By Antoine J. LaFromboise ’06
“Smile, they can hear it!” That reminder taped to the soundboard of the studio can be heard in Northwestern radio stations across the country. But as three recent University of Northwestern graduates know, they broadcast much more than smiles.
That’s because Northwestern’s radio stations aren’t typical. And Andrew Youso ’05, Mike Lanser ’06 and Laura Livingood ’07 aren’t your typical grads.
Sure, the former WVOE student radio hosts can run state-of-the-art soundboards, the latest software, and gracefully transition between news and tunes to entertain and inform audiences, but these skills are just the basics that support their real mission. They’re being the hands and feet—and voice—of Christ in the cities in which they broadcast.
“The insights and biblical knowledge I learned at Northwestern were so valuable,” said Lanser, Life 101.9 (KNWS) promotions manager and afternoon drive host in Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa. “The education I received allowed me to jump right in to loving and encouraging an entire region.”
Northwestern’s scripturally grounded education equipped each radio host to turn an ordinary broadcast into a nurturing relationship.
Take, for example, Youso, production manager and afternoon drive host for Life 96.5 (KUNW) in Sioux Falls, S.D. He remembers working at a “sticker stop” event the station held one summer where he went with the intent to promote the station by handing out bumper stickers and interviewing listeners. What happened next surpassed all his expectations.
“All of a sudden I noticed a big guy about a block away who started running towards us and was flailing about,” said Youso. “He kept on saying, ‘This is my station. This is my station!’ Here’s a guy, Henry, who I never had met in my life who comes up to me and says, ‘I love you guys, you’ve changed my life!’”
It turns out Henry first heard Life 96.5 when he was in the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Henry said he gave his life to Christ after listening to the station and says because of God’s grace he’ll never be the same.
“Henry had such a profound connection to what we were doing,” said Youso. “The joy Henry had—a joy that had transformed his family—was simply amazing and still sticks with me today.”
Reason to smile
The hosts know that encouraging their listeners isn’t a one-way channel. It creates boomerang and ripple effects. “We get to see firsthand how God is working in the lives of our listeners,” said Livingood, webmaster and midday drive host of Life 97.9 (KFNW) in Fargo, N.D. “We heard about lives being touched at a recent Drive-Thru Difference campaign.”
“There was a guy who had his McDonald’s purchased by a Life 97.9 listener,” said Livingood. “Amazingly, it was this guy’s birthday. He had never listened to Christian music before in his life. He was so touched he called in to the station right away to let us know the impact someone made on his day.”
The influence the graduates hold isn’t taken lightly. “Having so many people listening to us at the touch of a button is a responsibility,” said Lanser. “But it’s so rewarding to support so many listeners who can in turn influence the lives of those around them.”
Youso sums up his reason to smile on, and off, the air. “The message of hope is going through walls, cars, houses and yes, even jails. It’s thrilling to bring people the life-changing message of Christ.”