At home, in the car, commuting or out for a walk, Catholic radio -- whether over the airwaves or online -- has become a valuable tool for talking and teaching about the Faith, and for evangelization.
One of Catholic radio's top personalities is award-winning journalist, writer, speaker and broadcaster Drew Mariani, host of The Drew Mariani Show, a three-hour daily program on Relevant Radio.
Mariani was kind enough to answer a few questions about what's going in his business right now and what he sees for the future (questions in bold).
What are listeners looking for the most when they tune in?
From my experience, they’re looking for a lot of different things. First, I think, and to put it negatively, they don’t want to be bored.
There are three elements to great radio ... it must entertain, inform and inspire. First and foremost listeners want to be entertained. You don’t inspire or inform if you don’t have their attention. As one radio consultant tells us, “Don’t be boring.”
Listeners are also looking to grow in their faith, that is why the catechesis that Relevant offers has been so successful. But they also want to find out how their faith engages what’s going on in the world today, and that’s what I try to tackle in my show.
I think a faith-filled perspective on the most important issues of the day is critical in helping listeners “bridge the gap between their faith and life.”
The world has changed in the last few months – what has been the effect on Catholic radio?
I can’t really speak about all of Catholic radio, but I know that for us, people have been really turning to us in greater numbers because they want to make sense of what’s going on in the world around them. It’s been very challenging to keep on top of all that’s going on and to bring a sound and intelligent Catholic response to that.
Your show and others like it may be some listeners’ first introduction to the Faith. How do you balance that with the needs of your already-faithful listeners?
I think what’s unique about our show is that we’re addressing the issues of the day from a Catholic perspective. They may hear a discussion on immigration, the death penalty, finance, or vaccines. Whatever the topic, we will explore it through the lens of Catholic principles.
So, even if someone tunes in for the first time and hears, for instance, Father Tad Pacholczyk from the National Catholic Bioethics Center talking about some bioethical question, that’s going to at least let them know that our faith has serious answers to some of life’s most difficult questions.
And because Relevant Radio has a variety of different shows, that person can tune into something that’s going to address their more fundamental needs.
How do people listen? In the car? Online? Podcast?
All three, plus on our free app. The car is definitely where most of the listening to my show occurs, or at least it was before the coronavirus hit. I’m on the air every day in “afternoon drive,” from 3 to 6 p.m. on the East Coast and heard all across the country. But our online, app and podcast numbers have certainly gone up in the days since the virus hit.
The death of radio has been declared since the arrival of talkies. What do you think sustains Catholic radio?
You can’t find it anywhere else. Where else on the radio dial are you going to hear about the Faith or hear about the Church’s positions on so many different issues?
Radio is a unique medium. It allows people to engage while they are driving, jogging, working, making dinner, working out and just about any other activity. Visual media require you having to watch and have your attention focused on the images and message. Personally, I believe radio will be around for a very long time.
As much as any of us can make guesses about the future, what do you see in the next few years for Catholic radio?
Fortunately, radio itself doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so that’s a good thing. I see more growth for us, especially as uncertainty hits the population in general. People are going to want to hear about something that never changes, and that’s our Catholic faith. Jesus Christ is still being preached 2,000+ years later.
And I hope we see those working in Catholic radio working hard at improving in the craft so that people will really want to listen to it.
How has your show specifically changed in the last few months, and what do you foresee for the year ahead?
We’ve been talking about health a lot more than we have in the past. We’ve been trying to keep people informed daily about what’s going on with the virus and getting the best commentary that we can on all of the repercussions from it.
For the year ahead, that’s really hard to predict. We’re certainly going to cover the elections and their aftermath. But for the rest, it’s going to depend on how this virus goes and, more importantly, how people react to it.
Before I entered the world of talk radio I was a documentary filmmaker. I would spend a year plus working on a single production… that work could live on in the years ahead. In radio you are only as good as your last show.
Events in the culture and the Church will ultimately drive my content. As the challenges of life continue to manifest, I think listeners will always be looking for answers and I hope to be able to provide a clear moral perspective for them in the days ahead.
What’s the hardest thing about doing talk radio?
Knowing what to talk about. Seriously. Since we’re a news-driven show, there are slow news days so there are days when it’s tough to find anything. But even when there’s a lot of news, like there is right now, it’s knowing what exactly to talk about.
What’s the most fun?
Just opening the mic and talking with people and then the interaction with my guests and the listeners. Every day is different, unique and challenging. What can be more fun than that?
Dream guest you haven’t had yet?
I’ll give you two: Pope Francis, and Benedict XVI. There would be so much to talk about.
Click here to listen to The Drew Mariani Show online.
Image: Relevant Radio
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager and blog editor at Family Theater Productions.