|Broadcast area||Greater Milwaukee|
|Branding||Newsradio 620 WTMJ|
|Slogan||"Wisconsin's News, Talk, Weather and Traffic Station"|
|Frequency||620 AM kHz
(also on HD Radio)
|Repeater(s)||WKTI-HD2, 94.5 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 AM (1927-1928)|
|Owner||E.W. Scripps Company
(Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC)
|Sister stations||WTMJ-TV, WKTI|
WTMJ is an AM radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin broadcasting at 620 kHz and at 94.5 FM HD-2. The station was the flagship radio station of the Journal Broadcast Group until April 2015, when it came under its current 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 remains owned with WTMJ-TV and WKTI, with the Journal Sentinel owned by the Journal Media Group spin-off until their April 2016 merger with Gannett). 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.
WTMJ Radio airs a format of news, talk & sports. 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 broadcasts a 50,000-watt signal during daytime hours, and 10,000 watts during nighttime hours. Due to 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.
Shortly after the transfer of ownership to Scripps, WTMJ's signal began to be simulcast full-time in HD Radio over the HD2 subchannel of WKTI, allowing the station's sports coverage to be heard full-time in some form on FM.
In May 1922, The Milwaukee Journal sponsored its first radio program on Milwaukee's first radio station, WAAK, which was owned by the Gimbel Bros. Department Store. 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 assigned the call letters WTMJ, 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 created a directional signal pattern in order to protect Milwaukee's WTMJ. 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 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. The former transmitter site in Brookfield has since been replaced by an apartment development.
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 with Doug Russell providing sports reports, and in the afternoon with John Mercure, Erik Bilstad - and Greg Matzek with sports updates. During the midday Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner 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 and the Wall Street Journal Report. During the weekend the station airs a mixture of local how-to programming, hosted by (Jim Peck and Libby Collins, talk shows including Derrell Connor, and local sports talk programs, sports play-by-play and national talk shows airing in the late evening and overnights. 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 will separate the WTMJ stations from the Journal Sentinel after nine decades, as the two companies' newspapers will be spun off into a separate company under the Journal Media Group name (that company merged with Gannett itself in April 2016). The transaction was completed on April 1, 2015; E.W. Scripps will also continue to originate the Packers and Brewers radio networks.
- "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.
- Official site
- Journal Broadcast Group
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WTMJ
- Radio-Locator Information on WTMJ
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WTMJ
- FCC History Cards for WTMJ