Dallas, TX (DFW Catholic) – Most faithful Catholics in the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth know all about Guadalupe Radio Network and the Catholic radio stations, 910 AM KATH (English) and 850 AM KJON (Spanish) that bring 24 hour Catholic programming to the Metroplex. Or do they?
Recently, GRN’s North Texas General Manager, Dave Palmer, spoke with DFW Catholic about the stations, and the upcoming “radiothon” scheduled October 22, 23, and 24.
Below are some excerpts from that conversation:
DFW - What got Catholic radio started in the DFW area?
DP - In 1996, Mother Angelica, during one of her shows on EWTN, looked in to the camera and said, “You people out there, especially you loaded ones, go out and buy the stations, and I’ll provide our programming for free. We need Catholic radio.” And several people took her up on that. That was 12 years ago, and it was the big break-through moment, because to this day programming is the most difficult thing to do. At that time, there were only five Catholic radio stations in the US. One was in Nome, Alaska. The other four were playing music. They were Catholic, really in name only. They may have done some announcements, but it was nothing like we have now.
Then, in 1997 or ’98, Deacon Stanley Gaines with St. Anthony Catholic Parish in Dallas first envisioned catholic radio in this area. At the time, I was still living in Mississippi and wasn’t yet involved. Stanley got a few people together, and they were meeting at St. Monica Parish once a month to discuss how to get the ball rolling.
Around 2000 or so, I first got involved with Stanley and a few other persons as Operations Manager of Radio Xavier, as the group was then called. Really at that time, it was just a dream, trying to get some money together to start a radio station. We were really just muddling our way through it.
Then, about 2003 or 2004, after Stanley had passed away, Mike Murray became the President at Radio Xavier. The group now had a board, all of whom were volunteers. I was teaching at Bishop Dunn High School. I had taught for three years and discerned that I was not to be a teacher. I asked the board if they would hire me as Executive Director. By this time, there was about $30,000 in the bank. I said I would try to raise money, and if we ran out, well we ran out. But that worked out real well. Having someone on the ground, full-time, trying to raise money and get things going really helped.
We started doing interviews, and put them on the website. So I would interview leaders in the community, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities. All of a sudden, people were going to our website and hearing these interviews.
Shortly after that, we started a Sunday morning radio show called “Radio Xavier Live”. It was broadcast from 7 to 9 a.m. on 660AM KSKY. We developed a bit of a following, and people knew they could tune in on Sunday morning to Catholic radio. One day, we prayed the Rosary. I think that was the first time a Rosary was prayed on the radio in North Texas. It was very expensive to do that show, and although we were collecting some money, we were barely keeping our heads above water.
It was about that time that I met the Guadalupe Radio Network folks at a Catholic radio conference in Birmingham. I suggested that they could “come out and help us”. We didn’t have the experience of buying station. Around that time, I had met a faithful Catholic gentleman who bought into the vision of Catholic radio, and he and his wife were interested in investing. So, all the pieces were now coming together. GRN wanted to come out and help us, we had a few interested investors, and a grassroots effort had started locally as people started to understand, “This is what Catholic radio sounds like.”
Radio Xavier’s board voted unanimously to let GRN take over, my employment transferred from Radio Xavier to GRN, and the gentlemen and his wife, who prefer to remain anonymous, actually bought the 2 radio stations. To this day, they own the stations, and we lease from them.
On October 1, two years ago, we went on the air with 2 stations in North Texas. KXEB at the time was our English station and KJON, our Spanish station. That was the first time any market had 2 stations, English and Spanish, owned by the same people, at the same time.
The people have supported us ever since. We’ve got the radiothon coming up next week and we’re praying for the best. Sometimes we struggle, we have a small staff, sometimes we’re overworked, but it’s a labor of love.
DFW - Were there difficult times that you wondered if this was going to be successful?
DP - There were some very difficult times. In fact, when GRN hired me, they had 9 stations. We now have 13. We brought on 2 in San Antonio and 2 in Dallas. There was a time where I was here, and there was no guarantee of getting a station. They happened to have a General Manager position open in Midland. They had a guy here with no station and a station there with nobody, so I moved to Midland for 6 months. In the meantime, we were still trying to get a station out here, and we had fund raising meeting after fundraising meeting after fund raising meeting in people’s living rooms. We were meeting people at country clubs, and it seemed like it was going nowhere. These were “good times” economically, but we were trying to sell something that did not exist.
