Career Capsule: Broadcasting has been my dream job for as long as I can remember. At age 14, I began an internship with New Life 91.9 in Charlotte. I interned with the morning show and occasionally was a board operator for the afternoon show. My first “real” radio job was at age 15. I was working at iHeartRadio’s Total Traffic/Weather Network doing news and traffic reports for stations in NC, SC, and VA. At age 17, I began working as a traffic anchor for WGTS 91.9 in Washington, D.C. Shortly after, I began working with Christian FM Media Group. I also do production, voice overs and voice imaging for stations across North America.
1. Tom, tell us what’s new with YOU… news, changes, expansion… etc?
So very excited about my job. It’s a role that seriously energizes me. I absolutely love working with WGTS 91.9 – I’m celebrating my fourth year with the station! My primary role is afternoon traffic, but I’ve had the privilege of joining in for various station and outreach events. It’s an incredible team in the Nation’s Capital! For the past three years, I’ve been voice tracking various day programs with Christian FM Media Group (in addition to morning news reports for the network). I’ve also been able to assist several Christian FM stations with their fundraisers! I love getting to travel to different stations and meet with radio teams that are doing incredible work – it’s an amazing learning experience for me. I’ve recently been doing more voice imaging/voice overs for radio and tv stations across the country too! Last month, I began working with Fox 46 WJZY-TV in Charlotte as a fill-in traffic anchor! Radio has always been a love of mine but TV news anchoring is also a dream as well.
2. Regarding voice tracking, how does someone get started?
That’s a great question – I think there are multiple answers but I think one of the best ways to get started is to buy a USB mic and some recording software! Make a podcast – publish some content! Get your name and voice out there! Another great way is to simply network and get to know others in the business. Honestly, that’s how most of my radio jobs have happened — through conversation and networking with other jocks and program directors. Share your passion with them – share your ideas, your energy and enthusiasm! It’s just a matter of time.
3. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
I LOVE getting advice and input from others. I like to consider myself similar to a sponge – just want to soak up as much information and knowledge as I can.
Brandi Lanai gave me a great tip on reporting news. She told me that if I had to choose between a huge, breaking news story and a recall on peanut butter – the peanut butter takes precedence and comes first. Sure, mom needs to know about the huge, breaking news story – but she also needs to know there’s a peanut butter recall first, as she’s making little Bobby and little Suzi’s sandwich that morning for school.
Another great tip I received was to drop the “radio voice”! When I first started in radio, I would always overdue my voice and try to make it sound a little deeper – when I finally broke that habit and just started talking normally – it was incredible! It actually sounded like I was having fun and talking with my friends!
Worst advice: “Eh, I think you should find some other profession — outside of TV/radio.”
4. Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
I believe in competition – and I also believe that iron sharpens iron. However, too much of anything isn’t good.
Ultimately though, I believe that all of us as Christian stations have the same mission and vision – our impacts are eternal. While we’re technically “competing” against one another – we share the same message and have the same hope – at least, we should!
5. What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your show?
First, a microphone. Secondly, prayer. I pray before each show that God uses me and my words to impact others in a way that directs them to Him. (Oops! That’s two – but who’s counting!?)
6. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
SO glad you asked. This is something I’m really passionate about. Honestly, I believe that I am a part of the future for Christian radio air talent. At 21 years old, I truly feel an incredible responsibility to be a part of the next generation of communicators. I think stations need to find and invest in their “next generation” – especially those in the CCM format.
One of the things I love most about the team at WGTS 91.9 is the plethora of student interns on staff. The energy, ideas and passion from all age groups, in my opinion, makes our ministry and impact much greater because of it. It’s truly a staff of almost every age group. WGTS is taking the time to invest in the lives of young people interested in the industry and making them a part of the team. I was so fortunate to have that happen to me at the age of 17! Jerry Woods believed in me and my passion for radio. Jerry suggested to then PD Ty McFarland, that I’d be a traffic reporter for the station – at age 17 – in market 7! It’s been 4 years since, and I truly feel that I’ve had the opportunity to grow with WGTS over the years personally and professionally. WGTS truly has a radio family feel.
Likewise, Jon Hamilton and Paul Tipton of Christian FM Media Group gave me an incredible opportunity to join their team! This is a major network with stations all over North America! Paul and Jon were willing to let me, 18 years old at the time, join their team! I was over the moon! I then became a fill-in and tracked the overnight weekend shift. Today, I’m on a morning show for 3 stations and track various other day parts with Christian FM as well. So incredibly grateful and just overwhelmed to continue to grow in my career with guidance from industry innovators that are giving me a chance.
7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
There are a couple of things that come to mind. I think some of us need to get out of the mindset of only focusing on the FM dial as a ways of communication. It’s 2016 – people are using social media more than ever! I love to see stations utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to connect with listeners. Some stations are even using Snapchat – which is awesome! The new Facebook Live feature is incredible and something you definitely need to check out and try.
I also think we need to find innovators that think outside of the box when it comes to connection and engagement. Eugene Simonov is one of those people. He’s the head of video production at WGTS 91.9. Eugene produces powerful video production elements for the ministry of WGTS. We have a really cool web series called “Words of Hope” – it’s a quick 2-3 minute videos featuring WGTS air staff and often WGTS listeners! It’s all about sharing stories of hope and encouragement – real life, real listeners, and real stories. It’s amazing – and it’s another way to connect with our listeners – outside of the radio dial.
8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? And why?
I am just so incredibly grateful for all who have believed in me and who have encouraged me along my journey. Kyle Whitford, who was the production director with CBS Radio in Charlotte, started coaching me at age 13! I was doing commercial and community PSA spots! He was and still is a coach of mine to this day – he’s an excellent mentor and friend. I will forever be grateful for Jerry Woods and his help in getting me on the team at WGTS. I am just SO thankful for leadership of Kevin Krueger and Brennan Wimbish of WGTS, along with Jon Hamilton and Paul Tipton of Christian FM. These are all people who have inspired me to do great things – and also give back to others. I have learned so much from these industry leaders. I hope one day I have the chance to give someone the incredible opportunities I’ve had so far.