|Broadcast area||Greater Milwaukee|
|Slogan||Wisconsin's Radio Station|
|Affiliations||ABC News Radio|
|Owner||Good Karma Brands|
Auslator, LLC (103.3 translator)
(Good Karma Brands Milwaukee LLC)
|WAUK, WKTI, WTLX, WMVP|
First air date
|1922 (as WCAY)|
October 20, 1925 (as WKAF)
July 25, 1927 (as WTMJ)
Former call signs
|833 kHz (1922-1923)|
833 & 485 kHz (1923)
1150 kHz (1923-1924)
1130 kHz (1924-1925)
1150 kHz (1925-1927)
1020 kHz (1927-1928)
Call sign meaning
|The Milwaukee Journal; original name of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|
|Power||50,000 watts day|
10,000 watts night
|Translator(s)||103.3 W277CV (Milwaukee)|
|Repeater(s)||94.5 WKTI-HD2 (Milwaukee)|
WTMJ (620) AM is an ABC News Radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin carrying a news/talk format, along with several local professional sports teams' play-by-play. The station is owned by Good Karma Brands along with ESPN Radio affiliates WAUK and WKTI. WTMJ studios are on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee, in an Art Deco facility known as "Radio City" in tribute to the New York complex of the same name. WTMJ and WKTI are the two primary entry points in southeastern Wisconsin for the state's Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts. WTMJ's transmitter site is in Union Grove.
As of February 22, 2018, WTMJ's HD Radio simulcast on WKTI-HD2 (launched after Scripps' assumption of ownership) is broadcast within the core Milwaukee metro region by translator W277CV (103.3 FM), which is licensed to Milwaukee and transmits from the WTMJ-TV/WKTI tower just north of Radio City.
Purchased in 1927 by The Milwaukee Journal newspaper, WTMJ was the flagship radio station of the Journal Broadcast Group (JBG) until April 2015, when it came under the ownership of the E. W. Scripps Company. JBG also owned the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WTMJ-TV and sister radio station WKTI, along with other media assets across the United States. WTMJ remained co-owned with WTMJ-TV and WKTI until Good Karma acquired the radio stations in 2018, with the Journal Sentinel owned by the Journal Media Group spin-off until its April 2016 merger with Gannett.
WTMJ is one of the few stations in the market to feature mostly live and local programming. WTMJ airs news programming in the morning with Gene Mueller and Jane Matenaer and in the afternoon with John Mercure. Doug Russell and Greg Matzek provide sports updates for those shows, respectively. During the midday, the station airs live and local talk shows with Jeff Wagner and (Steve) Scaffidi along with (Erik) Bilstad, host talk shows - and during the evenings Matzek hosts a sports program known as Sports Central. Late evenings (when WTMJ is not airing sports play-by-play) and overnights, WTMJ airs syndicated personalities Clark Howard, Jim Bohannon, Red Eye Radio and Gordon Deal.
During weekends the station airs a mixture of local how-to programming, talk shows, local sports talk programs, sports play-by-play and national talk shows, with much less weekend brokered programming than most major market AM stations. WTMJ's talk programming offers listeners content from current events to politics, as well as humor, lifestyle information and sports talk. The station also continues its commitment to news with Milwaukee's only 24/7 staffed newsroom, while also partnering with sister TV station WTMJ-TV for additional news and weather coverage.
WTMJ broadcasts with 50,000 watts during daytime hours, and 10,000 watts during nighttime from a six-tower site in Union Grove, south of Milwaukee. The station's signal is directed generally north during both daytime and nighttime operation. During the day, four-towers are used, and at night all six towers are used, creating a tighter northward beam. Because of its signal strength, as well as Wisconsin's flat land and high ground conductivity, and a transmitting frequency near the bottom of the AM dial, the station has one of the largest coverage areas in the nation. Its daytime "city-grade" signal reaches most of the eastern third of Wisconsin, including Madison and Green Bay, and it provides at least grade B coverage to most of the eastern two-thirds of the state. Additionally, the station provides at least grade B coverage to most of the Chicago area, as well as Grand Rapids, Michigan. From 2006 until 2018, the station broadcast in HD Radio, but the low adoption of AM HD Radio technology and the launch of W277CV allowed Scripps to choose to end HD Radio service at that time.
