WTMJ (620) is an AM radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin carrying a news/talk format, along with several local professional sports teams' play-by-play. WTMJ also simulcasts on an FM translator, W277CV (103.3). The station is owned by Good Karma Brands along with ESPN Radio affiliates WAUK and WKTI. Established in 1927 by The Milwaukee Journal, the station was the flagship radio station of the Journal Broadcast Group 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 U.S. (WTMJ remained 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).
|Broadcast area||Greater Milwaukee|
|Branding||Newsradio 620 WTMJ|
|Slogan||Wisconsin's Radio Station|
|Translator(s)||W277CV 103.3 MHz, Milwaukee|
|Repeater(s)||WKTI-HD2 94.5-2 MHz, Milwaukee|
|First air date||July 25, 1927|
|Power||50,000 watts daytime|
10,000 watts nighttime
|Callsign meaning||We're The Milwaukee Journal (original name of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the newspaper which founded the station)|
|Former callsigns||WKAF (1927)|
|Former frequencies||1020 kHz (1927-1928)|
|Affiliations||ABC News Radio|
|Owner||Good Karma Brands |
(Good Karma Brands Milwaukee LLC)
|Sister stations||WAUK, WKTI, WTLX, WMVP|
WTMJ maintains studio facilities located on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee (this Art Deco facility is known as "Radio City" in tribute to the New York complex of the same name), and its transmitter is located in Union Grove. As of February 22, 2018, WTMJ's HD Radio simulcast on WKTI-HD2 (which launched after Scripps' assumption of ownership) is translated within the core Milwaukee metro in analog form on W277CV (103.3), which is licensed to Milwaukee and transmits from the WTMJ-TV/WKTI tower just north of Radio City. WTMJ and WKTI are the two stations in southeastern Wisconsin responsible for Emergency Alert System alerts as a primary entry point for the state's EAS system.
The station also has served as the flagship outlet for Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers games for most of the teams' histories, with Packers broadcasts airing on WTMJ since 1929.
The station's AM signal broadcasts a 50,000-watt signal during daytime hours, and 10,000 watts during nighttime hours. Because of its signal strength, as well as Wisconsin's flat land (with near-perfect ground conductivity) and its location near the bottom of the AM dial, WTMJ boasts 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.
W277CV's FM signal is licensed as a translator station transmitting at the standard 250 watts, but with its location atop the WTMJ-TV tower, sits upon a taller location than most translators (at 847 feet (258 m)), thus its radius is able to cover much more terrain and covers not only Milwaukee County, but most of Waukesha, Racine, Washington and Ozaukee counties (ranging from as far north as Cedar Grove to as far south as Kenosha). In addition, since most of its programming is spoken-word talk radio and sports coverage rather than music, it is carried in monaural sound rather than the standard stereo of most FM stations, which allows the signal to radiate further from the tower without stereo-caused degradation on the fringe of its signal radius.
In May 1922, The Milwaukee Journal sponsored its first radio program on Milwaukee's first radio station, WAAK, which was owned by the local division of the Gimbel's department store chain. The Journal bought radio station WKAF in April 1927 and built a new transmitter in Brookfield, west of Milwaukee. Then in June 1927, The Federal Radio Commission allowed the assignment of WTMJ to the station, to stand for The Milwaukee Journal.
On July 25, 1927, WTMJ Radio went on the air at 1020 AM to complement the Journal. WTMJ's first broadcast 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.
In 1928, The Federal Radio Commission reassigned WTMJ to 620 kHz. Some listeners began encountering interference from radio stations that shared frequencies in other parts of the country. Engineers solved the problem by developing directional radio signals, which are created by using multiple towers and controlled phasing. This allowed stations on the same frequency to protect each other, while providing strong signals to their intended coverage areas. In 1932, it was WTMJ's protected status on 620 kHz that led to the development of the very first modern AM directional antenna system, as WFLA in Tampa, Florida created a directional signal pattern in order to protect Milwaukee's WTMJ (WFLA moved to 970 in 1941, with WSUN taking its place in Tampa, followed by the current-day WDAE). Directional signals for AM stations continue to be used to this day.
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 very 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. The station's signal is directed generally north during both daytime and nighttime operation. During the day, four-towers are used. At night, all six towers are used, creating a tighter northward beam.
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 Badgers rightsholder Learfield Sports.
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 the weekend the station airs a mixture of local how-to programming, talk shows, local sports talk programs, sports play-by-play and national talk shows. 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.
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-AM, 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, individually licensed to Frank Glass McCoy and leased to Scripps (who owns the physical tower and transmitter assets), was formerly licensed to Waukegan, Illinois and translated Kenosha public radio station WGTD before the move of the translator to Milwaukee.
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. Full control of WTMJ's web presence was transferred to GKB over the 2018 holiday period, including new mobile/tablet apps.
- "Fifth Anniversary" (PDF). Broadcasting. September 1, 1947. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- 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.