Feature InterviewInterviews

Mike Lanser Interview 8-19-16

interview-mike-lanser2016Mike Lanser
Program Director
Wausau, WI

Career Capsule: My first radio job was my senior year in high school as the evening host for KCWN, a local Christian station in my hometown of Pella, IA. I attended Northwestern College (now the University of Northwestern, St. Paul) where I majored in broadcasting and spent time both with the student station and as a part time Network Operator for KTIS. My first full time radio job was at Life 101.9 (KNWS) in Waterloo, where I spent most of the last 10 years doing everything from Promotions to Production and Evenings to the Morning Show.  Recently I moved up to Wausau, WI, where I’m now the Program Director for 89Q. 

  1. Mike, Tell us what’s new with 89Q… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

Currently I’m the newest thing at 89Q.  I joined the staff in May as the new Program Director and Morning Show Co-Host. Me and my family are still in the process of selling our home and moving, so prayers are appreciated! At 89Q we also recently added Andi Miller to our staff (shortly before I arrived) and she’s doing a great job on Afternoons.  For our evenings show we just started syndicating The Brant Hansen show as well. So our on-air hosting sound has changed a bit over the last few months.

2. What changes have you implemented since arriving at 89Q?

To be honest, I haven’t been here long enough to implement very many changes as most of my time has been spent learning to swim in the deep end of the pool. We’ve got a few upcoming changes though including updating our jingles, putting in a new studio console, and upgrading our computer/automation system.  So the next few months will be pretty exciting (and busy!) to say the least.

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

Since I’m relatively new to the gig, I’m sure I’ll pick up a lot of advice as time goes along. But I really like something simple a former professor and friend of mine Mark Seignious told me shortly after I accepted the position: “Pursue Christ. Pursue the craft.”  I think if I stick to that I should be good.

On the flip side, while I’m sure his heart was in the right place, the worst advice I’ve probably gotten (and I hope he won’t hate me for saying this) was from my brother, who is admittedly not in radio. When discussing some of the new songs I was considering with him, he told me, “You’re the guy in charge, just play whatever you want.” Sometimes it works out that way, but probably not the best rule to run by.

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

I think it depends on the goal of each station.  Obviously all of our stations should have their first goal to bring glory to God and hopefully be used to spread the gospel.  That may be done in different ways by different people.  One station may be programmed toward moms, another to teens and young people, another with Christian talk. I think in that case there are definitely avenues for each to reach different people. In larger cities and communities this could also be the case. And healthy competition is always good. But when having more Christian radio stations in a market becomes more about beating the other guy and less about working together to share the Gospel, it’s time to take a hard look at why you’re doing what you’re doing.

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

It’s cliché, but coffee.  Also, if I can add one more: my co-host. I can handle the morning show on my own if necessary, but I’m a better co-host than anything, so the show really works best with both of us.

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

I’m sure from a lot of different places. They could be YouTube stars who know how to build an audience. They might be young people passionate about Christian music who want to share that hope they experience from it with others.  Then again, it might be that young guy or gal who is super passionate about your station, stops by your table at every event, and gushes to his or her friends about you. All they need is someone to step in, encourage and mentor them, and get them on their way.  Sometimes, we miss out on the talent that’s right in front of us because we put a fake wall between those who work at the station and those who listen to the station.  They might just be the same person.

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

I’m not sure if it’s an obstacle to the industry as a whole, but I know I at least hope that we don’t lose our ministry mindset.  Christian radio’s come a long way even since I was a kid, and it’s improved in a lot of ways. But I think sometimes we run the risk of emulating the big “mainstream” stations, because we see them as successful. And there’s a lot of quality there worth being emulated, but we have to be careful to take the good only. If we lose a ministry and gospel focus, we might avoid doing something that could have great impact for the gospel because it’s not what “those guys” would do or there’s no way to monetize it/collect names and emails or there’s no real payoff for the station promotionally.  We might skip a song that God could use in a mighty way for our listeners because the research numbers just aren’t in its favor. Don’t get me wrong: collecting names, using research, observing the market; those are all great things. But I don’t want those things to drown out our ability to do something that might appear crazy but is what God is calling us to do.

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

I mentioned him above, but Mark Seignious is someone who’s always challenged me to do what I do to God’s glory. It’s a reminder I need both on the days I feel like I’m amazing in and of myself, and on the days I feel totally inadequate.

Dave St. John has been a good friend and mentor to me over the past few years.  He has a great way of not answering my questions but instead coming back with other questions that force me to think and answer myself.  I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t frustrating at times, but I never walk away without learning something. He’s also been a great encourager to me, probably without realizing it at times.

My former co-host in Waterloo, Kim Bindel has also been a great influence to me. She taught me a lot about what a great two person show looks like, and more importantly she challenged me to see my potential and do great work even on the days I wasn’t really feeling it. And I’ve watched her walk through some really difficult things in life and stay positive and focused on God through it. She’s an outstanding role model in that regard.

Finally, though I haven’t met him and I’m guessing he’d feel awkward to hear it, for as long as I’ve heard him on the air, I’ve looked up to Brant Hansen. Brant is willing to both have fun on the air and entertain by being himself, while also being vulnerable (and still himself) by sharing his faith, the questions he’s asking in a real way, and how God loves him no matter what. When I listen to Brant, I’m not only laughing out loud most of the time, but I’m reminded daily that God loves each of us. And on my best and worst days, that’s a message I need to hear. And so when I say I look up to Brant, it’s because I’m challenged each day to think to myself, how can I share a message of God’s love with others? Because based on the people I’ve talked to, I’m not the only one who needs to hear that every day. On a side note, it’s also kind of creepy how many interests we have in common; I’m worried he might be reading my mind…

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