In 2009, as my time in graduate school was drawing to a close and before I had been hired at CBU, I spent a few months working with a career counselor. Part of our work together was to help prepare me to find academic jobs, but another important aspect of our conversations concerned what I’d like to do in case I wasn’t able to find immediate work in a university setting.
One day, in the midst of skills assessments and personality profiles, the counselor gave me a writing assignment. “Don’t think about it, just write,” he said. “Write the first things that come to your mind about what you’d like to do for a job, before your brain has a chance to edit it.”
I was skeptical, but when I began to free-write, the result took me completely by surprise. I looked down at the page and saw the words I had just written: I have always wanted to be a voice on the radio.
Fast-forward to last spring. By now I am on faculty at CBU and settling in to the rhythms of the academic life. Like all my colleagues, I am busy. But summer is coming and I am starting to think about how I will organize my weeks of non-teaching time. Somewhere in April I was driving one day, flipping around the AM dial looking for talk radio (NPR in Memphis ends at 9 a.m. and doesn’t resume until mid-afternoon). I had settled for a while on The Dave Ramsey Show on local station KWAM 990AM.
Suddenly, in the middle of the ads, was an announcement from station manager George Bryant. “Have you ever wanted to have your own radio show?” he asked. “Give me a call.”
I wrote down the number.
For the next several weeks I kept coming back to that slip of paper with the number on it. I have always wanted to be a voice on the radio. But I’m busy. There’s no time. There are lots of other projects I need to finish. This is a silly dream.
It stayed with me though. I have always wanted to be a voice on the radio.
So, as school was ending and the summer began, I spoke to my wife about calling the station. With her agreement and support, I got in touch with George.
The information from that first conversation was helpful. No, I wouldn’t be an employee of the station. The show would function like an hour-long infomercial. I could program it any way I wished, so long as it met FCC guidelines. I would pay for each hour of time, and in exchange, I could use the studio at the station to record with an engineer, and they would air spots through each week to help promote the show.
After a lot of brainstorming (and some very forgettable names), the phrase from Hebrews 11 struck a chord: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I wanted the show to be about faith, but especially about the invisible ways faith affects our lives. Plus, this was radio. The concept fit perfectly. “Things Not Seen.” Exactly.
All told, it took about seven weeks of solid time to plan the show and get it up and running. We had our first interview, with local pastor Stacy Smith, in mid-June. On July 8th, that interview was broadcast. We were on the air.
For the next six months, with the patient support of my family, a great deal of help and input from the KWAM staff, and a growing body of listeners, Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith was on the air with a show a week, every week.
By the time we had finished the season, on December 30th, we had managed to highlight local ministries as well as feature guests with national profiles, who were also being interviewed on NPR and The Daily Show.
I am extraordinarily proud of the show. Our first season featured 25 episodes of great radio. Thanks to the internet, we now have hundreds of listeners downloading the podcasts each week from our website at thingsnotseenradio.com. The show is on a three month break right now, but we’re already planning for the 2013 season, with close to 30 shows and an even more ambitious array of guests.
I won’t lie. Producing this show was crazy. The schedule was insane, and there were several weeks I stayed up all night to get editing done in time to get the show to the station for broadcast. As busy as it was, though, I wouldn’t change a thing. I get to talk to people about their faith, and I enjoy that so much. I get to share those conversations with interested listeners, and I get to see the effects of that sharing in my community; most of all though, I get to be a voice on the radio. Thanks for listening.
Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith, will resume in April 2013. In the meantime you can click the link about to listen to all of the 2012 shows for free, as well as sign up for podcasts of our new short series, Religion Moments.
Dr. David Dault holds advanced degrees in religious studies from Columbia Theological Seminary and Vanderbilt University. He currently teaches in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University. He got his start in journalism when he was sixteen years old, writing articles for his hometown newspaper and has been asking folks questions ever since.