Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Crute Building Statewide ‘Truth’ Radio

Owner of liberal outlet in Madison envisions network of 12 stations in 7 markets with factual news shows.

By - Jul 14th, 2022 05:29 pm
Mike Crute. Photo from Crute for Wisconsin.

Mike Crute. Photo from Crute for Wisconsin.

Talk radio entrepreneur Mike Crute, who owns stations in Madison and Waukesha, has plans to create a statewide network of radio stations. “By October we should have 16 signals in seven markets in the state,” he tells Urban Milwaukee.

That may include a number of partner stations that have both an FM and AM signal, but all told it will cover most of the state. And while Crute got his start with a liberal talk radio station in Madison and one in Milwaukee that failed, that’s not the plan for this network. In fact, some of the stations he hopes to buy may include sports broadcasts or even play country music, but in all cases Crute plans to run regular broadcasts of the news with a goal of simply giving listeners accurate information.

“I can tell you that the Republicans own the airwaves in outstate Wisconsin,” Crute says, with conservative talk radio repeating the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and lots of Republican ads aired. “The goal is to make sure there are no areas of the state that become news deserts.”

Crute, who is not wealthy, now has a partner who is: Sage Weill, a wealthy tech industry entrepreneur who is a minority co-owner of 540 WAUK, the Waukesha station with full coverage of Milwaukee County that Crute purchased in January. With that station as the start, the two have created a new company called Civic Media that is purchasing two more radio stations, as the publication Radio Insight was the first to report, in Wausau in north central Wisconsin and Richland Center in the state’s southwestern area. Civic Media is purchasing Sports 1230 WXCO Wausau from Sunrise Broadcasting for $400,000. The company is also acquiring Fruit Broadcasting’s Standards 1450 WRCO, an AM station and its partner station Country 100.9 WRCO-FM, which broadcast out of Richland Center, for $900,000.

“Civic Media is building out a network of radio stations covering most of Wisconsin, with the first round of stations launching in August. Stay Tuned!” the company’s website declares.

Crute is also shopping for a station in the Fox Valley, northern Wisconsin and other areas he would rather not disclose. “I’m looking for stations that are intrinsically linked to their home towns. If the station at least has high school sports coverage, we’re looking to buy.”

“I’ve approached all the owners. Nobody had a ‘for sale’ sign in their yard.”

The end goal is to have coverage of the entire state with a new and newsy radio network. Every half hour the stations will run a broadcast of the AP news, followed by a segment with state and local news.

“We’re not trying to cheerlead the Democratic Party or the left,” Crute says. “We’re just trying to claim the local community. I want to be the home-town radio.”

The Civic Media website describes what it will offer as “Hometown radio. Local news. Regional Commentary.”

“At Civic Media we believe that radio has an important role to play in supporting the community with quality local news and commentary,” the website notes. “We focus on local, regional and state issues and current events that are most relevant to our listeners, and combine news with open and honest commentary to advance listeners’ understanding and engagement.”

The words liberal or progressive are not used.

It’s Crute’s vision that is driving this approach, he says. “Sage is not an idealogue,,” Crute says. “He believes in the truth.”

But Weill is a Democrat, who tweeted “So happy right now!” after Joe Biden‘s election. He has donated to Democratic politicians like Tony Evers and Josh Kaul and given nearly $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Democratic Party, as Transparency USA has reported.

Weil, 44, is a classic example of a young tech industry entrepreneur who became wealthy at a young age. As an undergraduate at Harvey Mudd College, he worked with three fellow students to build DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web hosting provider and domain name registrar started in 1997. About a decade later Weil become the founder and chief architect of Ceph, a distributed storage platform, which he designed as part of his PhD research at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2011 he co-founded InkTank, a professional services and support company for the open source Ceph file system. InkTank was purchased by Red Hat for $175 million in 2014 and Weil worked with that company until 2020.

That’s when he took a detour into social action. As a story on Weil by Market Research Telecast recounts, “He participated in VoteAmerica as part of the 2020 US presidential election. This is a civil rights organization that helps Americans navigate the complicated US electoral system with voter registration. This work, according to Weil, impressed him. Weil wants to repeat his commitment for the upcoming midterm elections in the USA. Basically, he sees himself in the future in an environment in which the issue of civil rights plays a major role.”

While he initially saw WAUK as a liberal talk radio station, Crute has modified his vision. He runs a show featuring Joel Kleefisch, husband of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, that’s largely apolitical — about cooking with a hunting theme. “It’s damn good radio, and it plays well across the state,” Crute says. The station also carries the “Up North Podcast.” Crute wants to develop shows like this, with a regional Wisconsin flavor, that can run on other stations as well.

The entire approach is so homey it seems almost bland. “We want to make it a focus for good government and offer facts to counter untruths,” says Crute. And add some coverage of the local news. “You still need to get the county boards covered.”

But in an age of hate, disinformation and the Big Lie, radio stations that serve the community and provide factual information might actually be a radical and refreshing change.

4 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Crute Building Statewide ‘Truth’ Radio”

  1. ringo muldano says:

    Love the devils! Go Crutie!

  2. NieWiederKrieg says:

    Crute chose AP “News” as a source of information for his listeners… AP “News” is 100% lies and propaganda… If AP “News” is your source for information, you are uninformed, ignorant of the facts, brainwashed, and a fool… 99% of Crutes listeners and callers are clueless and brainwashed.

    Listening to Matt Flynn’s daily diatribe of propaganda, lies, and hate will make you a racist, a war monger, and dumber than a rock.

  3. ringo muldano says:

    NWK. Have you been reading pseudo-essays by Max Forte?

  4. Steven Midthun says:

    ^? Why?

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