Rick Smith Interview

Rick Smith
Program Director/Afternoon Show Host
WCIC
Peoria 

Career Capsule: I was originally hired as a part time announcer at WCIC in September of 2002.  Then in September 2004, I was hired on full time to serve as an IT Engineer for New Life Media which encompassed WCIC, WBGL and WIBI.  I served in that role for 15 years moving up to Sr. IT Engineer and then Director of Technology.  Throughout those 15 years, I maintained some voice tracking for both WCIC and WIBI.  Then in April of 2020, I accepted the position of Program Director/Afternoon Show host at WCIC.

 

Rick, tell us what’s new at WCIC… News, changes & new with you… etc?

Well, I am fairly new at WCIC (at least in my current roll)!! In the last year, WCIC has seen a lot of new staff in new positions.  Joe Buchanan joined as Station Manager after Dave Brooks exited.  Jessie Browning was promoted to APD and joined me as the Afternoon Show Co-Host.  Leesa Leslie came on full time as the Underwriting Director and Midday Host.  Drew Copeland came on to fill the Listener Engagement Director position Jessie was in. Oh, and we got a new Morning Show with Chris Scotland and Lindsey Capperrune joining the team.  Personally, my wife Melissa and I (we’ll celebrate 18 years of marriage in 2021) have started the process of becoming empty nesters!  Our oldest two, Makenna (21) and Maddie (20) are already out of the nest, with Makenna living in Arizona and Maddie completing her sophomore year at Virginia Tech.  It’ll still be a while before the nest is empty though as we still have 3 at home; Meadow (17), Reece (15) and Macey (12).

 

How has your station’s operations been affected by the pandemic. What’s been the biggest issue?

COVID was officially announced as a pandemic right in the middle of our spring fundraiser last year. We had built pretty good momentum, but there was definitely a shift in response as people began to process what that meant.  But God has been faithful and the station is doing well.  One of the biggest challenges has been staff (especially on-air staff) needing to quarantine when they experience symptoms or have been exposed. 

 

What’s the best programming/show advice you’ve been given?

Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to always try to eliminate the barriers for listeners. In other words, work your best to make them forget they’re listening to you on the radio and make them think that you are sitting right there next to them.

 

Some say the more Christian Stations in a market the “better”… What’s your opinion?

Having multiple stations in a market is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially when they’re working to meet diverse needs.  Competition can drive us to be better at what we do, but I wonder if competing for listeners and donors can distract from the mission of reaching people for Christ?

 

What is your opinion of podcasts for stations & air talent? Are they necessary, must have one, etc.?

I think podcasts are great! I think we should be trying to meet our listeners wherever they are.  If you have some unique content that fits the podcasting format, I definitely think there is wisdom in pursuing them.  I don’t think they’re so necessary that you need to force it with less than excellent quality/content.

 

Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?

I think it’s going to be the places you don’t expect! The person sitting next to you at church, the person that works at the coffee shop, etc.  What matters is their skill in engaging people and their story telling ability.

 

Generally speaking to the industry, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian Air Talent?

I think the pandemic has demonstrated one of our biggest challenges. There have been studies for years showing traditional radio listening is trending down.  And with more people than ever working from home or sheltering in place we got a big dose of that over the last year.  I think part of the solution is making sure you are where the listeners are; Mobile apps, smart speaker skills, podcasts, etc.  We have the content that they want, we just need to be sure they can get to it, even if they don’t have access to a traditional radio.

 

Who are your radio heroes and influences and why?

There’s no way I can name everyone that deserves it, but I can try! First, I have to give credit to Dave Brooks, Grayson Long and Debi McMorrow. I hadn’t even thought of a career in radio until Dave Brooks asked me if I’d be interested in it, and Debi and Grayson were responsible for getting me over the finish line and hired on as a part time announcer.  Then over the years, I have to thank Jeremiah Beck and Rob Regal for giving me shifts at WIBI and Dave Brooks, Jeff Scott, Barry Copeland and Jeremy Tracey for allowing me the space to continue tracking work in addition to running an engineering department!  For influences there has been so much great talent that have come through WBGL, WCIC and WIBI that I have been able to listen to that I cannot possibly name them all.  There are so many great PDs in the Northwestern Media network, including Ryan Springer at WBGL whom I’ve had the privilege of working with for years, that have all been amazing to work with and so free in sharing ideas and advice.  Lisa Williams has been wonderful to work with.  From coaching me as an on-air talent, talking programming, filling in for the morning show during a transition period and help fundraising it’s been amazing.  Finally, I have to thank Joe Buchanan who believed in me enough to hire an engineer as PD.  He has been an incredible mentor in programming and music, and I appreciate him giving me the opportunity and believing in me!

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