Thursday, October 30, 2008
Collected and Edited by Rick Kaempfer
Highlights and links to the big stories in the news this week about the media. This column appears twice a week at MEDIA NOTEBOOK
Landslide for TV
(TV Week) Ira Teinowitz writes: "The 2008 race for the presidency has been memorable for many reasons, not the least of which is the jaw-dropping effect it has had on the television industry. The campaign brought to media companies a record $750 million in advertising revenue—of which local stations and the broadcast and cable networks reaped 90%, helping offset a precipitous drop in other types of TV ad buys as the economy stumbled toward recession. And it also reinvigorated cable news channels, helped fuel ratings records for politically incorrect comedy shows and dramatically raised the profile of some TV stars. While the fat lady has not even begun to sing yet, what soon may get dubbed “The Great Campaign of 2008” can be summed up as a race of record-smashing, eye-popping impact. "
Hollywood may not be recession proof this time
(Los Angeles Times) Dawn C. Chmielewski and Meg James write: "Worried by the worsening economy, Kristen Olson decided she'd better start saving money. She tallied her expenses and was walloped by sticker shock: She and her roommates were spending $900 a year for cable TV. 'I'm not watching $900 worth of cable,' said the 25-year-old advertising account coordinator, who lives in North Hollywood. She's trying to persuade her roommates to drop the service. 'You can watch so many shows online for free; most of them are on Hulu now,' Olson added, referring to the year-old video site that makes available at the click of a mouse more than 1,000 shows, including her favorites, 'Ugly Betty' and 'House.' Such changes in consumer behavior signal trouble for media companies. For decades, entertainment executives have boasted that Hollywood is 'recession-proof.' No matter how dire the economy, the argument goes, consumers will always be willing to spend on entertainment to escape."
The 6 factors that merged to tame wild morning radio
(Chicago Tribune) I thought this was a very well done piece. Patrick Kampert writes: "Derrick Brown, program director at WVAZ-FM 102.7, says the use of the portable, electronic people meter instead of Arbitron paper diaries is one reason Muller and other radio personalities are reinventing themselves. 'I don't think the shtick he did would play today, especially in the era of electronic measurement,' Brown said. 'The diaries were all about remembering a brand name and writing it down. Now, you're going to be judged by your content. Brand names aren't good enough anymore.' The size of the morning shows has shrunk too, Brown added. 'Large morning shows have become very expensive. We have to judge: Is it worth the expense to have a crew of 12, or can we get the job done with two, or one?' Radio observers see six reasons for the disappearance of the in-your-face deejay."
(The 6 reasons are: FCC fines, jocks have matured, advertisers don't like it, what's so shocking?, absence of Stern, and the tenor of the times)
Time Inc planning layoff of 600
(New York Times) Tim Arango writes: "Time Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher, plans to cut 6 percent of its work force — more than 600 positions — and will revamp the organization in a way that could radically alter the culture at the company. The company outlined the overhaul on Tuesday evening in a memorandum to employees after The New York Times revealed the cuts on its Web site. The layoffs will begin in about two weeks. No magazines are scheduled to close, but some are likely to be severely cut back. Ann S. Moore, Time Inc.’s chairman and chief executive, was already planning an overhaul because of the upheavals in print media, but she was forced to speed up those efforts amid the financial crisis and looming recession."
Gannett will cut 10% of newspaper jobs
(Reuters) Gannett Co Inc, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, is planning to cut about 10 percent of jobs at its local papers as it fights advertising declines made worse by the global financial crisis. It is the second round of layoffs that Gannett has planned in the past two months. In August, Gannett said it would eliminate 1,000 newspaper jobs, with 600 being laid off. The latest round will be all layoffs, according to a memo sent to staff by Newspaper Division President Robert Dickey on Tuesday.
