Light for Life

JERSEY SHORE – WJSA radio station 96.3 FM has lit up the lives of its listeners since 1980 from a modest second-floor studio and office here that still has reel-to-reel tape players and analog mix boards working alongside its modern computer terminals.

“Our programming is designed to present a Christian world and lifeview,” said general manager and chief engineer John Hogg. “And we don’t just want to be a Christian station, we really commit to the local area.”

WJSA often covers local sports events, always has the weather, news director Liz Brady puts on local news seven times a day and the station offers a free-of-charge community calendar five times per day. WJSA plays “Mission Echoes,” a program produced weekly by the American Rescue Workers at its Williamsport church, and broadcasts live from the Sunday services of Community Baptist Church in Montoursville.

“Over the course of time, radio has tended to be more centralized – it’s been a problem across all formats,” Hogg said. “We’ve had the local news for about 25 years, and we try as much as possible to keep localism in our programming. We haven’t cut back on that.”

WJSA took its current format in 1980, on 1600 AM. In 1984 it added FM capability through a 3,000-watt station, though that wasn’t turned on at night for another five years. In 1997, the station moved to 96.3 and now covers a listening area from the east side of Hughesville to State College, with a primary focus on Lycoming and Clinton counties.

About half of the station’s day is music, much of it in the morning with host Kimberly Joy. Hogg describes the WJSA playlist as usually light, mostly contemporary and always inspirational.

“Our music is pretty eclectic – we play a lot of contemporary versions of older hymns. We’ve done pretty well at building bridges across generation gaps. One of the problems culturally, in our view, is the break up of the family unit, and the media’s had a lot to do with that. We’re trying to bring the family together.”

WJSA has specialty music programs on the weekend, including Southern Gospel, the Gaither Family Homecoming, a Nashville bluegrass show and a sacred classical show on Sundays.

“We don’t try to compete with other stations. We want to complement them,” Hogg said. “We’re here not just to entertain, not just for information. We’re here to provide a service from a Christian lifeview, to have some discourse and intelligent discussion – we don’t do controversy for controversy’s sake.”

The station carries talk programs from Moody Radio, like daily biographies of great Christians in history; In The Market, a two-hour program with a focus on financial matters; and the children’s serial Adventures in Odyssey.

Hogg and his wife, Ann, who runs the business side of things at the station, moved to Jersey Shore in 1979 to do Christian radio. John was a seminarian who put himself through school with his radio engineering skills, while driving between Philadelphia and Lancaster, where the couple originally is from. Their three children all worked at the station growing up.

Over the years, listeners saying how much the station has meant to them has made the work all worth it, Hogg says. There’s a board of nice notes and letters up in the office, with some not so nice interspersed.

“From time to time we get calls from people who have a situation in their lives, they want to know who they can talk to, how to talk to a pastor, get food, clothes, medical care. We try and put people in the right direction. In radio, you go through a lot of your day really disconnected from your audience. Then you get those letters that say ‘you’ve been a big help, that program or song was just what I needed.’ “