Joseph Reed Interview
Program Director and Director of Affiliate Relations
Sea Walker Media and Singing News Radio
Career Capsule: Joseph started his radio career in 1987 as an on-air personality for WBCV in Bristol, TN. He has worked in Christian, country, talk radio, and news formats. He was host of the podcasts “Reed and Write” and “The Joseph Reed Show” which garnered hundreds of thousands of downloads. Joseph spent two years as Tour Publicist, Product Manager and Tour Volunteer Coordinator for Christian Music icon, Carman. In addition, Joseph has worked in various roles within the music industry. He has toured professionally as a soloist and as an award winning member of Christian Music trio, Surrendered. He has had several independent cuts as a songwriter and has produced albums for multiple independent artists.
Joseph has thirty five years of experience in broadcasting and music industry. Joseph lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Brandi. They have five children and two grandchildren.
Joseph, tell us what’s new at Singing News Radio … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
We are very excited to have some new programming that offers a variety of gospel music to our audience. With over 250,000 annual listeners on our app, as well as the hundreds of thousands who listen on radio stations across the country, there are a lot of people with varying style preferences. In addition to our weekend ‘Front Porch Fellowship” show that features bluegrass gospel music, we have added a new show called “Faith Country” that combines the message of the gospel with a country music style for our listeners to enjoy. We are also including more classic southern gospel music on a daily basis. As important as it is to expand and grow our audience, we also want to spotlight and honor the music that has made southern gospel music the beloved genre it is. As far as what’s new with me, everything is pretty status quo while I am enjoying being a “Grampy” to my perfect granddaughters. Emerie Claire is four and Caydence Reese is 11 months.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
My wife, Brandi, really helps me with time management. She is a pro at it. One of the toughest things about working in radio at this level is being able to go home and leave work at work. It seems there is always work to be done, which is a good thing, but it is important to allow your home and family life to get the time and energy it deserves. I have found that keeping a healthy balance of life and work will actually increase work creativity. Nothing can block the creative mind more than burn out, so I try to stay away from that.
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I have been very fortunate to have a lot of mentors in radio. My very first boss in radio, Jennings Dotson, was very particular about the quality of the music we played. Even if listeners don’t understand the music recording process, they can definitely tell the difference in something that is thrown together musically and something that is high quality. My friend of thirty-five years, and our morning show host, Gregg Hutchins, is a veteran of southern gospel radio. Gregg has consulted with me on several occasions about the importance of progressing professionally without losing the relationships that our loyal listeners have with us. We want to always make our listeners feel like family, not just a set of ears. The worst advice I was ever given was from a former boss when I worked in country music radio. She wanted on-air talent to change the way they spoke or the way they pronounced things to give it a more “country” twang. But I know that radio listeners aren’t dumb. They recognize authenticity. I want on-air talent to be themselves and have the listeners fall in love with who they really are. Sure, if I want to have a comedy or character bit with someone acting, for humorous content, great, but on-air talent will always be more successful when they have the flexibility to present their own unique personalities.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
During the pandemic we were all starved for entertainment. We couldn’t go to concerts or even church in some cases. I found myself listening to Christian Radio more and a lot of other people were also. Our listeners increased during the pandemic. I have learned that in the unknown, many of us will automatically lean on what we already know and are comfortable with. Regardless of the various forms of entertainment, there are millions of people who still love Christian Radio. Our own Apple or Spotify playlists can become common and stale. Radio always offers the element of surprise.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?
I love podcasting. I enjoy true crime and interview podcasts. I had a podcast for several years and had a blast. I spoke with songwriters, artists, authors, bloggers, etc. It was a great way to keep my broadcasting chops in use. There are so many podcasting categories, as there should be. Knowledge is power, as long as the knowledge is factual. I don’t think podcasting is for everyone. For me, it was a challenge going from a radio format to podcasting. The heat is on to keep the listeners attentive, which isn’t easy, especially if music isn’t involved.
What are the challenges of being an online station, where is the growth coming from?
We are very fortunate to have forty-six radio stations across the country that broadcast SNR. We also have a tremendous online audience through our app, website and other streaming platforms. I have to always be thinking of creative ways to let people know that if their local area doesn’t have a southern gospel radio station, we have an app that can be played in the home, car, office, etc. Also, there are Southern Gospel Music fans that are not as quick to adapt to streaming, downloading or smart devices, due to their age demographic. We want to help them understand how easy it can be for them to have access to the music they love anytime they want. I believe current streaming growth is coming from people who want the local radio experience wherever they go. I’ve talked to a lot of new fans who are experiencing this genre of music for the first time by seeing streaming concert events on social media.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
The biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is relying too heavily on our talent and not on research. Being lazy is a fast way to lose listeners. It takes more than your voice and a music bed to be entertaining. Always be on the lookout for good content to fill your segments. Make sure you research and find out what your age demographic likes and doesn’t like. What are they doing? Where are they going? All of that information can be converted to awesome content. It is challenging to find ways to be progressive enough to grow an audience without alienating the current audience. It takes subtlety and balance. As on-air talent, we need to be proactive by giving our listeners the best of our personalities with the best content. We should be open to talking about new subjects or even changing our shows up a bit to convert a casual listener to a regular listener as well as attract new casual listeners.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I started having a love for radio after meeting a local broadcaster, Gregg Hutchins, at WZAP in Bristol, VA. I was eleven years young at the time. My Dad, who was an evangelist, had a weekly radio broadcast on WZAP and I would go with him to drop his tape off every week. Gregg’s personality was so fun. He showed me around the station one day and even had me record a commercial. I was on cloud nine. Gregg is a major influence. We stayed in touch occasionally through the years, especially when social media became a thing. Ironically, Gregg and I now work together at SNR. He has been the morning show host here for over twenty years. It is an epic full circle experience.
I would have to say that my biggest hero in radio is my Dad, Cecil Reed. in addition to his weekly broadcast on WZAP, he also had one on WBCV, which was another station across town. The station owner at WBCV loved Dad’s voice and personality. He offered him the morning show position. He then became Program Director. In the summer, when school was out, I would get up at 5:00 AM to go to work with Dad. I would sit in the production room and play records, learning the music, and pretending to be a DJ. The knowledge I gained from observing him helped pave the way for me to get my first on-air job in 1987 at the same station. It’s hard to believe that was thirty-six years ago. I love you, Dad.