We did have a few people, mostly from the Fort Worth area, at that time, who came through with sizable gifts of $20,000 here and there. That really gave us hope although when you are talking about multi-million dollar stations, that doesn’t go very far.
It looked pretty bleak for a while. Our morning show was dumped for the “Dirt Doctor”, we didn’t have a station, and fundraising was not going too well. There were a few months that I thought I would be in Midland for 20 years before we would get a station in North Texas. God had other plans.
Ultimately, it was the couple I referred to that helped us out. We absolutely could not have done it without them. There have been other people that have supported us ever since, but they got us going.
Today, it’s the person who gives us $30 per month or $50 per month that keeps us on the air.
DFW - What has been the biggest surprise?
DP - I was surprised by how difficult it was. You know, it’s hard to sell something people are not familiar with. Most people at the time had not heard Catholic radio. Christian radio was Protestant, and most people were happily listening to KLTY and 90.9, and “The Word”. Everybody had said that getting Catholic radio into the big markets was pretty much impossible. To this day, New York and Los Angeles do not have Catholic radio. San Francisco only recently got it. Obviously, it has worked here, and thanks to the Lord, people are supporting the stations.
DFW - Is there a difference in the way the Protestant stations support themselves and the way Catholic radio supports itself?
DP - Well, there’s no one type of Protestant station. For instance, if you look at KLTY 94.9 FM, they’re a music station, they’re selling commercials, they’re 100 percent commercial based, and that’s their formula. They don’t take donations. They’re a for profit station. Some other protestant stations do depend on donors. You know, traditionally, Protestants have been more willing to give. I think Catholics are learning how to tithe. It’s something we need to keep teaching people about. Although I don’t hear it much from the pulpit, I think it’s an obligation. We shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back over the 10 percent of our income we give God. That’s what we are supposed to give Him. If you give 15 or 20 percent, then you’re going above and beyond, but we all really owe God 10 percent. We only ask for a little bit. At least half should go to your parish and then you can divide the rest among the other apostolates that you think are worthy of your money.
Ever since my wife and I decided to give 10 percent, we’ve never missed it. We slice up our little pie and give to worthy apostolates. It’s a great feeling of liberation to let go of that 10 percent of your income. I think a lot of people do this, but I think there’s still a lot of work to be done in this area.
DFW - Are there new goals that you would like to see reached?
DP - We want to expand our listener base. Sometimes we talk about how we’re preaching to the choir, but I think that’s always the case. We hear people all the time that call the station to differ with us, and that’s a good thing. Two Fridays ago, we had 2 people call in who disagreed with us on abortion. So you’ve got people listening who are not your die hard orthodox Catholics. I think we need to get out to the festivals and to the parishes. We need to do parish talks and let people know we’re here. We need to appeal to other people without beating them down. Now, we don’t want to water down the message in order to bring more people in, but we need to make people aware that we’re here. When I stand up in a parish and ask how many know there’s Catholic radio, I’m lucky to get 50 percent of the people, and that’s in a Catholic church. Sometimes, it’s only a third. The effort to let people know we’re here continues to be strong. We have a very strong core of people that listen to us, some exclusively. They’re mostly the ones helping us financially.
The other challenge is to expand the base of support so that we can hire some people. We are very thin. We have 2 employees to run the 2 stations. I would challenge you to find another station in this market with a one to one employee to station ratio. It’s more like 15 or 20. At most of these stations, you have a whole P.R. department or marketing department for promotions. They have a sales staff and sales manager, G.M., traffic, and on-air people. To have 1 person per station is tough, but it’s just the way it has to be right now. We’re very prudent with our money and trying to stay on the air. I get calls from people every week from people who want jobs, want to work in Catholic radio. One of my goals would be to hire some of these people. Obviously, we have to have the finances to do that before we can.
DFW - Only 50 percent of Catholics in parishes you go to know about Catholic Radio? That’s shocking. Is there a perception among regular listeners that everyone’s listening, and does that hinder the message getting out?
