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Kindlier, Gentler Radio Talk Show Host Faces Cancer Surgery

Radio talk show host Tom Marsland dabbled in radio during college and was one of the most visible on-air personalities in the Twin Cities — Minneapolis and St. Paul — for four years between 1999 and 2003.

Now Marsland — noted for his laconic wit and quick “malice-free” humor, who entertained Salem Radio Network’s KKMS AM980 audience in Minneapolis/St. Paul on “Tom’s Place,” with a mixture of political and cultural commentary and parody of the absurd, laced with high-profile interviews — this week faces the first of two cancer surgeries.

Tom Marsland and Michael Ireland ‘on assignment’ during a live remote for KKMS-AM980 from the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota (ANS Photo)

Marsland told ASSIST News he went in for a check-up because of a heavy cold, found out he had pneumonia, and at the same time doctors discovered two shadows on his kidneys.

Marsland will undergo surgery Wednesday (Sept.29) at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This will be followed by recovery and a second surgery in another six weeks.

While he holds strong opinions, Marsland always saw himself as a “kindler, gentler,” talk-show host.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003 was his last day on-air with SRN’s fast-growing Minneapolis station. Marsland was one of several on-air “characters” for which Salem, which has 85 stations, is known to cultivate. They are in 23 of the top 25 markets, such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.

The former corporate CEO from Minot, North Dakota, has been a salesman, financial planner, author of financial textbooks on estate planning, has also taught estate planning through University of Minnesota’s Community extension program, and was a former president of Teenage Republicans, besides running a family business. (Pictured: Tom Marsland talking with a listener to his show).

Marsland worked his way through college as a radio announcer at Minot State University while studying for a bachelor’s degree in biology, a subject that still interests him. It was more than 25 years before radio came calling for him again when he was approached by Salem to host a talk show in Minneapolis. That was in 1998.

“I said No,” said Marsland, but not giving a reason, in an interview with ASSIST News Service (ANS).

But Salem, he said, pursued him for most of a year and then Marsland relented and started on-air January 18, 1999.

“Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun being the U.S. correspondent for Radio Rhema in New Zealand,” he said. He has also been writing political and cultural commentary for, the Minnesota Christian Chronicle, and the ASSIST News Service.

“I like to write commentary on the issues of the day with a little bit of a snicker somewhere, a little bit tongue-in-cheek and sometimes a lot (of humor)!” he said.

“I have strongly-held opinions on almost everything and am always willing to defend it. I get into some areas that are politically incorrect, and give opinions. Some of them have been regarding Christianity and its stance on war, which I think is largely mistaken in this day and age. Opinions on our school system, on homosexuality, on the size of government and taxation. I have written both for and against our President — some of them not kind to George W. Bush, whom I think is a very good man, and I always put that in every article I have written, that he is an exceptionally good man. When I have written against him, I have not written against him as a man, but I have written against his stance on policy,” said Marsland.

“I wrote against the Bosnian War — I am always against war unless it is absolutely necessary, and I just have opinions on when they are and are not necessary,” he said. He believes that war was ‘Just.’

Marsland’s unique strength on-air is that even though there was always intellectual content in his program, even though he is “hard-hitting,” he is gentle with people, especially those with whom he disagrees. Marsland likes to disagree with people, but respects their right to have a differing or opposing opinion.

Listening to Marsland there is no “shock radio” content; he is not out to humiliate people.

During his time on-air, Marsland has interviewed the family of Vice President Dick Cheney, numerous Congressmen and Senators, including majority whip Tom Delay, Orrin Hatch from Utah, former Reagan Administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett of Empower America, writer David Limbaugh, brother of Rush Limbaugh, as well as many leading Twin Cities’ personalities. Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye of “Left Behind” fame, chose to roll-out their last two books with Marsland on-air live at high-profile book-signings in the Twin-Cities.

In an interview with ANS on parting company with KKMS, Marsland said his favorite moments on-air have been home-produced parodies, and the most difficult times have been when he hasn’t got the facts right.

“I kept calling a congressman a senator and did that throughout the whole interview,” he confessed.

