Light for the airwaves

Published 10:00 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

Commercial radio in Hampton Roads is packed with rock and roll, hip hop, jazz and just about every other kind of secular music one could desire.

But there’s a building tucked away in a corner of Western Branch where a small group of broadcasters is dedicated to sharing light over the airwaves through an array of radio stations that feature primarily Christian programming.

It’s a for-profit operation, but the folks who work there tend to look at it as a calling.

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“It’s a ministry, as well as a job,” says General Manager Colleen Dick, who has been with Chesapeake-Portsmouth Broadcasting Corp. for 16 years. “I find great fulfillment when we can make a difference in listeners’ lives.”

Doc Christian makes notes about what he’ll say during the next break in music during his show with T.L. Chisholm. Meanwhile, she keeps listeners engaged on the show’s various social media accounts.

For Dick, many of the shows her stations air are like old friends.

“Radio was always a part of my life,” she says, noting that she grew up listening to J. Vernon McGee, Joni Eareckson Tada, “Adventures in Odyssey” and many of the other programs listeners can still hear.

“Some of the people on our most popular programs — they’re no longer here, they’re in heaven — but their shows are still around,” she says.

She hopes that listeners around the area receive a similar blessing to what she has received from those shows throughout the years.

“We’re there to equip believers,” she says — and not as a replacement for church. “We’re there to get them what they need to get through the week.”

Dick is the public face of the stations — there are four broadcasting from the building — but the folks people probably know best are the voices they hear from their radios when they tune in.

There’s John Fredericks, whose morning show can be heard on WHKT, which also features conservative talk shows by Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Dennis Prager and Steve Deace.

Over on WPMH, listeners will hear Christian teaching and discussions from Adrian Rogers, James MacDonald, John MacArthur, Charles Stanley and many other pastors and conservative leaders.

Colleen Dick, general manager for Chesapeake-Portsmouth Broadcasting’s local radio stations, considers the largely Christian-based programming a blessing and a ministry.

WWIP blends Christian teaching and ministry by David Jeremiah, Alistair Begg and others with contemporary Christian music.

And WTJZ features contemporary Gospel music. That station recently launched a new local show, Midday Merger, with hosts Doc Christian and T.L. Chisholm.

They are an unusual pair — Christian has 48 years of radio experience, and Chisholm is a former nuclear engineer who says her pastor father was the first African-American to build a robot — but it’s the merging of their particular talents that gives the show its energy.

With Christian cueing the music and doing much of the voice work, Chisholm handles social media posts on her phone and a laptop while digging up background information they will share during the next break in the music.

Christian brings the old school, and Chisholm brings the new.

“We want to bridge the gap,” Chisholm says. “We want to communicate the Gospel in an effective way that reaches our youth.”

Christian, who is also the program manager for WTJZ, says it’s important to remember that the station is a business.

“I’m not here at the radio station to save souls,” he says. “We want to give people a reason to turn us on. We’ve got to have a product that wins. You might be compelled to move a little closer to Christ, but you’re not going to feel like we bashed you.”

Typically for their radio relationship, Chisholm has a slightly different way of looking at it.

“I’m kind of different from Doc, who manages the station,” she says. “I want to do ministry.”

Down at the end of Jolliff Road, there’s a lot of that going on.