Since most programming is spoken-word talk radio and sports coverage rather than music, translator station W277CV broadcasts in monaural sound rather than the standard stereo used by most FM stations, which allows the signal to radiate further without stereo-caused degradation in fringe areas. The translator operates with the standard maximum of 250 watts. However, because the transmitter is located atop the WTMJ-TV tower, thus is higher than most at 847 feet (258 m) above the ground, it provides extensive coverage that includes the WOW counties, and serves Milwaukee County, and most of Waukesha, Racine, Washington and Ozaukee counties, ranging from as far north as Cedar Grove to as far south as Kenosha. To the north, the translator signal encounters some interference with the Sheboygan translator of WSTM.
WTMJ was first licensed, with the sequentially assigned call letters WCAY, on May 15, 1922 to the Kesselman O'Driscoll Company, a music house located at 517-519 Grand Avenue in Milwaukee. It was initially authorized to broadcast on the "entertainment" wavelength of 360 meters (833 kHz). In mid-1923, WCAY was reassigned to 1150 kHz. The next year ownership was transferred to the Milwaukee Civic Broadcasting Association. The station license was briefly allowed to lapse in 1925, and WCAY deleted, however it was quickly relicensed as WKAF to the WKAF Broadcasting Co., located at 130 Second Street. The station was now jointly owned by Kesselman-O'Driscoll Co., the Hotel Antlers (the studio location), and station engineer H. L. Ford. WKAF's first regular broadcast was held on October 20, 1925.
On April 20, 1927 WKAF was purchased by The Milwaukee Journal for $16,350, and the following May 10th the call letters changed to WTMJ. Station facilities were upgraded, including the building of a new transmitter site in Brookfield, west of Milwaukee. The Journal already had extensive experience with radio broadcasting. On May 1, 1922 it had sponsored the debut program on WAAK, Milwaukee's first radio station, which was owned by the local division of the Gimbel's department store chain. On January 24, 1925 the newspaper entered into an agreement as a joint, and dominant, partner in the operation of Marquette University's station, WHAD, which limited the university's programming to just one and one-half hour on Friday evenings. The newspaper's operations at WHAD ended on August 15, 1927, with the university returning to full responsibility for the station.
WTMJ made its debut broadcast on July 25, 1927, which featured music by the WTMJ Orchestra and included a remote broadcast featuring Bill Carlsen's orchestra. (Carlsen was later hired by WTMJ and went on to become Wisconsin's most widely known radio and television weather forecaster.) On September 11, 1927 WTMJ was assigned to 1020 kHz. On November 11, 1928, as part of a major nationwide allocation under the provisions of the Federal Radio Commission's General Order 40, WTMJ was reassigned to its current frequency of 620 kHz.
WTMJ was indirectly involved with the installation of the first directional antenna by a radio station in the United States. In 1929 a joint operation in Clearwater, Florida, WFLA-WSUN, was also assigned to 620 kHz. WTMJ immediately complained that at the initial power allocation the Florida stations were causing significant interference to WTMJ's coverage, especially at night. WFLA-WSUN turned to the engineering community to determine whether a then-theoretical concept of a directional antenna could be installed to reduce the Florida station's signal toward Milwaukee. This led to the successful development in 1932 of the first modern AM directional antenna system. (WFLA moved to 970 kHz in 1941, with WSUN taking its place in Tampa, followed by the current-day WDAE)
In 1942, a new facility, the Milwaukee Journal's Radio City, opened for WTMJ AM and FM, in addition to the yet-to-come WTMJ-TV. An article in the trade magazine Broadcasting reported that the building was the "first ever designed to house all three types of broadcasting."
WTMJ spent much of its life operating at 5 kW from Brookfield, which was still powerful enough to cover much of eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. However, when the 5 kW power limit on regional channels was lifted, WTMJ was the first station in line for an upgrade. WTMJ was granted permission in 1995 to upgrade to 50 kW days and 10 kW nights from a new six-tower site in Union Grove, south of Milwaukee; the Brookfield site's real estate was sold for development in the suburban community.
WTMJ aired a full service MOR format featuring a mixture of music, news and local personalities along with sports play-by-play before switching to its current news and talk format in the early 1990s. WTMJ has long had a heavy sports presence, and has been the flagship station for Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers (the only times WTMJ did not air Brewers games were the 1970, 1981 and 1982 seasons, with WEMP airing them in 1970 [also the Brewers' first season of play], and WISN airing them in 1981-82) games for most of the teams' histories. The Packers have been on WTMJ since 1929, the longest relationship between a station and an NFL team.
