Milwaukee’s Newest Black Talk Radio Station Is Asking the Tough Questions

The Truth launched at 101.7 FM in January 2021.

Tory Lowe, host of the afternoon talk radio show on The Truth, started receiving calls from Milwaukee County Jail inmates in January. Reports of dirty linens, poor food quality and unreasonable pandemic quarantines poured in for days from inmates and their families. They got the attention of Sheriff Earnell Lucas, who told The Truth’s predominantly Black listeners that, despite supply chain challenges, he was committed to solving the matter with compassion and ensuring inmate safety. Within 48 hours of the sheriff’s interview, inmates and their family members called to thank the radio station for helping to improve the conditions at the jail.  

It’s an example of how the station can be a powerful conduit for meaningful change, giving a voice to the voiceless in Milwaukee’s Black community, says Kyle Wallace, content director for The Truth. “The power of radio is that it impacts real people and real conditions,” Wallace says. “We don’t filter their voice. We’re here to ask the tough questions and not sugarcoat things.”

Troy Low from The Truth; Photo by Jarvis Lawson
Cherie Harris from The Truth; Photo by Jarvis Lawson

 

 

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The Truth joins legacy talk stations like WNOV, while adding new, raw perspectives from its “colorful” local hosts who boldly tackle issues relevant to Milwaukee that are often missed by music stations and syndicated shows. It’s one of the six local Good Karma Brands stations, including “Wisconsin’s Radio Station,” WTMJ-AM.  

With Cherie Harris as general manager, The Truth launched at 101.7 FM in January 2021 and airs live weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with “MKE in the Morning,” “The Truth with Sherwin Hughes,” “The Tory Lowe Show” and “The Truth in the Afternoon with Dr. Ken Harris.” It airs reruns of its shows during other hours and best-of clips during the weekends.

The idea for the station came from Good Karma’s CEO, Craig Karmazin, whose “aha” moment was a first responders appreciation lunch sponsored by GKB just two days after the video of George Floyd’s murder went viral when pandemic and community tensions were colliding. “I wasn’t thinking about the guy who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, I thought about all of the guilty bystanders,” says Karmazin. “I kinda decided that we as a company had become guilty bystanders.”

There was some initial skepticism “that a white guy like me would have good intentions,” Karmazin says, and he felt it was important that the community understood that The Truth wasn’t just GKB riding a trend, that it was serious about bettering the community.

They wanted The Truth to be a station where people could talk about anything and feel safe, better the lives of the community and unite people. Topics have ranged from national fodder like the Will Smith slap to local news like the tragic death of 3-year-old Major Harris to the community’s take on the historic mayoral election. 

The year-old station has already won awards for its programming, and was even recognized by Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who dedicated its first anniversary celebration, Feb. 4, 2022, as The Truth Day.

“It just gives people a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Wallace says. “We have accolades coming, which is great, but I come here because it’s important work for the community. It really is bigger than us.” 


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s July Issue.

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