John Hodgman 'verifies' the facts of his life
(Chicago Tribune) Kevin Pang writes: "John Hodgman— Daily Show contributor, 'I'm a PC' wonk — is in the business of fabricating untruths and serving them up for public consumption under the guise of 'fact.' He did so with his first book, "The Areas of My Expertise," a Poor Richard's Almanack for the tragically misinformed. For instance, Hodgman's first book includes a prediction that 'Roving cocktail gangs will ravage American cities in search of vermouth.' In his new book, 'More Information Than You Require,' Hodgman continues to lie through his teeth."
The paperless paper is now reality
(Chicago Tribune) Phil Rosenthal writes: "The original opening of the TV show "Lou Grant" began with a bird in a tree, the tree chopped down, the wood turned to paper, paper delivered to a publishing plant. Newspapers came off the presses, were delivered, read and then used to line a bird's cage. That was 31 years ago. If it seemed quaintly inefficient then, it still is, only more so--last night's stories put in your hands this morning at great effort and expense, then disposed of shortly thereafter. So the Christian Science Monitor's announcement Tuesday that it is largely abandoning print for the Internet in April--giving up daily press runs in favor of a beefed-up Web site, complemented by daily e-mail editions and a weekly print magazine--is intriguing."
Court Rejects Arbitron Bid To Block PPM Suit
(Radio Ink) The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has granted a motion by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to dismiss Arbitron's bid in federal court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Cuomo's office, in favor of the state proceeding filed against Arbitron by Cuomo on October 10.
In E-mail, ABC News President Tells Staff No Holiday Parties This Year; All Print Subs Canceled; Execs Must Stay at 'B' Hotels
(New York Observer) Felix Gillette writes: "This morning David Westin, president of ABC News, sent out an e-mail to staffers warning that ABC News is not 'immune from the downturn,' and that the division (along with the rest of Disney's Media Networks Group) will be implementing new 'guidelines' to 'reduce administrative costs.' As part of the cost-cutting measures, ABC News will be canceling all of its magazine and newspaper subscriptions, will not be throwing any holiday parties, and will be scaling back on travel accommodations for executives."
(Read the entire e-mail at the link)
(Forbes.com) James Erik Abel writes: "There's nothing like bad news to sell newspapers. Unless there are no newspapers left to sell. Many people are wondering if this may soon be a reality. Revenues were in free-fall last week at many of the country's largest newspaper companies. 'The only hope is that as we get through the spring, the rate of [the advertising] decline starts to ease up,' says newspaper analyst Edward Atorino of The Benchmark Co."
Full listings of newspaper endorsements
(Editor & Publisher) Greg Mitchell writes: "The Obama-Biden ticket maintains its strong lead in the race for daily newspaper endorsements, by 170 to 69, an almost 3-1 margin and an even wider spread in the circulation of those papers. Obama's lopsided margin, including most of the major papers that have decided so far, is in stark contrast to John Kerry barely edging George W. Bush in endorsements in 2004 by 213 to 205."
(Click on the link to see the full list)
Amy Poehler gives birth
(Huffington Post) Seth Myers sat alone at the SNL Weekend Update anchor desk saying, "I'm Seth Myers. Amy Poehler is not here because she is having a baby," to wild applause. Update later ended with Maya Rudolph and Keenan Thompson singing a special duet version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" with lyrics like, "We love you Amy" instead of "Oh pretty baby." Poehler's rep released a statement saying the baby's name is Archie Arnett and weighed in at 8 lbs, 1 oz.
The Great Hannity-Olbermann divide
(Washington Post) Howard Kurtz writes: "On Fox News last week, Sean Hannity said he was tempted to ask Barack Obama: "Where did you buy your cocaine, how much cocaine? How much cocaine did you use? How often did you use it? When did you stop?" On the same Monday night, Keith Olbermann said on MSNBC that John McCain had a responsibility 'to say 'enough' to Republican smears without end' and not be 'party to a campaign that devolves into hatred and prejudice and divisiveness.' Are these guys watching the same presidential race, or even living in the same country?"
