By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 03, 2011 at 11:00 AM

John Mercure signs on at 3 this afternoon in one of the key spots on Milwaukee's radio dial: afternoon drive time host on WTMJ-AM (620).

The 43-year-old Mercure is back on the air after nearly two years in public relations.

"This is really in my blood," he told me during a conversation. "Being a journalist is who I am. I missed it. I missed being in the building, I missed telling people stories, I missed looking for the truth."

He spent a decade at Channel 4, where his in-your-face style of investigative reporting got a lot of attention. That's not the John Mercure who will be sitting in front of the microphone.

"It's not going to be that persona," he told me. "I hesitated a second, because it is going to be a lot of investigative stuff on the show.

"Nobody ever told me to act that way. That was me.

"But this show is going to be a more balanced, more even-keeled, more conventional news show.

"Now with that said, we're gonna ask a lot of tough questions, we're gonna tick some people off. We're gonna dig deep. You're not going to see me chasing people down the sidewalk, or you won't hear me talking about chasing people down the sidewalk."

That may be the most difficult part of the show. While Mercure will start his air shift at 3 p.m., he says he'll be in at 9 doing actual reporting, a job that takes a lot of time and sometimes ends up at dead ends.

"I'm going to be out in the field ... collecting stories," he promised.

Mercure did a little radio work in his college days, so this is his first stint as a radio host. Unlike his predecessor, Jonathan Green, the show won't focus as much on his personality, although he expects to "have a perspective."

Said Mercure, "It's going to be a hybrid between the conventional news wheel they do on WBBM in Chicago, which is all-news, and a show more like Sykes. And this is going to be closer to the news wheel.

"But there will opportunity for some opinion, some perspective, some analysis."

What it won't be is a show with a political point of view, like the programs hosted by Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner on WTMJ, and Mercure's main competition, Mark Belling on WISN-AM (1130).

"It will not have a political ideology. I want everybody to listen, and I'm going to go after Republicans as hard as I go after Democrats. It will not have a bent one way or the other."

What about Belling?

"I don't know Mark Belling," he said. But Mercure is well aware of the competition he's facing from Milwaukee radio's biggest afternoon voice.

"I'm not scared, I'm not intimidated. I respect Mark. Mark's legendary; the numbers speak for themselves.

"I wouldn't be taking this job if I didn't think we could eventually give Mark a run for his money. I don't think that'll happen overnight, I don't think that'll happen in six months."

But Mercure expects to be competitive.

One thing is clear about the new afternoon drive-time show on WTMJ: It won't be another version of the old "Green House."

"This will not be the Mercure House," he joked. "I don't even rule my house."

Some WUWM changes: WUWM-FM (89.7) has begun airing BBC Newshour in the 2 p.m. weekday hour.

The Milwaukee Public Radio station has dropped "The Story," citing declining listener numbers. Weekday programs that had aired in the 2 p.m. hour will move up to 1 p.m.

Full details are available in WUWM's new program schedule, which took effect today.

A new season of "American Experience": A new installment of ABC's "The Bachelor" starts tonight at 7 on Channel 12, which frees you up at 9 p.m. to turn over to Channel 10 for the season premiere of PBS' "American Experience," with a 90-minute look at the live of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

No, I'm not recommending that you watch "The Bachelor," but I am recommending that you check out "American Experience," which offers historical documentaries that are consistently head and shoulders above what you usually find on cable.

Here's a sample:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.