Career Capsule: KSWO, Lawton, OK, was my first job in Radio back in 1977. It was part time and I had a blast…Top 40 on a 1K daytimer.
Chronologically In the 80’s: Overnights KRLG, mornings KCCO, Evenings KLAW, PD KQLI, Middays KSWO (all in Lawton), Group PD for Lesso Inc and mornings KGLS Hutchinson KS,
In the 90’s: Afternoons KLAW Lawton, Production Director/Afternoons KJIL Meade KS, Station Manager KHYM Meade KS, And since 2004 I have been Station Manager/Mornings KMOC, Wichita Falls TX.
Longest tenures were 10 years at KLAW, and my current 18 years at KMOC….Shortest was 11 months, 2 weeks, 3 days, 1 hour, and 26 minutes.
Keith, tell us what’s new at KMOC… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
Small market radio and I are a good fit. Like all radio stations we have our unique challenges…funding being one of the biggest and most persistent, just like so many other Christian Radio ministries.
Staffing can be a big issue in the smaller markets, but we have been able to find and keep people who take care of their areas of responsibilities.
Coinciding with this is another challenge that many face: retaining good employees. I firmly operate from the viewpoint that our first ministry must be to our own people…staff, board, volunteers…so I am very insistent that families come first. You can work again tomorrow, but that game missed today is simply gone. Plus, they won’t hand out awards at the end of your life for how many days you worked while you were sick. My lovely bride Liz has been on staff 17 years. Tim, my Operations Director, was part time when I arrived in 2004, and has been full time since 2010.
I land firmly on the programming side. Being on-air is what I love, and I always have. To stay in radio, and to keep doing what I love, I had to be willing to change and grow in areas that were sometimes painful to do so. Like stepping across the hall into management. Coming to KMOC meant that I would step into my first ‘the buck stops here’ position. Funding, budgeting, personnel, equipment, and on and on…I honestly didn’t know if I could do it.
KMOC is a 501(C)3 non-commercial entity. When I arrived they had $6,000 in the bank with a 21,000 monthly need. The President of the board told me later that their discussion and decision was whether or not to close the ministry or hire me. Glad he didn’t tell me that at the time.
4 years before coming to KMOC I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When it showed up it almost completely disabled me for a time. Among other things it took me a year and a half to relearn how to walk. I knew two things…stress is not good for MS, and that KMOC is where God wanted me. If my wife and I had not been so certain that God was directing us here, we would not have come.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
In 2004 I was often working 80+ hours a week…so I was not even close to balancing. We have 4 daughters and today 11 grandchildren, my 2 youngest were still at home in ’04, and quite frankly I missed a lot of their life the next 6 years, between the station and the MS.
Since Liz (Office Manager/Promotions/co-host mornings, etc) and I work together we would see each other every day and that connection remained strong. The caveat being that she has been fired several times, and she has quit several times as well! Working that closely with your spouse has its own unique challenges. If you do it, you know.
Working so much not only caused issues at home, but at work as well.
Tim taking over the OPS position in 2010 made my life much more pleasant. He ‘gets’ radio. Having the right people in the right spot makes a difference for sure.
What is the best programming advice you’re received… the worst?
Best: Stick to what you know. That will work in every area of your life. I have since added a bit to that: If it’s important and you don’t know it, study it and learn it … then you WILL know it.
Worst: As far as on-air presentation, I was told to talk faster, lose the ‘country’ sound (I am country) and don’t use regional phrasing. I.E. Y’all and ‘fixin too’. Sody water, or pop for a soft drink. (You want a Coke? SURE! What kind? DR. PEPPER.) Jeet yet? Simply asking if you have had lunch yet. I still eat supper in the evening…Dinner is eaten during mid-day, unless you already had lunch. Those among others….sorry got carried away.
What’s something you’ve learned about Christian Radio due to the pandemic, that you didn’t know before?