From 1927 to 2014, WTMJ served as the Milwaukee outlet for Wisconsin Badgers football and men's basketball. It was the flagship station until 1993, when a station employee filed the paperwork for renewing its contract just minutes after the deadline (The WIBA/WIBA-FM stations in Madison took the flagship rights, with Learfield Media beginning to produce all Badger sports programming). The broadcasts moved to WOKY and WRIT-FM in 2014, after WTMJ elected to not renew its contract with Learfield.
Journal Communications and the E. W. Scripps Company announced on July 30, 2014 that the two companies would merge to create a new broadcast company under the E.W. Scripps Company name that will own the two companies' broadcast properties, including WTMJ, WTMJ-TV, and WKTI-FM. The deal separated the WTMJ stations from the Journal Sentinel after nine decades, as the two companies' newspapers were spun off into a separate company under the Journal Media Group name (that company merged with Gannett itself in April 2016; both WTMJ entities eventually partnered with the Milwaukee Business Journal after the sale for business coverage). The transaction was completed on April 1, 2015; E.W. Scripps will also continue to originate the Packers and Brewers radio networks.
On February 22, 2018, WTMJ began simulcasting on a monaural FM translator, W277CV (103.3), from the WTMJ-TV/WKTI tower. The transmitter, formerly individually licensed to Frank Glass McCoy and leased to Scripps (who owns the physical tower and transmitter assets) and operated by Good Karma Brands, was formerly licensed to Waukegan, Illinois and translated Kenosha public radio station WGTD before the move of the translator to Milwaukee. McCoy sold the translator license to Auslator, LLC in May 2019.
On July 27, 2018, as part of its exit from radio, Scripps announced the sale of WTMJ and WKTI to Good Karma Brands. The stations became part of a cluster with ESPN Radio affiliate WAUK. Morgan Murphy Media and other local groups have made investments in Good Karma Brands to back the purchase. Good Karma took control of WTMJ and WKTI on November 1, 2018, thus separating the AM station from its TV cousin for the first time. Full control of WTMJ's web presence was transferred to GKB over the 2018 holiday period, including new mobile/tablet apps.
- "Wisconsin EAS Plan" (September 2015)
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, June 1, 1922, page 3.
- "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, June 1, 1923, page 11.
- "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, September 2, 1924, page 5.
- "Strike out all particulars", Radio Service Bulletin, August 1, 1925, page 7.
- "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1925, page 3.
- "WKAF Takes Place on Air" by BCL, Milwaukee Journal, October 21, 1925, page 15.
- "History of WTMJ", "The Journal Company vs. Federal Radio Commission", Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia (No. 5163), 1930, pages 151-155.
- "Radio Tunes to Be Sent From Gimbels", Milwaukee Journal, May 1, 1922, page 1. WAAK was deleted on December 1, 1923.
- Marquette University entry, Education's Own Stations, S. E. Frost, Jr., 1937, pages 193-196. WHAD was deleted on May 29, 1934.
- "Journal's Radio Roots Go Back 20 Years; WTMJ History Told", Milwaukee Journal, August 23, 1942, page 6 (wisconsinhistory.org)
- "Alterations and corrections", Radio Service Bulletin, November 30, 1929, page 10.
- "The Development of the Directional AM Broadcast Antenna" by John F. Schneider, 2019 (theradiohistorian.org)
- "Fifth Anniversary" (PDF). Broadcasting. September 1, 1947. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "Brewers, WTMJ radio a winning combination" by Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 11, 2011.
- Dudek, Duane (November 22, 2013). "After 86 years, WTMJ-AM to end Wisconsin Badgers broadcasts". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- Kirchen, Rich (December 2, 2013). "Wisconsin Badgers games move to AM 920, Oldies 95.7". The Business Journal. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- "E.W. Scripps, Journal Merging Broadcast Ops". TVNewsCheck. July 30, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
- Venta, Lance (23 February 2018). "WTMJ Launches FM Signal". RadioInsight. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- Ellis, Jon (25 July 2017). "Broadcasting News-July 2017". Northpine.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "WTMJ's FM Expansion Plans Threatened By Translator Dispute". 24 July 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "Good Karma Pays Off For Craig Karmazin". Radio & Television Business Report. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
- "Morgan Murphy Media Invests In Good Karma Brands' WTMJ-WKTI/Milwaukee Purchase". All Access. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
- "Scripps Completes Two More Pieces Of Radio Division Sale". Inside Radio. November 2, 2018. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
- Official site
- WTMJ in the FCC's AM station database
- WTMJ on Radio-Locator
- WTMJ in Nielsen Audio's AM station database