Career Capsule: I started my broadcast career as a news director in Pine City, MN at WCMP. 20 years in General Market radio; One year in TV and 19 years in Christian radio. I have worked in MN; WA; UT; OH; VT. Earlier this month I announced my plans to retire in June 2021.
Ric, tell us what’s new at Minnesota Christian Broadcasting.. news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
Our stations have seen a steady growth of listeners and donations in the past six years. God is faithful. In 2021 we will be installing new Axia boards in our four studios, plus a new transmitter for 104.3 and will be delivering our signals to the transmitter sites via a satellite system. As for me, well, I just announced to the staff my plans to retire in June 20121. I have a life away from the radio business but broadcasting is what I have done since 1981. God called me into this career and though it took two decades before I switched to Christian media, this has been an exciting ride.
Regarding Sharathons, what do you think makes them successful?
If your listeners catch the vision for your station and make a commitment to help support it financially the sharathon fundraising should work. It’s important to occasionally remind our listeners that we are listener supported. That seems like a no-brainer but I have listened to many stations that seem like they are afraid to ask for financial help and forget to remind their listeners from time to time of their faith promise. It can be done without sounding like you are begging. It’s a fact that the majority of listeners to Christian radio do not financially support the stations. If I knew how to go from 4 or 5% of our listeners that do support us to 8 or ten % I would be travelling all over the country telling the story. Those who support Christian formats are very faithful to fulfill their faith promise and we are thankful for that.
Generally speaking what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Radio?
The technical changes are always a challenge for radio but the biggest challenge is making sure the staff, especially those on the air, understand why we are broadcasting a Christian format. Our employees need a good blend of a passionate desire to share the Gospel and an understanding of how we can do that in a way that informs, entertains and motivates our listeners to desire a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, I used the word entertain. It should not be a dirty word in Christian radio. Radio is part of the entertainment business. I’m not trying to offend anyone but just reading scripture non-stop over the air is boring. Sharing Scripture or the Gospel can be done in a way that is compelling, dynamic and winsome. As a friend once told me, “Be Relevant and Reverent”.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Not sure I agree with that. More is not always better. Better is better! If the things that separate Christians cause us to have another Christian format on the air, I don’t believe that makes us stronger as Christ followers, just different. I’ve been in some markets where you have 3 or 4 stations all playing a CCM format. The only thing that makes them different is what happens between the music. I was in a small market recently listening to all the signals penetrating the market and there were six country stations. The only real difference is what they called themselves. The Wolf, the Bull, the Coyote, the Bear. Kind of silly if you ask me.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job?
Besides a pot of coffee? An understanding, loving wife that pushes me out the door and tells me to be a good boy.
In what area do you believe Christian Radio needs to improve most?
As stated above, figuring out how to have Relevance and Reverence in all we do on the air. Another friend told me long ago, metaphorically speaking, to give your listeners a home cooked meal, not cotton candy. Cotton candy is fun but it will not sustain you. It’s easy to put a juke box on the air. That does not take any talent. Not sounding like a juke box will take courage on the part of managers and their board members.
What is the best managerial advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best? “Don’t let the __________ get you down”. I can’t expound on that. I trust you can fill in the blank. The worst? Every GM or PD that I worked for was helpful with the exception of the one when I asked, “What do you want me to do”. I was told to leave the building. That stung but the Lord used that to get my attention so I guess that was good advice as well.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I spent 20 years in general market radio so I have honest observations from that experience as well. This may offend some but I thought Don Imus was one of the best radio talents. He was not trying to be someone else and if you listened with a sharp ear you could tell he was a humble guy. I also like Rush Limbaugh for the same reason as Imus. He is not a phony and knows how to attract an audience. In Christian radio my favorites are Chris Fabry and Brant Hansen. They are being themselves and bring passion to their programs with relevance and reverence and that makes me want to listen to them.