It’s embarrassing honestly…. The stories I hear from people who use Christian radio in general, and KMOC in particular, that credit the message of Hope for a future keeping them sane. I would have told you that’s what we do….but to hear it over and over again….It’s humbling. It’s also a wake up call to me to not be on autopilot. You know…too close to the trees to see the forest type of thing. I need to keep the bigger picture in focus.
Whats your thoughts on podcasting for Christian Radio?
This is out of my element, but …
If you have the tools you need, the people to craft and shape the content and can do it well, then go for it. To do it poorly just so you have a podcast seems oddly off the mark. If you don’t know it…refer to Best Advice above.
What is a unique characteristic for your market (or station), that many wouldn’t know about?
We are a military town (Sheppard Air Force Base).
We are a large town (120,000) that feels like a small town. 7 or8 out of 10 people who live here grew up here. I worked in Lawton….just up the road about an hour…and it was just the opposite….maybe 1 or 2 out of 10 grew up there.
Wichita Falls hosts the Hotter’n Hell Hundred each August. It is the largest single day endurance ride in North America….A few years back it was named the second largest in the world. There are well over 10,000 cyclists that ride each year give or take…It has been close to 14 or 15,000 before.
Team KMOC rides each year as a fundraiser…so much a mile. We had 42 members this year. They pay their own way, we provide is a custom jersey each year and our gratitude! This year we raised around $27,000 dollars.
I know it isn’t this way everywhere, but we (citizens) LOVE our military folk. All of our law enforcement people too.
My hometown of Walters, OK, was and is around 3,000 people….hence me calling Wichita Falls a ‘large’ town.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Back in 1977 there were lots of small Mom&Pop radio stations in small towns across America. I saw it as the ‘farm teams’. A young person could learn to run the board, take meter readings, organize their timing, work on their on-air presence, etc….as well as learn to live on almost nothing. Ramen Noodles and Ketchup come to mind. Plus Crackers if company was coming over.
KSWO in ’77 had 5 full time jocks, 5 or 6 part time jocks, 2 full time News positions, a full time engineer, a sports crew, and around a dozen office folks. Last time I stopped by they had 2 people running it all. When we do hire someone…we need them to hit the ground running, so that generally means ‘no rookies’.
For me, I’ll take heart over talent any day, but finding young people that want to be in radio is hard to do. And when you do you often don’t have a ‘starter’ position in the budget.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
First off, Miss Martin my high school English teach is the reason I am in radio today. She said one day in class ‘with a voice like that you could be in radio’. I’m sure I said something very unedifying back, but after some grunt work in 115 degree heat in June of ’77 I had the thought ‘I bet radio stations have Air Conditioners’. I called Bill Garret at KSWO and he said come on in. He showed me the basics of running the board (he was an old man….21 I think). I went from shovel work on a Monday or Tuesday, to my first on air shift that Saturday night. My first ever song to play on the air was ‘Saturday Nights All Right for Fighting’ Elton John. I had the chance to share all that with ‘Mom’ Martin before she passed.
John Brandt at KSWO. He was PD and one of the most encouraging people I have ever worked for. He gave me freedom to have fun on the air, and he kept me growing with his direction and guidance. He is one of the main reasons I still love being live on the air to this day.
Mike Luskey at KJIL. In 1997 when I went to work there I had been in radio for 20 years. I learned more about production and programming in my first year Mike than I had in the previous 20. Mike, like John, was very encouraging and he gave me the freedom to have fun and learn. I still love production.
And finally, Don Hughes at KJIL. Best boss ever. What I do today as manager of KMOC is modeled after what I experienced, and saw, Don do. When I was stricken and diagnosed with MS in 2000, I never missed a paycheck. Not one. I couldn’t go to work at all for several months…and for several months more I’m sure I was very little help. Don never once treated me like I was broken. He never said ‘if’ I get better…He always said ‘when’. I also learned a thing or two about fundraising! Don has had the biggest impact on how and why I do what I do.
Over the years I’ve had good and bad times in radio. I became a Christian at 33 in 1993 and then I was able to do what I loved (radio) for The One I serve. (Jesus The Christ, The Son of The Living God)