Staying the Course With Catholic Radio: An interview with JMJ Radio

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Staying the Course With Catholic Radio: An interview with JMJ RadioMoral problems abound in our society and the liberal mainstream media only makes it worse. That is why the many smaller radio stations throughout the country, especially Catholic radio stations, are important.

Crusade Magazine is pleased to present the fascinating unique account of how Mr. Ed Niewinski and his wife Carol Ann saved Catholic radio station, WQOR, known as JMJ Catholic Radio 750, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. The radio station was started upon the request of Scranton’s former Bishop James Timlin. Mr. Niewinski agreed to an interview with Crusade which we believe would be an interesting story for our readership.

Crusade Magazine:  We were fascinated with your story of how JMJ Catholic Radio came about, and how you and your wife Carol Ann became the owners of the radio station. Could you please give us a little background about yourself and how this all came about?

Mr. Ed Niewinski:  My wife and I were high school sweethearts that grew up in Forty Fort, Penn. I went on to Philadelphia and graduated from Temple University. After my wife graduated from the nursing program at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes Barre, Penn. she moved down to work in Misericordia Hospital in Philadelphia. After we married, we decided to move from Philly back to the hometown to raise our family.

I worked in the banking business for thirty years and about five years before I retired my wife and I got involved with JMJ radio when its owner, Jim Wright from Buffalo, N.Y., was looking to form a local advisory board from the local area for the station. Jim started the Catholic radio station at the request of Bishop James Timlin, the former bishop of the Diocese of Scranton.

Crusade:  How did it come about that you and your wife became the owners of the station? I’m sure this was the last thing you were expecting after retiring with thirty years in the banking business.

Mr. Niewinski:  You’re right, I never intended to be the owner of a radio station and how that came about was kind of unique. While I was chairman of the Board of Advisors, Jim called me one day and informed me that he was selling the station. He couldn’t sustain the cost to maintain it because there wasn’t much local financial support. Knowing JMJ was a part of a group of stations owned by the same company out of Buffalo, many locals thought their donations might be helping the other non-local radio stations.

At the next meeting of the board with Jim on speaker phone, he announced to the other members of the board that he was going to sell the station. I asked him, “Jim if you sell it will it still be a Catholic radio station?” He replied that he couldn’t guarantee it. To everyone’s surprise I told him that I think I found a buyer. Shocked, he said: “Who?” I looked at my wife and said: “You and me honey!”

That is really how we ended up buying the station.

Crusade:  What happened then?

Mr. Niewinski:  Well, we negotiated back and forth and arrived at a price for the station that was agreeable for the both of us. I had no idea how to run a radio station but, because of my years in banking, I knew how to do balance sheets and where to look on how to save money and make this thing work. I believed that this was going to be a journey and it really became what I called a great “leap of faith.”

Relics which show the true Catholic nature of JMJ Catholic Radio 750.
Relics which show the true Catholic nature of JMJ Catholic Radio 750.

The day we bought the station (which was a little over five years ago on the Feast of Saint Joseph), I had a conversation with Father Leo McKernan, the Superior of the Oblates here at Saint Joseph’s. I explained to him how the office space in Scranton was very expensive to rent and asked him if we could come aboard and do the station from the Oblates center here in Pittston, Penn.

Father Paul opened his arms and told me that he would love to have Catholic radio here with one specification that it had to remain a Catholic radio station. Immediately, even before we went on the air, we started moving all the equipment from Scranton to the Oblates saving over $700 a month.

The next thing I had to address was the expense for the feed lines to the station. The feed lines were very expensive, $600 a month, and I knew there must be a less expensive way to solve this problem. After much research we discovered that satellite dishes were the way to go, which cut our expenses in half. We cut every place that we possibly could to make this work. The manager is my wife. The program director is my wife. She takes care of everything to the left of the dot and I take care of everything to the right of the dot. Nobody takes a penny out of this radio station. We don’t even take money out for gas.

