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Feature InterviewInterviews

Jonathan (JC) Obien Interview – Sponsored by Curb Word

Jonathan (JC) Obien 
National Operations Manager
Moody Radio
Chicago

 

Career Capsule: My earliest experience in the Audio space was working at Private Island Trax – Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA.  That’s where I learned the audio recording process and Analog & Digital Audio as well as audio for Post.  My first Tech Ministry job… I was AV director at Forest Home Christian Conferences, a camp known for being the pivoting ministry where Billy Graham made his first commitment to Christ and Ministry.  After 7 years at Forest Home, I worked for EMF Broadcasting in the Studio Technology Department and eventually served as Studio Operations Manager for K-LOVE and Air1.  I worked for EMF Broadcasting for 11 years and in 2019 I transitioned to Moody Radio Headquarters in Chicago Illinois and I’m now responsible for National Operations alongside Paul Martin – Moody Radio Network Manager, Mike Powers – MB2 Radio Network Operations Manager, Danielle Salsgiver – NOC Operations Manager and Jesse Ruggles – Director of Engineering.  We are a small but effective team.

 

JC, tell us what’s new at Moody Radio… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?

What’s new is I get to do an interview with Ted Semper!  You’re everywhere… I don’t know you … but I know you!  Your face is everywhere!  Who are you really?!  Lol!  What’s new with me is I started playing in a Chicago Jazz Fusion band because I was bored… lol!  We are just a bunch of old guys making some fun sounds … and I also just traded up a G&L for a 90’s Gibson Silverburst Les Paul Special!  I love that guitar!  I’m having the time of my life!

Seriously though… Being in Chicago is new to me.  I moved from CA.  It’s been 2 years but with the Pandemic it’s now just feeling like I’m getting out and Chicago just feels so new.

What’s new at Moody Radio is we are a handful of years from our 100 year anniversary in radio and we have a new VP… Wes Ward.  He is a very relational authentic Leader and we need that.  He loves dogs too.  I’m a dog person so that makes him alright in my book! Lol!. 

I’m fairly new as well and glad to be part of such a great legacy.  Did I mention Moody Radio has been in Radio almost 100 years!  That’s hard to get my mind around. 

What’s new in National Operations is the installation of all new automation systems and Telos Consoles at all our sites.  We have been long time partners with RCS since Master Control.  We have a great relationship with Neal Perchuck, Carolyn Bell, Brian Willard and his team especially Samantha and Donna… as well as Nathan Mumford.  

I really value partnership.  While we are a client and exchange contracts and monetary payments… I work hard to lean in and depend on deep partnerships to create win wins so that the sum of all parts are greater than any individual.  

RCS is not just the software company with a bill I have to pay each year.  If you have a radio exec or leader that thinks it’s just neutral software and not a big deal … then you should question that leader.  At the end of the day, we cannot do any radio or digital streaming without them.  It’s decades of cumulative knowledge based tools sets in that system.  Some people think you can just have a playlist streaming and call that radio.  RCS provides decades of integrated tools to do what we do.  Stretch Squeeze alone!  From Royalty Reporting to Traffic to Auto Ingest… and now real time Loudness Correction.  There is So much integrated into the economy and workflows of Broadcast Software that some people just don’t understand are essential.   So, our partnership is very important to me.  

My whole career in radio has been making local and national “highways” for Gospel Centric Content and the delivery methods always seem to change… whether it be STL, ISDN, IP or beaming to space and back and now digital cell phones and smart cars… the one thing that has never changed for me is needing automation.  We invest in it heavily and I’m thankful for all the good folks at RCS and I’m thankful for our GM Scott Krus that understands this and how he has provided us the resources and budgets to make sure we do not cut a single corner!  It amazes me that radio stations will purchase a new station vehicle and wrap to brand their next promo event but then will give Ops a budget smaller than the cost of a new car for automation and consoles when it’s their main core pipeline!   LOL!  For the record… I think Promotions needs the car … I just think investing in your core business systems is a must.  It’s amazing how many GM’s ask to cut down on consoles and automation.  I’m really happy that Moody Radio has invested appropriately in both consoles, automations and station vehicles.  Matt… let me borrow the van!  I know where you live!

 

How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?

Wow.  Deep question.  I don’t think about it that much because I’m so extreme, I just do it or I don’t survive.   Radio is an extreme occupation… it’s 24/7 and that’s why it’s important others in Radio need to be intentional to create work life balance outside of radio.  I get calls from the Sat NOC or off-air alerts at 2am sometimes.  Morning Show hosts and talent pretty much give up M-F mornings for the rest of their career.  That’s pretty extreme!

Yet, it’s natural for me to balance because I get bored easily and I’m the type of person that just goes big in all I do … including family and hobbies.  Maybe it’s a complex or syndrome.  I call it go big or go home syndrome.  … or maybe I’m just ADHD!  I just do what I love because I have to or I’m unbalanced.  I go from 1 extreme to another.  Extreme work to extreme hobbies! Life can’t be all work.  Remember Simon and Garfunkel’s song? Or was that Ecclesiastes?  Lol! “There’s a time for everything.” … And that includes hobbies and fun!  Even the popular Money experts say to budget 2-4 percent minimum for fun!  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is peer reviewed scientific info that would validate this.   This extreme 24/7 radio life to extreme hobbies sometimes is a blessing and sometimes a curse and definitely requires moderate wisdom.  I’m not saying go full irresponsible… I’m just saying extreme jobs require extreme balance.  I share a lot of my hobbies and personal life on social media for my family and friends.  I know it’s not as “professional “ yet I’m not a CEO so I can do that!  Lol!

