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Josh Hooper Interview 11-25-16

interview-josh-hooper2016Josh Hooper
Afternoon Host/Creative Services director

Career Capsule: I was one of the fortunate ones who got a taste of radio very early. My high school owned a radio station and during my Junior year I got to broadcast a couple basketball games. I was hooked instantly! I took that new love of sports broadcasting to college, and at Mount Vernon Nazarene University got to learn and experience so much more than just sports on the radio. I became a well-rounded professional. From there I was hired at the Clear Channel cluster stations in Mt. Vernon as a production assistant and on-air talent. 18 months later God opened a door for me to go back to high school, sort of. I was hired as a morning show host and production director back at the station where I got my feet wet in the industry, WVMC-FM. I eventually was the general manager there for about 5 years, and then moved on to my current station, 104.9 the River (WCVO) in Columbus, OH.

1. Josh, tell us what’s new at WCVO… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

104.9 the River continues to grow inside the company and within the community. We most recently launched two new radio stations that are online/app only: TheVibeHD (hits and positive hip-hop), and ORockHD (rock and alternative). The response has been incredible! It’s an amazing opportunity to introduce different audiences to the River brand, all while sharing the hope of Jesus through the style of music they love. We also are continuing to promote from within, engage in a vibrant intern program and grow closer to God and each other with the hiring of our new full-time pastor. Things are busy!

2. What are some programming issues that you find are unique to your market (station/network)?

We are a station that is owned by a non-profit, but we also own a commercial broadcasting license. That makes for the challenge of not only holding on-air fundraisers, but also performing for our commercial clients. It’s an excellent setup, but it does come with some unique challenges. Along those lines, being a Christian station, we often times will have to either reject client buys or do some editing work of certain ads that clients want to run. We work hard in programming and in the sales department to stay true to the mission of the station and keep the airwaves clear of the negative and off-color advertising content that listeners hear on other stations in Columbus.

3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

Simply, the very best advice I’ve been given is this: It’s NOT about me. My radio show, my copywriting, my production preferences, my interactions with listeners and coworkers. None of it is about me. It’s about THEM. How do I bring to new life what’s relevant in my listeners’ day, how do I communicate the clients’ advertising message with the listener, how do I do production to add mental imagery and life to what the listener hears, and how do I benefit others in my daily interactions? These are the things I must be about, and I’ve still got a long way to go before I master any of it!

The worst programming advice I got was kinda weird. Early in my career, as I was voicing a spot for a client, the producer told me to… “puke.” They wanted a certain sound that sounded like… well…. let’s call it, Jockmouth. (eww) I couldn’t do it. So I like to think that this is proof I was made to be in radio at the right time. Because here at the River we go for authentic, “real person” voices and personalities, not the big voice or jockmouth sounds of years past.

4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?

Any time you have the chance to reach more people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s a good thing! Now, before you think, “Why, what a perfect Christian answer! What’s he REALLY think,” let me explain. I really do think this, because the bottom line of our purpose on Earth is to share Jesus with others and see them come to faith in Jesus as well. The more voices, or stations, sharing about Him the better. But the human element that’s in play in this scenario is real. Having a lot, or even a few, Christian radio stations in the same market can make life pretty difficult for those stations and the people who work for each one. We get concerned that there are only so many donor or client dollars to go around, only so many listening quarter-hours in the day. In short, we worry. It’s what people do. A lot of choices is good for consumers, but bad for distributors. So from a business standpoint, it can cause some difficulties. But here’s the truth that covers all of it: If one person accepts Jesus because one more station began broadcasting about Him, then it’s worth it. These aren’t our stations, our jobs, or even our lives, after all. They all belong to Him.

5. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?

The one thing I have to have every day to do my show is… TIME. I used to be a person who though he could wing it with only some preparation. Not anymore. As I have grown in my career, gained new knowledge and experience and received A+ coaching, I’ve gotten much better in cutting through the clutter and getting to real, relevant content that will serve my listeners well. But that doesn’t mean it’s quick or easy. I need time to gather the thoughts about my life, new trending topics, social media, news sources and other sites for my prep, decide on the topics, and then shape them to what matters to the listener. And about that “my life” part a couple lines earlier? I do remember it’s not about MY life. But as the saying goes, “life is showprep.” A lot of what my wife and I experience with our marriage and with our kids is similar to what happens in everyday life for the listener. It’s my job to bring those things to life and engage the listener from their perspective.

6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

The talent is all around us. The hard part is training the next generation of talent. Some college programs are doing outstanding work, and I know for the River, as I mentioned before, our internship program has helped to train new professionals and has even helped us locate some people we have hired full-time. I think the bottom line is keeping our eyes and ears open, letting students shadow and intern where appropriate, and invest ourselves and our talents and experiences into others.

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

I think one of the biggest obstacles is navigating the highly-offendable culture in which we live. In Christian radio we have such an amazing story to share, the story of Jesus. But… we have to do it in almost a non-Christian way. And I don’t mean that the way it reads, I’m just not sure how else to describe it. I’m talking about things much deeper than the simple discussion of “not using Christian-ese or church language.” That makes sense because if I start talking about the Holy Trinity, the sanctification of my soul and the Biblical meaning of the perfect number 7, I’m going to lose people. But there are such important truths when you do Christian radio, you can’t just let the music do all the talking about it. Therein lies the rub. How far do you go when talking about your own faith experience? How much do you share about what Jesus has done, what He wants to do, and how we all need him? In my mind, when taken to the wrong extreme of being “safe” and not talking about it as DJs, we run the risk of allowing someone who is listening in order to simply feel better, to go no further than just feeling better, because of the positive music and the absence of negativity. But we all know that’s not enough. People need Jesus. And we have to lovingly share that with our voices, on our shows, as He leads.

8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

– Marcy Rinehart, Station Manager, WNZR – She taught me hard work, humility and that nothing is given or guaranteed in this business
– Joe Rinehart, Director of Broadcasting, Mount Vernon Nazarene University – Yup, he’s Marcy’s husband. He hired me for my first job after college, and taught me passion, grace and what good people-management looks like
– Todd Stach, Chief Creative Officer, WCVO – He hired me at WVMC-FM and here at the River, and he helped me take professional radio and make it relational radio. He taught me about living life on the air, being real and relaxing in a high-stress industry.
– Wally, the Wally Show, WAY-FM – When Wally broke into the Christian radio scene with Total Axxess all those years ago, I was instantly struck by what an incredible interviewer he was. He asked the questions everyone was afraid to ask, and other questions we’d never think of but were interested in. I’ve never interviewed the same since.
– Brant Hansen, Storyteller, CURE, Intl. – If you’ve ever heard Brant, you understand why he’s on this list. He handles those obstacles I mentioned earlier like nobody I’ve ever heard. Plus, he really cares about people. Long story short, when he was on the morning show for WAY-FM, my Mansfield station was an affiliate. I would send copy to have he and the crew record as opens to introduce me, since I would do local updates during his show. I shared stuff about my family and a lot going on, and he included in a recorded file one time that they were praying for me and my family. I couldn’t believe it. Dude is legit.

One thought on “Josh Hooper Interview 11-25-16

  • Congratulations, Josh! Keep shining!


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