City Des Moines, Iowa
Broadcast area Des Moines metropolitan area
Branding NewsRadio 1040 WHO
Frequency 1040 kHz
First air date April 10, 1924
Format News/Talk
Power 50,000 watts
Class A
Facility ID 51331
Transmitter coordinates 41°39′10″N 93°21′1″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)
Affiliations Premiere Networks
Westwood One Network
Fox News Radio
Hawkeyes Sports Radio Network
Owner iHeartMedia
(Citicasters Licenses, Inc.)
Webcast WHO Listen Live
Website www.whoradio.com

WHO (1040 kHz "Newsradio 1040") is a commercial AM radio station in Des Moines, Iowa. The station is owned by iHeartMedia and carries a news/talk radio format.

WHO broadcasts with 50,000 watts, the maximum power permitted for commercial AM stations. It uses a non-directional antenna. WHO dates back to the early days of broadcasting and is a Class A clear-channel station. With a good radio, the station can be heard over much of the Central United States during nighttime hours. During daytime hours, its transmitter power and Iowa's flat land (with near-perfect soil conductivity) gives it at least secondary coverage of most of Iowa, as well as parts of Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.


Early Years

WHO first began broadcasting on April 10, 1924.[1] While most radio stations in Iowa today begin their call signs with a K, WHO begins with a W, because the original dividing line was the western border of Iowa. WHO dates back to the early years of radio, when call signs were often only three letters long. The call letters were not chosen because they spell out the question "Who?" The government handed out call signs sequentially.

The studios were on the top floor of the Liberty Building in downtown Des Moines.[2] 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.) Through most of its early years, WHO was a network affiliate of the NBC Red Network, broadcasting comedies, dramas, game shows, soap operas, sports and big bands.

WHO moved from 1000 AM to the current 1040 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. The other is KXEL in Waterloo. However, WHO was originally a Class I-A, while KXEL was given Class I-B status, requiring a directional antenna at night, to avoid interfering with the other Class I-B station on 1540, ZNS-1 in Nassau, Bahamas.

Ronald Reagan, WHO Sportscaster

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. Reagan received details over a teleprinter for each play and would act as if he were in the stadium, reporting on the game while seeing it from the press box. Many radio stations used this re-creation system until sports networks became more common.


In 1948, WHO-FM 100.3 signed on the air. Originally WHO-FM simulcast most of the programming heard on 1040 AM. But in 1967, WHO-FM switched to classical music and beautiful music. 100.3 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. Because WHO 1040 was a long-time affiliate of NBC, the TV station also affiliated with NBC.

WHO was continuously owned by the Palmer family for more than 70 years, until Jacor Broadcasting purchased the station in 1997. Jacor merged with Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) a year later. WHO and the other iHeart radio stations in Des Moines (KDRB, KDXA, KKDM, and KXNO) continued to share a building with WHO-TV until moving into a new facility in 2005.

For many years, WHO has used an owl as its mascot, an apparent play on its call letters, pronounced like an owl's call.

Personalities and Programming

Most of WHO's daytime schedule is made up of local shows on weekdays, while nights carry nationally syndicated programming. Mornings begin with Van Harden and Bonnie Lucas, co-hosts of the Van & Bonnie[3] followed by Jeff Angelo in late mornings, Bob Quinn and Doug Cooper in middays and Simon Conway, originally from London, taking the afternoon drive time.

Syndicated shows include Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, John Batchelor, Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and America in the Morning. Weekends include shows on money, health, religion, gardening, the outdoors and pets. Syndicated weekend shows include Michael Medved and Bill Cunningham.

Sports Programming

WHO has been the longtime flagship station of University of Iowa sports. Jim Zabel, who joined WHO in 1944,[4] was the 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.

State Fair Programming

WHO (AM) broadcasts programming from the Iowa State Fair for the duration of that event.


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