D.L. Hughley debuts on CNN
(NY Times) Dave Itzkoff writes: "At the start of his stand-up set in the 2000 film “The Original Kings of Comedy,” D. L. Hughley mocked audience members who had to suffer the rigors of a daily grind. Now he’s getting his comeuppance. For the last week Mr. Hughley, 45, has had to arrive every morning at his office at CNN in Manhattan at the ungodly (for a comedian) hour of 11 a.m. to digest reams of information from newspapers, Web sites, television and talk radio. He has no time to goof off during the 8-to-12-hour days; only the occasional moment to glance at his new profile in the CNN company directory that lists him as an anchor. 'I’m like, ‘Come on, man,’ an incredulous Mr. Hughley said in a recent interview. 'I barely even know how to read. I’ve got a G.E.D.' Just 10 days ago CNN announced that Mr. Hughley would be the host of a new comedy-news show, 'D. L. Hughley Breaks the News,' which has its premiere Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern time."
Chicago Radio Spotlight interview: Robert Murphy
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Last weekend I spoke with Robert Murphy, famed host of "Murphy in the Morning." We talked about his very successful stint at Q-101, his other morning shows in Chicago (on WXXY and WLS-FM), and what it would take for him to return to the radio. Coming this weekend: WGN morning host Spike O'Dell.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Rick Kaempfer
The other day I broke up yet another fight between my oldest son Tommy (age 12) and my youngest son Sean (age 6). Sean wanted Tommy to play with him, and Tommy rudely rejected him until screaming and/or punching ensued.
But this time things seemed a little bit different. Moments after I broke up the fight, the house was completely quiet. Normally after a fight, Sean would be plotting some sort of diabolical way to annoy or irritate the brother who rejected him. This time he went into the basement without protest.
I was more than a little suspicious when he nonchalantly walked back into the room a few minutes later and asked me some very strange questions.
“Dad, how do you spell open and closed?”
“Dad, where do we keep the sleeping bags?”
“Dad, can I use this Cubs cup?”
“Dad, can I write on this blank piece of paper?”
“Dad, does the top of the toy box come off?”
That last one actually got me off my backside to investigate.
“No!” he said. “Not yet! I’m not ready for you.”
“What are you working on, Sean?”
“I’m building my office,” he said. “You can’t come down right now because my office is…” And then he held up the sign he just made: “CLOSED.”
I admit it. I was dying to see what he was doing, but I also knew it wouldn’t be long before he held up the OPEN sign, and all of my questions would be answered. It was no more than five minutes later.
“Come down to my office, sir,” he said, while pointing to the basement. “I’m open for business.”
When I saw the office he had built, I had to bite my lip. His “desk” was the detached lid of the toy box propped on top of a sleeping bag. On this desk, he had placed a cup of pencils, and a blank piece of paper. He sat down on his “chair” (a giant stuffed dog) and motioned with his hand for me to sit on the customer “chair” (a milk crate).
“Please have a seat, sir.”
“What is your business?” I asked.
“I’m a problem fixer,” he replied. “I can fix any problem at all.”
“That’s great, because I have lots of them.”
He held his hand out. “That will be one dollar please.”
“For each problem?” I asked.
“We have a sale. All problems for $1.”
I gave him the dollar and sat on the milk crate. He looked at me intently, ready and able to handle any problems I may send his way. He folded his hands on the desk.
“What can I do for you?”
“My biggest problem is that my sons fight all the time,” I said, calling the problem fixer’s bluff. “How do I fix that problem, Mr. Problem Fixer.”
He thought about that for a few seconds before replying, “Tell them to stop it. That’s what I tell my kids.”
“And they listen to you?”
“Mine don’t listen. They still won’t stop.”
“Hmmm,” he said, grabbing the blank piece of paper from the top of his desk. He pretended to peruse it. “Let me check what the charts say. Oh! I see. It says here that you should give them a dollar.”
“If I give them a dollar, they’ll stop fighting?”
“Says so right on this chart,” he said.
“Thanks, Mr. Problem Fixer. I’ll keep that in mind.” With that, I got up to leave the “office.”
“Wait! You still haven’t asked about your biggest problem.”
I sat right back down on the milk crate. “OK, I’ll bite. What is my biggest problem.”
