Michele Ross Interview
Career Capsule: Since age 12, I’ve always had some kind of job. I have been full-time babysitter, grocery store checker, convenience store manager & Sonic carhop. I have been fortunate enough to serve my entire radio career at KSWP & KAVX. My father founded the stations and I did my first volunteer radios show when I was 14 years old. I started helping with the youth programming on weekends and interned in the office through high school. I left radio to raise my kids while they were little, returned to the stations as part-time office help in 1995, and began working full-time in 1997. Over the last 25 years, I have done a regular on-air shift in every day part. Morning Show Co-host was the most fun despite the 4:30am wake-up time. I have served in every department except for IT/Engineering although when our IT/Engineer is gone I’m the one on call.
I have worked as the Receptionist, PSA Coordinator, Traffic Director, Office Manager, Production Assistant, Promotions Director, Music Director, and Program Director. I currently do midday’s and serve as Vice President/Program/Music Director for both KSWP & KAVX.
Michelle, tell us what’s new at KSWP … news, changes, & what’s new with YOU…?
Last year our stations built their own broadcast tower so not only did we expand the reach of both our signals but we no longer have to “rent” space on someone else’s tower for an outrageous amount of money each month.
So far this year KSWP/KAVX has already participated in two in-person events and it is wonderful to interact more like “normal”.
How has your stations operations been affected by the pandemic? What’s been the biggest issue?
Like everyone promotions and in-person events were the hardest hit no doubt; Share-A-Thon and all our traditional annual events were cancelled or needed a completely different set-up. We really missed being “In the public” but at the same time it forced us to get out of the prescribed habitual box. We had to stretch our creativity to come up with new things to talk about and do.
Another benefit is learning how to work from home. We will be able to apply our knowledge during times hurricane’s and other emergency’s that have an impact on how employees get to the office. We also plan to provide a way for DJ’s to do shows from home.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
That’s hard… it’s like saying pick your favorite movie or song there are so many good ones. The most basic principles that I lean on as my gold standard are
Don’t be boring (Valerie Geller)
Don’t throw away a break – it may be the only break someone hears that day
Be relatable and real – take the private and make it public – people identify more with your brokenness than your perfection
If I need show prep I glean from something I saw, something I read, something I experienced
You can’t pour from an empty cup! Do things you enjoy. It can’t just be about work – personal development, heart work, connection to God, and worship are all just as important as “work”. You are valuable to God and Kingdom work so allow yourself space for refreshment, healing and growth.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
I don’t know if I would use the term “better” it just is a fact. No matter what city of license your station calls home, you have thousands of stations in your market. I used to wonder why fast food restaurants, gas stations and car lots build next to each or across the street. Supposedly, it’s good for business and they each generate customers for the others as well as themselves. While we enjoy being the only local stations in our market, we know that thanks to internet, smart phones and smart devices we have every radio station in the world in our market. KSWP/KAVX has listeners and donors in major cities which I know are served by successful major market stations but somehow we have managed a connection. In a world full of more media choices, you have to give your listeners a reason to choose you over and over. It’s not a one-shot and you’re done kind of job. You have to connect every day, every break, in every way you can.
What is your opinion of podcasts for stations & air talent, are the necessary, must have one, etc?… Please explain…
I don’t think podcasts are a must have. Yes, it’s nice but our philosophy is what is on-air is first and priority everything else is second, third or fourth. It’s cool and fun to have another platform for your brand but if you look at the numbers it’s probably doesn’t even come close to touching the number of people you reach through your regular programming. What happens on the air will always be the best return on investment – everything else is just gravy. Some wise person at a CMB event once said it’s better to pick the platforms you can do well and focus on those instead of trying to do all of them badly. (Not an exact quote just my translation).
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
My best DJ’s just came from real life. The ones that are relatable, teachable and passionate make the best talent.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
The biggest obstacle in my opinion is limited job availability at a decent wage to support a family. While technology is fun and great, it has increased workloads while decreasing the number of staff. Most of the radio people I know supplement their income with multiple side jobs, have multiple titles and your average station is run by fewer people than it was 10 years ago.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
There have been so many people and speakers who have influenced my life and career. I feel like I have learned from the best of the best in our industry though countless conferences at GMA back in the day, and now through CMB. I really value the knowledge I’ve gained from our long-time relationship with Dunham & Co/Sharemedia, Jim Smith, Jeremiah Beck and Tim McDermott. My three greatest influences would have to be my dad, Dwyan Calvert, who taught me perseverance, faithfulness, hard work and generosity. My first Program Director, Al Ross, who taught me so much about programming and music. Long before Al and I were married, I set out to learn everything I could. Lastly but far from least I have learned the most from our long time consultant Brad Burkhart. It has been an extreme privilege to have Brad as a mentor and coach for more than 20 years. I admire so many fellow colleagues for many reasons, serving in this industry is a privilege I pray I never take for granted!