KXRK radio ("X96") received national attention last month when Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as one of the top five rock-music stations in the United States.

In a July 16 article, "Rock Radio's Last Stand," Rolling Stone highlighted rock stations that were not only surviving but thriving. This honor may equal the best national ranking that any Utah radio station has ever received.

" 'X96' has broken all the rules," radio analyst Fred Jacobs told Rolling Stone, "and has beaten the dying trend in rock radio. By going against the grain of the community — certainly the stereotype of the community — the station has actually thrived."

Todd "Nuke 'em" Noker, KXRK program director, told Rolling Stone, "We gently poke fun but we're able to not (tick) anybody off."

The article also referred to a sample community activity that KXRK recently sponsored in Utah County, the "Radio From 'Heck' Ice Cream Social," where 250 people turned out.

Alternative rock music is the station's format, at FM-96.3 on the dial. Simmons Media Group owns and operates KXRK, with studios in Trolley Corners. The station began in 1992 and Simmons Media, the current owner, took over the station in 1998.

G. Craig Hanson, Simmons president, said KXRK seems to be able to transcend generational barriers, and he's known of grandparents, parents and children in some families who are loyal fans of the station.

"It grows on you," he said, noting it is a combination of the music and personalities that have made it so successful.

He said it is indeed ironic that an alternative station could do so well in the conservative Salt Lake market. DJs on the station strive to be natural and authentic.

KXRK was successful even before Simmons took it over. " 'X96' is unique," Hanson said. "It has carved out its own niche."

The other four stations honored in the Rolling Stones article were from San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle and Charleston, S.C.

KALL/KZNS SPORTS ALLIANCE — Sports station "The Zone," AM-1280/AM-960, recently entered into a shared services agreement with KALL, AM-700.

According to G. Craig Hanson, Simmons Media President, his "The Zone" station is simulcasting as much material as the Federal Communications Commission will allow on AM-700.

KALL came to Simmons and wanted help improving its all-sports product. As such, morning and afternoon drive shows on "The Zone" also air on AM-700. Jim Rome is also broadcast on both stations, though the local commercials for his show are different.

AM-700 is now owned by Ut Radio Acquisition, headed by President/CEO David W. Checketts of the Real Salt Lake soccer team. It will continue to air Real games, as well as its traditional University of Utah sports play-by-play. AM-700 also has FOX sports and "The Zone" doesn't.

Hanson said it just appears that the two stations are doing more simulcasting than they really are. He said Simmons likes the stronger signal of AM-700, which reaches areas outside of Salt Lake much better than its current signals.

"The listeners get the best of both worlds," he said.

NEW KSL EVENING SHOW — The "Nightside Project" is a new weekday (7-11 p.m.) evening show on AM-1160/FM-102.7 that's worth checking out. Make no mistake, this could be the market's best evening show to come along in decades. It's live and local with "Mike and Holly."

Have you ever wished for traffic reports in the evening? This show has it, plus weather, ABC News and help from several other reporters. It is fast paced and geared for the younger generation with entertainment news, too.

Mike was hired from out of the market, though he said he was born in Utah. Holly Braithwaite was previously on KZHT and most recently on KFMS with Tom Barberi. ("Sonya" has now replaced Braithwaite on the Barberi show.)

The Deseret Morning News and KSL Newsradio 1160 are involved in an ongoing news-gathering partnership.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com