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Christian framework guides talk show host on WORD-FM

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

By Adrian McCoy

At first listen, it sounds like any radio talk show: music excerpts, humor and jokes mixed with conversation with listeners and monologues. Christian/religious WORD-FM afternoon drive host Marty Minto is throwing questions at the audience: Should we invade Iraq? Should there be sperm banks for lesbian couples? What is Islam really about? He talks about terrorism, education, kids -- all the staples of secular talk radio. But there are differences.

"I chose topics that are relevant locally, throughout the state," talk show host Marty Minto says. "They're mainstream topics, but I try to look at them from a Christian world view -- from family to money to the school system to business."

Minto says he's trying to do something a bit different from mainstream talk, a show that will get people to think and call in -- but that still works within the framework of the Christian format.

"I chose topics that are relevant locally, throughout the state. They're mainstream topics, but I try to look at them from a Christian world view -- from family to money to the school system to business," Minto says. "I want to challenge people to look back to the Bible, to principles that would guide and help us get answers to the difficult situations that are at hand."

Minto, 36, signed on as afternoon-drive talk host earlier this year. His path to talk radio hasn't been a typical one. After high school, he worked as a policeman/paramedic in upstate New York, later serving as a pastor. Those experiences helped shape his current role as talk host, he says.

"It helped me to get a better perspective on the world. In many cases, I have an understanding where callers are coming from, either because I responded to a call like that [as a policeman], or as pastor I counseled or was involved in some issue in someone's life with similar circumstances."

While living in Springville, near Buffalo, and working as pastor at a church there, he approached the owner of a local country-western station with the idea of doing a one-hour weekly talk show. He paid for the air time, and within a few weeks a local business offered to sponsor the show.

That led to a talk show at Christian station KLZ-AM in Denver. Shortly after that, he moved on to WPXQ-AM in Phoenix, which is owned by Salem Communications, the Christian broadcasting company that also owns WORD.

The New Castle native returned to Pennsylvania, and ended up at WORD. He now lives in his hometown with his wife, Renee, and four children and hopes to establish a nondenominational church at some point.

Like other talk shows, the talk sometimes feeds on controversy.

"Sometimes I'll go places where a lot of other people will not go in the Christian community." That includes talking about gay issues or abortion. "I've sometimes been criticized by the Christian community." But, he adds, "We don't live in this plastic bubble somewhere where everything is perfect and great."

The hot topics, he says, are the ones that people believe affect them directly: "Education is a big one. Safety of children, the way children are being educated, what the kids wear." Political issues, on the other hand, don't often get the phones ringing, he says.

He notes with some pride that he's not preaching just to the choir, so to speak. Some of the people who call in or e-mail are atheists who find the show worth checking out.

"I don't look for people to call and say 'Marty, you're right on.' I want anybody to call whether you agree or disagree or you're just not sure, put your two cents in. I want to get people to talk about it. My desire is to challenge them to think.

"I strongly believe talk radio is about the listener/caller, getting people to interact. There are many [hosts] out there who do monologues, and when someone calls and they disagree, they hammer at them. There are some people who believe that equation works, but I don't."

The Marty Minto Show airs on WORD-FM (101.5) Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Adrian McCoy covers radio for the Post-Gazette

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