DP - I think a lot of it has to do with the size of our staff, and a lot has to do with things I could have done better, but we’re still new. We’re just 2 years old. I don’t think we’re ever going to get to the point where that number is 100 percent. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t know you exist, but I’d like to get to the point where we’re like Coca-Cola, where even if you don’t drink it, you know it’s out there. There are radio stations that, even if you don’t listen, you know they exist. I want people to at least know that there’s Catholic radio in North Texas. Then they can make a decision of whether or not they want to listen. At the same time, we want to provide programming that’s compelling enough to keep them. The Church has the fullness of truth. All we’re doing is presenting that message. It’s the message that needs to be heard in this culture. It’s the remedy for a lot of the problems in our culture today.
DFW - You’ve begun to use parish representatives to help get the information out to their respective parishes. How effective is that, and how much more help do you need?
DP - We probably have volunteers for about half of the parishes. The parish reps have done a phenomenal job. Of course, there’s some who are able to do more than others. When new reps get started, we tell them to do what they can, but their Faith and family has to come first, their job next, and we’ll try to get in that next spot if we can. There are so many other things these folks can be doing. They’re not getting paid by us, so we’re thankful for whatever they can do to help. We’re working on getting a parish rep in every parish, but it’s been more challenging that I thought. I thought we’d have no problem getting them all filled up. We’ve had people drop off due to moving or changing parishes, so it’s really a job in itself to maintain and organize that volunteer base and to get them the materials that they need. I’m happy with where we are, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
DFW - You have the radiothon coming up. What do you really want people to know about that?
DP - To run these 2 radio stations costs approximately $60,000 per month, and we’re really just neck and neck. We’re making it, but the summer is always difficult for us, so by the time the radiothon gets here, we really need it to make up for that. We are surprised to be just 2 years into it and almost in the black. That’s a good thing and a testament to the people who have supported us. But I’d like people to ask themselves how they’ve benefitted from Catholic radio, and let the Holy Spirit guide them in how they should respond to that. The Bishop’s letter concerning faithful Catholic voting came out last week. Today, we were already broadcasting excerpts from that. Many of our national hosts have read the letter in its entirety. Catholic radio is a powerful medium that people in North Texas have not had before. We hear from people all of the time telling us how it has changed their lives. That’s exciting. I have 2 good friends whom I met because they called me and said they were becoming Catholic because of Catholic radio. People say their lives have been fundamentally changed. For instance, a lady in Plano wrote to us and said that for the first time ever, they celebrated Father’s Day with a father and husband, all because she went out and tuned her husbands radio to our station.
Times are tough right now. These are times when people, hopefully do not let fear get in the way and dig a littler deeper. We need to look no further than the elections that are coming up and the issues that are on the table. These are perilous times, and the political talk stations are talking about the economy and terrorism. Those are important things, but they don’t talk about issues that are fundamental to Catholics. Catholic radio is hitting hard on the issues that matter most.
That’s part of the reason we need to be supported. We’re getting new listeners all of the time. Some of them are finding out about the Catholic Church or are being evangelized for the first time. It’s critical that we’re supported. My wife and I support the Guadalupe Radio Network. I wouldn’t ask people to do something I’m not already doing. We should be supporting the pro-life committees, the parishes, and the Diocese. I would encourage people to be generous, to give God the first fruits not the last. When I get paid, we chop that 10 percent off right away. It’s dangerous to wait until you pay your bills and see what’s left. I just hope people will continue to be generous. Perhaps now, more than ever, we need their support.
DP - Sometimes, when you’re talking about radio and fundraising and parish reps, it’s easy to get caught up in the here and now with the bottom line and the operations and the technical parts, but we’ve witnessed time and time again the power of prayer. Every time we have a radiothon, we call prayer warriors. We call convents and we ask people to pray for us. There have been a lot of times where people said they couldn’t support us financially, but they would pray for us. We truly appreciate that. I have seen where prayer has really sustained us.
Also, we break every day at 3 p.m. to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet as a company. We always pray for our donors, our listeners, people who haven’t tuned us in yet, and our sponsors. We try not to get too overwhelmed with the day to day. God will provide the people who donate. God will provide the people who tune in. We don’t keep track of the number of listeners. People are always asking how many listeners we have. I don’t know. Not that I don’t care, I hope everybody’s listening, but it’s not our top concern. Listeners will increase as God wills. So, this is a spiritual endeavor, and it’s exciting. We never want to lose focus of what’s most important, and that’s prayer. Even if next week, we didn’t raise a penny, somehow, God will provide. We try not to succumb to a spirit of fear and to have fun, and we do.
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