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Family Talk, Family Business
Sean Sheridan

This piece is a sidebar to our cover story on "Refocusing on the Family."

About seven miles from Focus on the Family, Ryan Dobson uses his iPad to prepare for his next radio recording in a mostly bare studio at Family Talk's rented offices. His father's show carries a dynamic different from Focus on the Family, since he shares airtime with his son and LuAnne Crane, former senior producer at Focus.

Ryan says despite some rumors that he was unable to lead the organization because of a divorce in 2000, Focus never had plans to hand him the reins. Nor, he said, was Family Talk an attempt to punish Focus by competing head-to-head.

"The insinuation is that people are taking money away from Focus—if that was true, we'd have millions of dollars," Ryan says. "We don't have $30 million; we don't have $2 [million]."

Much of the ministry's startup revenue, Ryan says, came from his parents' Christmas card list of about 300 people. And $1 million of it came as a gift from Focus on the Family, a move that surprised many observers. In its remarks on the donation, Focus leaders noted that Dobson had never taken a salary from the ministry and had lived off the royalties from his books.

"Was it the easy thing?" Focus on the Family president Jim Daly says about donating during a recession. "No, but it was the right thing."

Does Daly see Family Talk as competition? "I don't think Christians like to talk in terms of competition," Daly answers. "He still wanted to speak on radio, and that's why he started Family Talk. I don't know all the reasons why he would continue at [75] to do that, but his public comments about that ...

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July 2011

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