“Getting Tommy up in the morning.”
I raised my eyebrow at the troublemaker. “How do I fix that problem, Mr. Problem Fixer?”
“Give me a dollar and I’ll wake him up for you every single morning,” he said, an evil grin forming on his face.
“That’s a very generous offer,” I said, trying not to grin back. “You’d really do that for me?”
“I promise that he’ll hop right out of bed.”
Yeah, I bet he will. His big brothers don’t know it yet, but it won’t be long before they don’t stand a chance against this boy.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Every Monday stop by for jokes, links to stories you might have missed, amusing photos and video, and more. Contributions and suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Click on the "Email Me" link on the right to contribute.
Joke of the Week: John McCain Jokes (The Obama jokes are further down)
John McCain was driving his "Straight Talk Express" bus home to Arizona when he got a frantic call on his cell phone from his wife Cindy. "Be careful, John," she warned him. "I just heard on the news that there's someone driving the wrong way on the highway." John replied, "There's not just one. There's hundreds of them!"
John Mccain is so old that he remembers when Joe Biden was bald.
John McCain asked two questions when he proposed to Cindy. First he got down on his knees and asked her, "Will you marry me?" After she agreed John then asked her, "And can you help me get back up?"
John McCain has been criticized by some Republican commentators for not being conservative enough. It didn't help when McCain drove the "Straight Talk Express" all the way across the country with its left blinker on.
Q. What did John McCain say when his plane was shot down over enemy lines?
A. Curse you, Red Baron!
Senator McCain was accused of inappropriate behavior with a female lobbyist 31 years younger than he is. That should get him Bill Clinton's vote.
Unlike other candidates in the Republican primaries, John McCain said he believes in the Theory of Evolution. In fact, he watched it happen with his own eyes.
John McCain recently fired a campaign aide after he asked for a Johnny Walker and the aide brought him a drink instead.
Q. Why won’t Obama laugh at himself?
A. Because it would be racist.
Like any experienced Chicago politician, Obama would go the cemetery to register voters. One night he came across a grave so old and worn that he couldn't make out the name on the tombstone. The staffer holding the flashlight got impatient and suggested they just move on to the next plot. Obama angrily exclaimed, "This person has a much right to vote as anyone else here!"
Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well, for example, the other day I went downtown and into a shop. I was only there for about 5 minutes, and when I came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. I said to him, 'Come on, man, how about giving a retired person a break'? He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. I called him a 'Nazi.' He glared at me and wrote another ticket for having worn tires. So I called him a 'doughnut eating Gestapo.' He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he wrote a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him the more tickets he wrote. Personally, I didn't care. I came downtown on the bus, and the car that he was putting the tickets on had a bumper sticker that said, 'Obama in '08 .' I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired. It's important to my health.
Q. Why is Barack Obama so thin and scrawny?
A. If he were any heavier he wouldn't be able to walk on water.
Stories you might have missed
1. Why isn't this election funny?
(Ask Carl Reiner, Danny Devito, Larry Gelbart, Garry Marshall, and Jerry Stiller. They reveal their thoughts at the link.)
2. Bill O'Reilly on the View
(I thought this was very entertaining.)
3. Conservatives voting for Obama
(And these are just some that are openly admitting it. How many aren't?)
4. Sarah Palin as President
(I spent way too much time on this site)
5. Protester tries to handcuff Karl Rove
(Question: What was Karl Rove doing in San Francisco anyway? Doesn't he despise people from there?)
Video of the week: If John Woo, Kevin Smith, and Wes Anderson made McCain's ads...
Photo of the week: When pumpkins drink...
Sample Comments from the "Padded Room" at Just One Bad Century.com. Feel free to stop by and add your own.
Poster: Chuck Davis 10/14/2008 9:18:54 AM
Comment: I admit it--I`m still very ticked off at this year`s team. They just didn`t show up in the playoffs. I showed up twice. Shouldn`t they give me my $250 back? I`d prefer to have my last 40 summers back but I`ll settle for the $250.