On the humorous side, Marsland said: “I decided during the war on Bosnia that since this was a Christian show on a Christian radio station, that people are much too serious about stuff, and that sometimes Christianity and humor are a world apart, occasionally a universe apart.

“We dead-panned the whole thing and had our audience going for about an hour, and it was probably our best moment ever,” he said.

“It was just hilarious. People were angry that we would use humor on Christian radio, how dare you do that, about five percent of them. The other 95 percent of them laughed hilariously and thought it was terrific radio.”

Marsland said he has always enjoyed a good chuckle on-air. “I don’t like to do jokes, but I do like interjecting good humor, and really having fun with life. I do sport with people, (but) I think topics are very serious and that some people are very serious by their nature and I take it all seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously at all. But I do take others and their topics seriously.”

Contrary to the norm for the radio talk show industry, Marsland never developed an oversized ego during his time on-air.

“I’ve really worked hard at that. Many people take the meaning of ‘whom’ they are — maybe an on-air personality or public figure — and I’m certainly that, but it is not ‘who’ I am. Who I am is a sinner saved by grace. And I’m a Dad, I’m a husband, and I’m a friend. I’m a friend to you before I’m a radio talk show host. My friendship with you is more important than my job. I feel that my friendships are of paramount importance. For me it’s about relationships. My job is of paramount importance, but it’s not number one. Number one is my family, my friends and my God, in no particular order,” Marsland said.

“It was really a great run and I loved it. I loved it almost every minute, in that nobody loves it every minute and there are tough moments, but boy, I’ll tell you what, it was almost every minute and I have absolutely no regrets, not even a single regret,” he said.

Over the years Marsland was on the air, he says his relationship with Jesus Christ grew stronger. “I found myself admonishing others in tough situations to grow in the Lord and I found the odd thing was, it grew me in the Lord to be there in every way. I read Scripture more often, I studied more often, (but) I don’t know that I prayed any more (often),” he said.

Marsland was known for being knowledgeable about everyday events in the news and was always well-prepared, as was evidenced by his daily e-mail to fans of his program, which not only included a humorous “picture of the day,” but myriads of links to hot news topics which he spent hours researching before he went on-air. He admits to spending two hours in preparation for every hour of his program, which at first aired from 3-5 p.m, then 3-6 p.m., and finally from 4-6 p.m. every weekday afternoon.

Marsland credits his unique “kindler, gentler” attitude to his roots growing up on the prairies of North Dakota. He wrote a column at one time called “Prairie Sense,” a take-off on “common sense” which he relates to all the signs of what is often termed “horse sense” — as he put it: “old-fashioned common sense, the least common of all the senses,” — that he saw while growing up.

“I just believe that it gave me a unique perspective on things — from an ordinary upbringing in Middle America. I didn’t grow up in a big city, I didn’t grow up as a political ideologue, I didn’t grow up as anything but an ordinary kid in an ordinary setting, and I think it helped. It helped in my foundations,” he said.

Besides being interested in things political and cultural, Marsland maintains an interest in biology and earth sciences. “I love vulcanology, and I used to love the physical sciences, and I finally settled on biology and went through college on that. I used to hunt, but I’m doing less of that now, and I enjoy writing and reading, and one of my greatest hobbies is political discourse with friends.”

Marsland revealed in the ANS interview that he has several close friends with whom he gets together with individually or as a group, to sharpen intellects by going back and forth, hitting each other with ideas and reading new ideas, “which is sort of unusual, but I have always enjoyed that.”

On closing out his last few moments on air during his last broadcast, which was peppered with well-wishers saying Goodbye, Marsland said: “I have no regrets. It’s been a joy.”

Tom Marsland may be contacted at  He requests the prayers of friends and wellwishers for his quick and complete recovery.

As for this journalist, I always found Tom to be a personal encouragement to me, especially in the way he helped me to develop my own ‘on-air’ presence. When being interviewed by Tom on the radio, I always felt that I was being treated like a gentleman, by a gentleman. I have missed our fun times together on the airwaves in Minneapolis. Thanks, Tom for your personal friendship and all your help in my own career development. Good Luck and Best Wishes for a speedy recovery with the surgery. Michael Ireland.

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