Encyclopedia Of Detroit

WWJ

WWJ, known as “Newsradio 950,” is an AM radio station broadcast throughout most of Lower Michigan from a 50,000-watt transmitter located in Berlin Township in Monroe County, Michigan.  Owned and operated by CBS Radio, WWJ is Detroit’s only 24-hour all-news radio station, and is considered to be the oldest radio station in Michigan.  Programming on WWJ consists mainly of news, traffic reports, and weather updates, although the station occasionally broadcasts sporting events.       

WWJ was founded by the Scripps family, and was originally licensed to the Detroit News.  James Edmund Scripps established the newspaper, then known as the Detroit Evening News, in 1873, and became interested in radio in 1902. After his death in 1906, his son, William E. Scripps, launched a radio station for the newspaper. WWJ, originally known as “8MK,” first went on-the-air on August 20, 1920. The station broadcasted from the second floor of the Detroit News building, and was thought to have been heard by listeners in at least 30 Detroit homes.

WWJ was originally operated as a full-service radio station that kept Detroiters informed and entertained.  In the early 1920s, WWJ broadcasted speeches by Alex J. Groesbeck, Governor of Michigan, James Couzens, Mayor of Detroit, and a number of prominent clergymen including Reverend John P. McNichols, President of the University of Detroit. Some famous performers, such as comedian Will Rogers, also made their radio debut on WWJ.  Contrary to modern radio practices of reproducing music to broadcast, the WWJ radio studio in the Detroit News building included equipment that made it possible to broadcast live music.  Thus, the first broadcast of a Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert occurred in February of 1922.

The call sign for 8MK was changed to “WBL” on October 13, 1921.  Following this, on March 3, 1922, the call sign for the radio station was changed to its current name, “WWJ.”  In May of 1922, the Detroit News finalized a programming schedule for WWJ which included hints to housewives, music, weather reports, market quotations, baseball scores, and church services.  WWJ continued to broadcast an array of programming, and on March 29, 1941, the station was moved to its current frequency, 950 kHz, or 950 AM. In 1973, WWJ changed from its previous programming schedule to its current all-news format, and in 1989, it was purchased by CBS Radio. From 1998 to 2002, the station boosted its broadcasting power from 5,000 watts to its current level of 50,000 watts.  

Written by William Zurenko and Julia Teran

 


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