Poster: William A 10/12/2008 9:37:09 AM
Comment: I have no more Tears or Blood left...How much can i endure. I am ordering the Shirt to remind me Why I never give up on my Family The Cubs..
Poster: Robert 10/10/2008 9:14:16 PM
Comment: I ordered the crying cub hat earlier this year and a fellow Cubs fan told me i was being negative. The day after the season ended he asked me where I got the hat. Thank you guys. Not all Cubs fans get it right away but they all get it eventually.
Poster: Roscoe 10/10/2008 6:30:41 AM
Comment: I have an idea. What if we as a collective fan base try a different psychology. Instead of rooting for the team and hoping we win it--we start embracing the idea that they can`t do it. Think of it like a double dog dare. I use the same technique with my kids: "I bet there is no way you`ll get a good grade on this spelling test. You can`t do it." Works every time.
Poster: Brian Aylesworth 10/9/2008 3:00:54 PM
Comment: I`m a Cubs fan from April22 1950 the day I was born. I`ll be a Cubs fan till the day I die. Win or lose I`m a Cubs fan! Broken hearted till next year.
Poster: John Hack 10/9/2008 7:46:02 AM
Comment: I saw the Daily Show clip you posted on your blog making fun of Cubs fans. I have a question for him and everyone else who makes fun of us? What are we supposed to do? Once you become a fan of a team it`s not like you can just decide to root for another team. They have been with us since childhood. It`s part of who we are. It`s not a decision of the brain it`s a decision of the heart.
Poster: Ted P. 10/8/2008 12:23:25 PM
Comment: I`m in shock. I`ve been a Cub`s fan since `69 and was sure this was the year. Angry? Maybe later. But like I said right now I`m still in shock.
Poster: joe mondo 10/8/2008 7:36:46 AM
Comment: I also went to the `45 series so I am not as "bent out of shape " as others who have never been to a Cubs WS. you have to expect the worst as 67 cub years have done to me!! maybe and I mean maybe next year!!!!!!!!
Poster: Billy 10/7/2008 9:38:50 PM
Comment: I`m just mad at myself for falling for it again. I`m normally such a realist but this year I bought it hook line and sinker.
Poster: Baton Rouge Cub Fan 10/7/2008 7:16:49 PM
Comment: This one is the worst for me because the expectations were so high....but that`s a good thing because we had a great season that turned out to be a a nightmare!
Poster: Ken Palast 10/7/2008 2:38:15 PM
Comment: Cubs fan since 1962. Broken hearted since 1969.
Poster: Randy Swanson 10/7/2008 1:55:14 PM
Comment: Did you read the article on page 2 of the Trib today? The writer is a Red Sox fan telling us we should be happy because winning is not all it is cracked up to be. He says people will start hating us. We already have that. We have White Sox fans. I will take my chances that winning will ruin it for us.
Poster: Dick Wagner 10/7/2008 11:32:40 AM
Comment: My first pro baseball game was in 1945 when I attended a world series game. I have been and will continue to be a Cub fan from that day and want to thank the organization for saveing me a lot of money not haveing to purchase a ticket to the "next" cub world series. Go Cubbies
Poster: Jimmy 10/7/2008 5:36:33 AM
Comment: You know what is really starting to make me mad? This whole concept that somehow the Cubs losing is the fault of the fans. Without the fans the Cubs are nothing. It is time for the Cubs players and management to man up and say it loud--it is not the fault of the fans.
Poster: Crying Cub Fan 10/6/2008 4:27:47 PM
Comment: Thanks for the opportunity to vent. The bottm line is they played badly. Whether it was because they were afraid to fail or nervous or just UNLUCKY Poor hitting and fielding led to the loss.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Robert Murphy is a legendary Chicago radio personality, most famous for his stint as "Murphy in the Morning" at Q-101.
Rick: The straight jacket. You must be sick and tired of answering this question, but for an entire generation of Chicagoans, when they hear the name Robert Murphy, they think of the straight jacket commercials. Looking back on those commercials now with the benefit of hindsight, have you embraced the straight jacket or are you still (metaphorically) stuck in it?
