Catholic programming tries some fresh air
WJOK to aim for 'relevant radio' in mission to evangelize
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
During a recent visit to the Vatican, Sherry Brownrigg,
president of Starboard Network, Inc., experienced a feeling she
will never forget.
"I've never had a feeling of being more at home," she said.
"This is where we belong, in our faith."
Brownrigg hopes to provide a similar feeling to Catholic radio
listeners. On April 21, Starboard, a national network of Catholic
radio based in Green Bay, will launch its new network feed of
programming, called "relevant radio." It will air on nine stations;
including 1050 AM WJOK in the Fox Valley and Green Bay.
"We are taking some of the best shows out there and putting them
on our network," said Brownrigg. "We are also starting with one of
our own productions, 'Morning Air.' That show will not only play on
Starboard owned and operated stations, but also be available to
other affiliates across the country on June 1."
"Morning Air," which runs from 7 to 9 a.m. Central Time, will be
hosted by Jeff Cavins, former producer and host of "Life on the
Rock," a live talk show for young adults on EWTN (Eternal Word
Television Network). The show, produced at the Starboard studios in
Minneapolis, will feature studio guests, phone interviews, music
and call-in segments for listeners to ask questions and share their
views on Catholic issues. "Morning Air' will also include local
news, weather and sports updates.
"Our hope is for people to learn about faith in the context of
their everyday lives," said Brownrigg. "They need to know what the
weather is going to be, so they know how to dress their kids. In
the past, the Catholic media that was out there forced them to
choose. They had to turn to other stations for the news, weather
and sports. At specific times, local affiliates will be able to
insert local updates."
The programming lineup also includes such shows as "Catholic
Answers Live," "The Doctor Is In," hosted by Dr. Ray Guarendi,
"Catholic Radio Weekly," sponsored by the United States Bishops,
and a noon news magazine show hosted by Teresa Tomeo.
Since its inception, Starboard primarily carried EWTN
programming. The change is designed to reach a broader audience,
"Americans are used to listening to good media and they are used
to listening to it in a certain form, where you have shows broken
up into smaller segments that they consume quickly," she said. "We
want to combine the teaching of our faith in a form that the
average American is used to."
"EWTN is essential to have," she continued. "It's for the very
devout, and they (EWTN) will tell you that. They do a very good job
of ministering to the 2% of Catholics that practice their faith
more than one hour a day, but Starboard is called to a mission of
evangelizing. Most of the remaining Catholics will never listen to
that style of programming, and that's unfortunate. The new
programming will be no different than the faith heard on EWTN."
Starboard affiliates, which in the state of Wisconsin
includes1050 AM WDVM, Eau Claire; 1240 AM WHFA, Madison; 93.9 FM
WMMA, Wisconsin Rapids; and 1550 AM WZRK, Lake Geneva; in addition
to WJOK, will have the opportunity to offer local programming each
day. The goal of local programming is to best serve the diocese,
"We want to make sure we do the right type of local
programming," she said. "We don't want to throw on local
programming because we think we need it on. When you look at the
Green Bay Diocese, there are wonderful priests that are here and
lay people that have so much to give. It is very exciting to hear
your priest on the radio. Our local station managers will work with
the local community and diocesan officials to develop local
Starboard received designation from the United States Council of
Catholic Bishops. The network also was approved by Card. James
Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and
Abp. John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications. The vision of Starboard will be presented to the
Pope at an upcoming meeting in Rome, said Brownrigg.
Card. Francis George of Chicago, Abp. Timothy Dolan of
Milwaukee, Abp. Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Bp.
Raymond Burke of La Crosse serve as the Episcopal Advisory Council.
The council will meet four times a year. Msgr. Roy Klister, rector
ofSt. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, and pastor of St. John
the Evangelist Parish, Green Bay, serves as the spiritual director
for the Starboard Network.
"Two years ago, Mark Follett (chairman of the board and CEO of
Starboard Network) who started WJOK said, 'Why can't we do this
across the nation?'" said Brownrigg. "Evangelism is really our
goal. We want to reach people who otherwise would not be reached.
Our Catholic faith should be a part of everything we do. Most
people put their faith in a nice little package and put it away,
only pulling it out when they need it. Our lives would be so
enriched, so joyful if we realized that we can get everything we
need from our faith."