Accepting the ministry job at Moody was very extreme and sacrificial for me and my family; meaning… 2 years ago we moved and left all our friends and family from CA to take up the offer and our “call” here at Moody Radio.   So, what some might see on my social media as “having a life” is me just being me and posting my life so we can stay connected with our friends and family that we left and miss so dearly. We want them to be a part of our life and social media allows us to do that.  The real extreme Sacrificial jobs though are my Missionary friends.  They make us look like cry-babies!

All that to say… to have peace when I die and to have hope in all things is the best life balance I can think of.  To me it’s not religious spiritual disciplines to appear to be a good Christian.  To me it’s bread of life.  It’s more than a lifestyle or a routine.  It’s like bread and water or air.  I’d literally be dead without the Living Spirit of Christ in my life.  

One of my favorite ways to stay connected to the water line is using our Today in the Word daily Bible verse app.  I have it alerting my iWatch every day.  I read at lunch or on the train.  There really is no excuse in this modern busy life to NOT be in the Word.  It’s essential.

 

What is the one accomplishment you’re most satisfied with in your career?

Favorite Accomplishment is a ground up dirt to FM complete studio build for 2 small market Radio stations in Napa Valley.  I was given full end to end design trust and I just love to design and build things.    It turned out exactly how I imagined.  It’s super artsy and functional too.  It was just so fun to design and build from end to end with no hierarchy in between multiple departments.  It was just owner providing direct trust and pure integration.  Contractors built everything to spec with no push back.  Managed IT service group configured network to every custom-tailored spec from Manufacturers and they were intrigued to learn with no pushback and No egos.  It was a dream build.  Super thankful for that experience and I made some friends for life on that build.  They were happy customers with no complaints!  That’s an accomplishment on its own!

 

What’s something you’ve learned about Christian Radio due to the pandemic, that you didn’t know before?

Pandemic taught me Christian Radio is an essential service in both good times and hard times but especially hard times.  People need hope and we are hope dealers.  People need truth and we are truth distributers.  People are lonely and we provide a voice and an ear.  People hear many unhealthy hard to wrestle topics and ideas from mass media and we provide a small but strong voice for people to recalibrate their thoughts to God’s biblical design for life.  Pandemic also taught me that our “live morning show crews” and our NOC teams are really living an extreme sacrificial life!  Please honor your team members that could not work remotely.  Super grateful for All the Morning show hosts, producers and live engineers!  Also Danielle Salsgiver our NOC Manager/Automation Expert and I’m thankful for her staff.  Super thankful for Mike Powers our Operation Manager for 1 of our National outlets and Jesse Ruggles our director of Engineering for the extreme 24/7 life they all live for us to serve our Operations.  Also David Woodworth.  Any affiliates reading this will attest to the servant heart of David!

 

Reflecting on changes in the industry over the years what is one that you feel had the most impact on Christian Radio? Please explain…

I’m not an expert on this.  There are firms and specialized groups that can help Christian radio in this area… yet from what I see at NAB year to year is mobile phones and video is the one thing impacting Christian Radio and it’s not limited to Christian Radio.  

 

On air talent has always been at the heart of Christian Radio, where do you think the future personalities will be found?

I can’t speak for everyone and that’s out of my job scope but I’ll share what we have done and are doing   …at Moody Radio we are different than most Radio Groups since we are under the umbrella of Moody Bible Institute.  Because of that we have resources others may not have.  We are partnering with our Education Department and Specifically the Communications program at Moody Bible Institute.  We are building the largest Christian resourced media program for students in the Illinois area. 

It will include a real broadcast on air streaming station with a telos board and RCS Automation.  As well as a video and podcast suite.  Comm Students currently intern and learn from some of the best in our Broadcast headquarters.  We sent a group last year to the student CMB.  We are doing our part to train within.  All that to say… I believe the best talent will not come from radio or our Students.  One of our Station Managers (Jack Haveman) at our O&O site in Michigan found one of our best talents just by keeping his eyes open.  I actually believe some people are wired for this.  He met Shawna and was like… “ … you would be great in radio.”  He had a gut instinct that you can’t write down on paper.  He identified the characteristics, authenticity, voice, faith story and potential and gave her a chance.  It turned into an unexpected career.  

 

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

Really same answer to number 5.  Video, mobile phone.   But my number 1 literal concern is the death of fm in the car stereo dashboard.  The day that comes I’m not sure what to expect or do.  Everyone is saying Digital.  I don’t need to voice that.  It’s a given. 

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Casey Kasem.  I’m drawn to consistent familiar.  He’s a consistent familiar voice.  Maybe because I watched so much Scooby Doo as a kid!

The late Alan Guthrie.  Engineer genius.  There is no EMF without him.   He never looked down on me for being young or uneducated.  He taught me everything I know about large broadcast networks.  He taught me how to think.  You can’t learn that from school or a degree.  Innovators are of a different DNA.  He transferred a small,  small strand of that DNA to me.

Brant Hansen.  Just listen to him and you’ll understand.

David Pierce.  He saw my potential and gave me my first chance at radio when I was rough around the edges with no experience.

But my number 1 is Chuck Smith.   I read the whole Bible because of him.  He did line by line teaching over KWAVE and I listened to him in CA as a new believer for 7 years straight.  He is a giant broadcaster that finished well to me.  It was a full circle moment to hear our Moody Bible President – Dr. Mark Jobe and our Bold Steps Program on KWAVE.  Last March I flew back to Southern CA to visit family and drove off from Ontario airport… went through the In-N-Out Drive thru, ordered a number 3 animal style with fries well-done, no salt and heard Dr Mark Jobe loud and clear through XDS!  It was a real emotional moment.  Helped me understand for a little moment why God pulled me from CCM Music driven to Long Form Talk Radio Clocks.  I love both but this was a sweet moment for me.  It keeps me going if you know what I mean!

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