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A Signal From Above

Stone, a veteran of secular radio, started his Christian gig four years ago.
Stone, a veteran of secular radio, started his Christian gig four years ago. "We look at it as a way of reaching people," he says. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

"We can't all be heroes, because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as we go by," he says.

This does not fool Stephanie for a moment.

"Not the Bible," she says.

More joy. Stephanie gets three more right, acing the game and winning circus tickets. The crew congratulates her, and the show heads to a commercial.

"Johnny Stone, on the positive new sound of 99.1," a recorded voice coos.

A Christian morning-zoo show? The genre is known for stunts, bawdy talk and poop jokes. But Stone and Pillar of Fire International, the evangelical group that owns Star 99.1, have removed the racy content and replaced it with family-friendly repartee and the occasional bit of scripture. That plus local traffic reports, news and lots of Christian rock, which the station calls "encouraging music."

"We look at it as a way of reaching people," says Stone one recent morning in the Star 99.1 studio, which is on the second floor of Zarephath Christian Church. "Yeah, of course we want to make money, we want to be good stewards of this facility. But we also want to be real people who let other people know about the joys of Jesus Christ."

He checks the time.

"I have to do news now," he says, throwing on his earphones and then kicking it to his wife.

* * *

Until about a decade ago, when you ran across a Christian radio station you knew it right away. The programming was mostly recordings of preachers, and the music -- when there was music -- was sedate and reverent gospel.

"Entertainment used to be a bad word in Christian radio," says John Frost, a partner in Goodratings Strategic Services, consultants for religious broadcasters. "It was designed to appeal not merely to a small percent of people, but a small percent of Christians."


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