Career Capsule: I have worked in radio since 1991. From Mainstream, to Christian Radio for 12 years, back into Mainstream for another 9 1/2, where my co-host, Brook and I, hosted a top rated morning show. Then, after a corporate Radio downsize, we saw God open the door and walk us back into Christian radio. We both have been at JOY99 (WJQK) since 2018. Brook and I have co-hosted a morning show since 2004.
Tommy, tell us what’s new at WJQK … news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
At JOY99, we have undergone many changes since 1/8/18. We have undergone a name change from JQ 99.3, to JOY 99. With the help of John Frost, TJ Holland, and Mark Ramsay, we conducted a major research project, and have been honing in on reaching West Michigan with a message of JOY, Hope and Encouragement. It was through this research project that lead us to the conclusion that God was leading us to reimagine the station as a station of JOY to West Michigan. Through this, we changed our name to JOY 99.
How has your WJQK show changed during the pandemic?
We have seen many changes happen through COVID. One of which, is how we have conducted our show. We were able to react to the changes by doing our show by meeting up through Clean Feed. It is a free internet site in which we can still do our show, with incredible studio quality. While it was odd not having phone calls to interact with our friends, we have seen such a large uptick in the amount of involvement through Facebook, IG and Texting. That said, it has forced our communication to be more intentional with reaching out to our audience, instead of us waiting for them to reach out to us.
Joy99, by teaming up with West Michigan native, and current Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, has been able to continue to reach into the community through food drives, helping to pay off outstanding debts, and helping struggling families.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
It’s all about the listener. When my wife and I throw a party, we want our friends to be the stars of the event. Not us. Same is true with our morning show, and JOY 99.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the “better”…. What’s your opinion?
In West Michigan, we have 5 Christian Radio stations. It excites me to see that God is using all of us to reach more people.
What’s your opinion on podcasts… is it necessary to have one, are they a threat to radio… etc?
We have been toying with the idea of podcasting. I do believe it is a great extension of what we do on air. That said, we love to go Facebook live as another vehicle to reach our friends. I won’t say it is a “threat” to radio? But, we are not just a radio station. We need to be on-air, online, and on location. I also believe that our websites are great places to house long form programs, which could only ever be done exclusively on-air.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
I believe that people continue to want authenticity. Not a polished, booming voice, and not necessarily someone with years on the radio. Someone who can communicate. Someone who can tell a story. Last year, I took a “chance” on our midday talent, Season Bowers. Season is the host of a very powerful 1 minute “JoyBringer” national segment. She has a unique way to communicate, and yet had very little radio background. She is an incredible communicator, and reinforces my thoughts on authenticity over “polished”.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Being stagnant and not evolving as an industry. When the “Tommy and Brook” brand debuted in mainstream radio, we solidified ourselves as a Faith-based morning show on a mainstream station. Not many people gave us a chance, but God went before us, and lead the way. It pushed us out of our comfort zone, and it was not easy. However, it allowed us to reach many more people, and try new things to reach a “lost community”. It is easy to stay in our “safe lane”, and not be willing to try something new. We need to be willing to step out of the boat.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I grew up listening to the giants of radio. Giants like Paul Harvey, Kevin Matthews, Larry Lujack, and Fred Winston. Each of them had one main thing in common, the ability to make the listener welcomed to the party. (see answer 3)