listener can’t get anywhere else, then you don’t have to feel threatened by the presence of other Christian stations in your market. Competition should keep us from becoming complacent, which is something we all need to guard against.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job/show?
The one thing I must have is a show content grid that I created. It keeps track of show material day by day and break by break. This allows me to spread out content over the week and have a robust show. It is our roadmap, and I would be lost without it!
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Future talent will come from the ones we are willing to train. I am in my position today because of great people who invested time in teaching me radio. I know that we all wear multiple hats at our stations, but we have to make time for finding and training new talent. There will come a day when you need them, and you are going to be hard-pressed to find them because the talent pool will continue to shrink if we are not working on making it bigger.
I also think it is important for us to take advantage of career day opportunities at our local schools and talk to kids about why we love working in radio. You never know how God might use you to inspire one of them to pursue this profession. I still remember a local TV meteorologist visiting my fifth-grade class, and that sparked an interest in broadcasting.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I think one of the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio is not realizing our potential. When I see stations in our format reach #1 in their market, I’m celebrating with them. They are showing us that it can be done, and we should learn from them. If mainstream competitors can lead the market with what they have to offer, why can’t we? Our songs are better! We have a message of hope that our communities need to hear. But to get them to listen, we need to be creative in designing a product that is attractive and palatable. I believe we should dream big about how to have maximum impact in our communities and ask God to show us how to achieve it. Any win for the station is a win for Him!
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
When I was a teenager growing up in Birmingham, I was introduced to Christian music through WDJC. One of their former personalities, Ronnie Bruce, was a family friend, and I always thought he had the coolest job. I loved calling and winning prizes from him and even getting a personal tour of the station!
I’m forever grateful to Therese Romano (now at WPOZ) and Jeff Cruz (now with Provident Label Group) for showing me the ropes of radio while in college. Their belief in me provided opportunities to grow and paved the way to where I am today, twenty years later. Both are widely respected in our industry, and I feel blessed to have learned from them.
I think the story of how Jim Campbell started our company, Radio Training Network, is pretty amazing. His faithfulness to God’s call has impacted countless lives for eternity, and I’m glad to be a part of the team.