We have been very fortunate because I never really knew how far we could continue with the station. As you heard, we just celebrated our fifth anniversary and a lot of interesting and positive things have happened to us over the years.

Crusade:  That is truly an interesting story and it proves that when you put your faith in God all things are possible. You bring up your wife a lot during this interview would it be true to say that she is like your right arm?

Mr. Niewinski:  I think you could call her my right and left arm. I work with the engineers and we do the things we have to do, pay the bills and the technical stuff. But the everyday problems that arise have to be taken care of and this is where she comes in. My wife must handle over sixty phone calls a day plus setting up meetings, advertising and fundraisers. She does everything which is necessary to keep the station afloat. It is too much for one person, so we kind of divided it between the two of us.

My wife also plans our yearly banquets. This year will be our second one. Some people might think it is a fundraiser but it’s not. We just bring people together to shake hands, get acquainted and to let them know that Catholic radio is here.

Crusade:  I think this is providential especially with all the moral decay we are seeing in society today. Our Lady of Fatima prophesized about these times and Catholic radio helps to keep this in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

You are on 750 AM and you told me that you worked very hard to acquire an FM translator. Congratulations, you’re there! Please explain to our readers the importance of this step for the future of the station.

Mr. Niewinski:  AM radio was good but FM is much better because the sound is clearer. It is not affected by weather and there are no distortions during transmission. But the downside was that it is a very expensive way to transmit. Even for our market, it could run in the millions. An opportunity arose when I received a call from a man who owned a lot of FM stations. He informed us that a family life programming affiliate which was a Christian-based FM radio station had closed and asked us if we would be interested in taking over their translators. I jumped at the opportunity and our first meeting was at a donut shop about eight months ago.

After many meetings, we negotiated a deal that we could all live with and so now we are on 750 AM and 98.9 FM. The advantage is with AM we were strictly sunrise to sundown, but with FM, we are now 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Ed Niewinski Catholic Radio JMJ 750AM
Mr. Ed Niewinski, who saved Catholic radio station, WQOR, also known as
JMJ Catholic Radio 750, near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The first day we went on the air with FM, my wife and I were listening to the station and it was after midnight. We both thought to ourselves: What a miracle! What a miracle! Something we never thought could happen, happened, and here we are. To show the difference, we had a friend who was halfway to New York City and he heard the FM signal loud and clear. So that’s the plus side. We learned very quickly that the most important thing is to have local people with local support to keep this station on the air.

Crusade:  Ed, I wanted to touch on one more point before we end the interview, and that is since you got involved with Catholic radio, could you tell me something that you experienced while you were doing this that you never expected.

Mr. Niewinski:  Yes I can, and this event I will always remember. As you know, we are very blessed to have this station at the property of the Order of the Oblates of Saint Joseph. We are very blessed to have a beautiful chapel here. My wife and I have been coming here for years for Mass, never realizing that one day we would have a radio station upstairs. Of course, every day when I start work at the station I stop and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

It must have been five months after we got the station started and things seemed to be going fine. I stopped at the chapel. It was very quiet, the lights were out and I knelt down in the first pew to pray. For some reason, I asked God: “I don’t know if this is what you want me to do and if I was doing the right thing.” I then paused and as clear as a bell I heard the words: “Stay the course!” It wasn’t like someone was standing behind me but those words came into my head as clear as a bell. So that’s what we are doing: staying the course!

Crusade:  Ed, this is a very beautiful story and we thank you and I’m sure many people are thanking you for your efforts to keep Catholic radio on the air. Your story serves to show all of us on the importance of Catholic radio. So “stay the course!” Thank you Ed

Mr. Niewinski:  I thank you Walter and the TFP’s Crusade Magazine for giving me this opportunity, not only to give my story, but also to convey to Catholics everywhere how important Catholic radio is for our country. I want to also thank the TFP for all the work they do for the Catholic cause.

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