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WHO Logo
Broadcast area Des Moines, Iowa
Branding NewsRadio 1040, WHO
Frequency 1040 (kHz) (also on HD Radio)
First air date April 11, 1924
Format News/Talk
Power 50,000 watts
Class A
Transmitter coordinates 41°39′10″N 93°21′01″W / 41.65278°N 93.35028°W / 41.65278; -93.35028
(main antenna)
41°39′10″N 93°21′7″W / 41.65278°N 93.35194°W / 41.65278; -93.35194
(auxiliary antenna)
Callsign meaning Derived from the word "WHO"; also attributed to Palmer Chiropractic slogan "With Hands Only"
Affiliations Fox News Radio
Iowa Hawkeyes Radio Network
Owner iHeartMedia, Inc.
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
Website www.whoradio.com

WHO is a iHeartMedia radio station broadcasting 50,000 watts on 1040 AM from Des Moines, Iowa with a news/talk format. The station is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. The station can be heard over most of the continental United States during nighttime hours. During daytime hours, its transmitter power and Iowa's flat land (with near-perfect soil conductivity) allows it to be heard in almost all of Iowa, as well as parts of Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.


WHO first began broadcasting on April 11, 1924, from the top floor of the Liberty Building in downtown Des Moines.[1] The station was originally owned by Bankers Life, which is now the Principal Financial Group. After the FRC's General Order 40 reallocated frequencies in 1928, WHO ended up sharing time on the same frequency with WOC in Davenport. In 1930, B. J. Palmer, owner of WOC, bought WHO, and the two stations operated together as WOC-WHO until a new 50,000-watt transmitter near Mitchellville began operating on November 11, 1933. (WOC ceased broadcasting that day but returned on another frequency a year later.) WHO moved from 1000 AM to the current 1040 AM on March 29, 1941, as a result of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement. Today WHO is one of only two 50,000-watt AM radio stations in Iowa (KXEL in Waterloo is the other, however, it is not on a "1928 Band Plan" clear channel like WHO, but is on a NARBA band plan clear channel, dually allocated to The Bahamas (Class I-A) and to Waterloo, IA (Class I-B)), though WHO's signal is always non-directional, but KXEL's is directional at night, as are most, but not all Class I-Bs.[2]

In 1948, WHO-FM 100.3 signed on the air; WHO-FM has changed formats and call letters several times since then and now broadcasts as KDRB, "100.3 The Bus." In 1954, WHO-TV began broadcasting on channel 13.

WHO was owned by the Palmer family until Jacor Broadcasting purchased the station in 1997; Jacor merged with Clear Channel Communications a year later. WHO and the other Clear Channel radio stations in Des Moines (KDRB, KDXA, KKDM, and KXNO) continued to share a building with WHO-TV until they moved into a new facility in 2005.

For many years, WHO has used an owl as its mascot—an apparent play on its call letters.

Personalities and programming[edit]

Ronald Reagan working for WHO in the mid-1930s

Future United States President Ronald Reagan worked as a sportscaster with WHO from 1932 to 1937. Among his duties were re-creations of Chicago Cubs baseball games as did many radio stations in those days when sports networks had not yet become widespread.

Local talk show hosts include Van Harden and Bonnie Lucas, co-hosts of the Van & Bonnie[3] morning show; followed by Jan Mickelson in the Morning; and Simon Conway, originally from London, England, taking the afternoon-drive slot, since in April 2011. Weekend local talk shows include Saturday Morning Live and the WHO Radio Wise Guys. WHO also carries syndicated talk shows such as those hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Dave Ramsey, and Steve Deace. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad also does an hour-long call-in show on the second Tuesday of the month.

WHO has been the longtime flagship station of University of Iowa sports. Jim Zabel, who joined WHO in 1944,[4] was their play-by-play voice for Hawkeyes football and basketball games from 1949 to 1996. That is when the University of Iowa licensed exclusive rights to do radio play-by-play to Learfield Sports, which picked Gary Dolphin as the play-by-play announcer for Hawkeyes men's and women's basketball. Until his death in 2013, Zabel remained with WHO as co-host (with Jon Miller of HawkeyeNation) of the Sound Off sports talk show that airs on Saturdays during Hawkeyes seasons, and as co-host of Two Guys Named Jim on Sunday nights with former Iowa State University football coach Jim Walden.

WHO perennially ranks at or near the top of the Arbitron ratings in the Des Moines market.

WHO broadcasts an Internet stream 24 hours per day available through their website.


Stein, Jeff, Making Waves: The People and Places of Iowa Broadcasting (ISBN 0-9718323-1-5). Cedar Rapids, Iowa: WDG Communications, 2004.

External links[edit]