Robert: Well, "embrace" may be too strong a word, but I am very aware of the commercials positive influence on my career. My initial objection was that it seemed kind of a lowbrow concept ("That Murphy's Cray-zee!) but most of the commercials were exceptionally well executed (such as the original "Bambulance" spot, now popping up on YouTube.)
Though it is inarguable that the straitjacket helped to bring me recognition and thereby bolster my ratings when I first started, I wanted to move on after a while. But No! If there was a smidgen of a drop in the ratings, management whipped that bad boy out again, and I was back on TV, running through Chicago with my arms restrained and my feet bare.
Rick: In the 1980s and early 90s, your show on Q-101 was one of the top rated and most influential radio shows in town. You assembled an incredibly talented team there. I think a lot of people in Chicago radio aren't even aware of how many people in the business worked on your show. Talk a little bit about the contributions of the other cast members, including those behind the scenes.
Robert: One of the earliest and best remembered incarnations of the Murphy in the Morning Show featured Beth Kaye as co-host. Beth and I had a strange and wonderful professional relationship (she strange, me wonderful) and I think we came across on the air as adversaries with an affinity for each other, much like on the show Moonlighting which was big at the time.
Also on the show was Chicago voice-over potentate Pete Stacker whose character voices really brought out the best in the scripts that I wrote. The very knowledgeable Pat Benkowski handled the sports aspect, and all was topped off by our venerable newsman, the intelligent and eloquent Dave McBride.
Later on Joy Masada joined us as producer, followed by Carol McWilliams and Mick Kayler (former producer for Lujack). Later co-hosts were Susan Anderson and Eleanor Mondale. Danger Dan Walker became one of the most popular cast members, using the newly invented cell phone to go out and jack with people. He is one humorous dude! We worked under a gazillion different PDs who passed through (not all of them great, some of them downright damaging to the show) but occasionally some good ones like Randy Lane, Chuck Morgan, and Bill Gamble actually helped out the show
Rick: In one way, I think your show blazed the trail for a show like Eric and Kathy's, in that you were so successful in attracting female listeners. I realize part of that was the format (adult contemporary), but part of that was also your show. When you were on the air did you think of female listeners, or were you just doing your thing, trying to appeal to a mass audience?
Robert: Interesting question. There is no doubt that it was the female ratings that pushed the show to the top, and I would like to think it was my irrepressible charm, brutal good looks, and sexual magnetism that drew them like a moth to a flame, but since I possess none of those attributes, I speculate that the subject matter, along with the style and presentation, were to the female audiences liking (along with the music, of course.)
When I first started in radio, not as much attention was being paid to the demographics of gender, and my goal was a mass appeal morning show. Later, when gender breakdowns became more of an issue, I didn't change the focus too much because what we were doing was working - and though there was a fair amount of sexual humor on the show, it was never presented in a puerile fashion. I know that today, women are targeted with a slew of soccer/hockey mom references and heaps of celebrity gossip. Were I on the air now, I would probably have to make concessions to that end, but the women I know are so much more than that.
Rick: What are a few of your favorite moments from those years?
Robert: As far as just plain fun, I think back to the Q101 switch parties. Every Tuesday night, the whole Q101 air staff would descend upon a club, rewarding those who had "switched" to Q101 (get it?) with free beer while the morning show did a kind of adult club act. It was a great chance to mingle with the audience and learn more about them, plus over the years, it allowed me to visit every neighborhood and suburb in the Chicago area. (Wait a minute, I think we missed Stickney)
Doing the show also allowed me to hobnob with all manner of movie stars, rock musicians, members of royalty, presidents, but the coolest was getting to hang out with Captain Kangaroo. (note to those under 40: The precursor to Mister Rogers and Sesame Street)
Rick: You famously wore a suit when you did your show. First of all, is that true, and if so, why did you do it?
