Melony McKaye Interview
Program Director/Morning Host
Career Capsule: I started a reluctant radio career at a 100,000 watt college radio station. I had gone in to apply for the receptionist position. Because the PD saw I lived locally and could cover holiday schedules when his student staff left town, he talked me into being on the air. Being ridiculously shy, introverted and a tad awkward, I had never considered radio before then. About a year and a half in I switched my major to Broadcasting. I worked part-time radio gigs (lots of call letters) around Fargo, ND through those college years. My first full time job was middays and promotions at the markets #1 country station. After 6 years, I moved to St. Cloud, MN where I programmed an Oldies station, did mornings on a Top 40 and filled in at the country and AM talker…at the same company. When the decision was made to flip the Top 40 to CCM I asked to be the PD and Spirit 92.9/KKJM was born. When the station was donated to the Catholic Diocese I took a short spin on the air in Minneapolis at WLOL. In 2001, I started at WPOZ/Z88.3 in Orlando eventually taking middays and promotions. After nearly 13 years, I joined Northwestern Media at Life 88.5/KJNW when it signed on in 2013.
Melony, tell us what’s new at KJNW … news, changes, & what’s new with YOU… ?
Thank goodness it’s a NEW YEAR…I think, jury’s still out on this one. Personally I have TWO new drivers in my family as BOTH my daughters just got their licenses, so prayers and insurance donations will be gladly accepted. It’s an exciting time at KJNW, as well as, Northwestern Media as a whole! As a station whose heart is service, we’ve had to get creative in 2020. But the changes and challenges have given us a deeper connection with our listening family. You don’t forget the ones who walked with you through hard times. As a network, UNW Media is deepening its commitment to growth and just hired a network talent/fundraising coach and a Network Director of Podcasting.
How has your job/show changed during the pandemic?
The biggest impact for us was on our Engagement Calendar, shifting from all the appearances, concerts, events and summer gatherings to drive through food collections, drive in concerts, zoom groups and serving our local schools. We were ready to go remote for air shifts, but because of the set-up of our studios we never had to make that move. Our on air focus has always been about sharing a very real Jesus through real life. So if anything, living these shared experiences in the past year have given us an opportunity to go deeper with our listening family even if we weren’t making as many appearances.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I am overwhelmed at how blessed I have been to have so MANY wise, talented, passionate industry leaders (in any format) speak into what I do. I use their advice daily, it has shaped who I am on and off the air. One of the biggest shifts, though, happened for me when I was given the freedom to be myself and stop trying to imitate everyone else I heard. Find your own voice, don’t be an echo. In finding my voice, I found my calling to move to Christian radio. Worst advice? Easy – the PD who told me that women had no place in radio unless it was the Morning Show “giggle box or the front desk to look pretty” and since his station already had both I probably shouldn’t unpack my things. He was out of radio within 3 months.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
Competition will always push us to be better, to not settle or grow comfortable. However, markets who are too saturated may find the financial pie is split so small that there are not sufficient resources to provide a quality product or effective mission.
What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?
If you view the ministry tool God has entrusted you as just an FM terrestrial signal anything outside of that will seem like a threat. I feel we need to expand our thinking to realize we have a vast array of tools at our disposal to reach the lost for Christ and deepen the walk of those who follow Him already.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
Just look around you….the barista, the hairdresser, the v-logging stay at home mom, but they won’t become talent if we don’t have the eyes to see them OR if we don’t take the time to invest in them. All that good advice that’s been shared with us needs to be passed on.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
In all the craziness we’re facing, sharing hope to a very broken and hurting world (at the same time many of us also hurting) and helping people ‘bump’ into Jesus we still need to be able to have FUN. We should be able to still share JOY. I think we can tend to put all of our eggs in one basket. Either we are transparent and vulnerable OR we’re fun. I believe the human experience is all of the above and really GREAT talents are the ones who have found the balance to be all of it on the air.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Too many names come to mind: Dean O’Neal, Lisa Williams, John Frost, Dave Gordon, but I was recently reminded of an influence not in our format. One of the very first PDs I had too many years ago to count. Pete Miller (The Wolf/B105 Cincinnati) not only saw in me talents I didn’t yet see in myself, he helped me believe I could actually DO this thing called radio and make a career of it. This past Sunday, I received the call that he passed away way too soon. I know he had an influence on so many and his legacy will live on.