Robert: Okay, you got me! I confess. I frequently wore a suit to work. And if I live to be a bazillion years old, I will never understand the consternation it caused among so many people. (after the strait jacket queries, it is next in line.) So here we have,
The Top Five Reasons I Wore a Suit To Work
Number five: Because I never bought into the fallacious reasoning that because the audience couldn't see you on the radio that you should show up for work looking like some Dickensian street urchin. I still worked in an office.
Number Four: Because I grew up in the Woodstock generation, and had spent enough time in worn out denim, tie dyed shirts and sandals. I wanted to move on
Number Three: Because it made it convenient for someone such as I who had to get dressed at 4am in the dark. Throw on a T-shirt, Toss a suit over it, and voila! You're done!
Number Two: Because ZZ Top is right!
Number One: 'Cause I am one stylin' dude
Rick: After your stint at Q-101, you did two other morning shows in Chicago--including a stint at the 80s channel, WVVX (103.1 FM). I've previously spoken to Fred Winston (who also worked there) about those days, and he felt it was a little frustrating because the quality of the radio station's signal didn't quite match the quality of the programming. Do you agree, and what are your thoughts about your time at that station?
Robert: Fred and I get together and commiserate every once in a while over the frustration of working at a station that no one could hear. We had been led to believe that the stations dual tower setup would cover the city, but you could barely pick it up in Morris. It was like talking to Gramps when he had his Miracle Ear turned off. And if I do say so myself, when WXXY unveiled the all 80s format with their great talent lineup, that station was bangin'! But, the two years I spent there were great fun. It got me back to Chicago from Florida, I could walk to work, and we had beautiful brand new studios in the Neiman Marcus building, overlooking Michigan Avenue. I had two great producers there, Scott Straus (now at KISS) and Tony K Kwiecinski (who had produced my show at WLS-FM) who helped me put out what I think were some of my best shows. Too bad you couldn't hear them. I would have stayed but my Spanish is rusty.
Rick: You also anchored the lineup at WLS-FM during the time they tried out the young-talk format. They pulled the plug on that format pretty quickly, despite the all-star lineup (including yourself, Richard Roeper, Turi Ryder, and more). Do you think they gave up on it too soon, or was it just the wrong time or wrong station for that approach?
Robert: Ah, another format squashed by 94.7, The Frequency of Doom. When I took this job I was looking to evolve a little professionally, and thought that we were going to establish a new free form talk format. Jay Marvin was really the only one on board with any conventional talk radio experience, but he was (as Sarah Palin would say, "all mavericky and everything") But once we got started, it seemed management just wanted a spinoff of the AM talk format. I do appreciate my time there because I did learn a few new tricks that helped me out later. Too hard to speculate on whether the station would have ever pulled in the big numbers, but it was never given the opportunity to grow before they pulled the plug. I would have stayed but I look stupid in a cowboy hat.
Rick: Since your last stint on the air in Chicago, you've maintained a residence here. That means you've had a chance to listen to just about everyone who has come and gone on the Chicago radio dial over the past 30 years or so. Who are some of the people that have really stood out to you, past and present?
Robert: Woefully, I didn't get much of a chance to listen to most of the other morning shows, 'cause I was busy doing my own. But to me, Chicago radio is still spelled L-U-J-A-C-K (photo). He is an exemplary talent who knows how to entertain an audience without compromising his own personality. Enjoy Fred Winston also, and I'm glad I got a chance to hear Wally Phillips in his last years on the air. Much could be learned from him. I have always admired Brandmeier's talent though his approach to radio and mine could not have been more disparate. There are a few personality morning shows still on (Eric & Kathy, Drex) but I am really disappointed in the state of radio these days- out of market syndicated shows, voice tracking, and managements who replace personalities with banalities.
Rick: What kind of situation would it take to coerce you back onto the airwaves here?
Robert: Basically, a mutual decision between me and management that my particular talents and the stations mission could forge into a great ratings success, and overcome the obstacles that radio faces in today's climate, obstacles that are legion and formidable. I would also need a guarantee that enough time would be allotted to give us all a fighting chance, and of course a claus that specifies a strict "No Straitjacket" rule. Oh, and I'll need a little bit of money so I can buy some new suits.