Thursday, February 14, 2008

Media Notebook (February 14, 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

Happy Valentines Day!

VIDEO: Jim Cramer says radio is dead!
(Anyone who has read my book knows how I feel about this. When people like Jim Cramer on Wall Street say it's dead, radio finally has hope. The conglomerates will have to sell and then local operators have a chance to reclaim a lost medium. At least that's my hope...)

Hollywood is back to work

(Deadline Hollywood Daily) The official statement from the moguls: "This is a day of relief and optimism for everyone in the entertainment industry. We can now all get back to work, with the assurance that we have concluded two groundbreaking labor agreements - with our directors and our writers -- that establish a partnership through which our business can grow and prosper in the new digital age. The strike has been extraordinarily difficult for all of us, but the hardest hit of all have been the many thousands of businesses, workers and families that are economically dependent on our industry. We hope now to focus our collective efforts on what this industry does best - writers, directors, actors, production crews, and entertainment companies working together to deliver great content to our worldwide audiences."


Robert Feder interviews Jonathon Brandmeier
(Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "Twenty-five years ago this week, Chicagoans heard an energetic young radio personality named Jonathon Brandmeier for the first time. The pride of Fond du Lac, Wis., turned up on WLUP-FM (97.9) by way of Phoenix, where he'd taken the market by storm with his prank phone calls and wacky song parodies. 'Brandmeier hopes to be king of comedy' read the headline of my column the following Monday -- Feb. 21, 1983. His launch on the Loop proved anything but smooth. Just days later, a court order obtained by his previous employer kept him off the air until, appropriately enough, April Fool's Day. Despite that inauspicious start, Johnny B. would become one of Chicago radio's greatest successes. For the next 15 years at the Loop, he dominated young adult listenership in the market."

Who's Afraid of 60 Minutes?

(Columbia Journalism Review) Liz Cox Barrett writes: "How do you make thirteen of 60 Minutes feel like an eternity? Sic Katie Couric on Senator Hillary Clinton. What struck me first about Couric’s questions Sunday night during her thirteen-minute interview of Clinton was not that they were too soft (though they weren’t particularly tough and nor were those Couric’s colleague, Steve Kroft, posed to Senator Barack Obama in his companion interview…more on all that in a second) it’s that they were, often, too…beside the point. I found myself wondering aloud, These are the things you—even you, Katie Couric—choose to ask a presidential candidate?"

Layoffs arrive at Yahoo!
(New York Times) Miguel Heft writes: "These are trying days for everyone at Yahoo — not just for Jerry Yang, the co-founder and chief executive. As Mr. Yang and his board try to keep Microsoft from buying Yahoo — or try to get it to raise its offer before they agree to sell — the ax came down Tuesday on some 1,000 employees. Yahoo is not saying who is being cut, but various employees say the layoffs are, if not across the board, certainly touching a lot of different groups across the company. That’s a bit of a surprise, as during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call late last month, Mr. Yang said: 'Rather than across-the-board cuts, we will make targeted reductions.' Employees say the cuts range from a small, entrepreneurial group in San Francisco called Brickhouse, through headquarters in Sunnyvale, and down to the media and search marketing groups in Southern California."


"Someday there will be people who don't know there is a print version"

(Folio) Time magazine’s managing editor Richard Stengel opened the Direct Marketing Association’s 22nd annual Circulation Day event today in New York with a keynote that largely addressed the magazine’s relationship with the Web site. Recounting the last year and a half, Stengle noted the magazine’s redesign, ratebase reduction, the new publication date and the Web site’s expansion into a product that stands out as a separate, 24/7 news site. Broadly, Stengel said the magazine needed to regain its status as a vital read, in a way that vaguely echoed the luxe leanings of other high-end publications. “We have to become a more premium product with beautiful paper and photography,” he said. “Each medium needs to do what it does best. A magazine should be something you’re addicted to.”

NBC's Ann Curry can't find Illinois on a map

MSNBC's David Shuster suspended for comment about Chelsea Clinton
(Associated Press) A distasteful comment about Chelsea Clinton by an MSNBC anchor could imperil Hillary Rodham Clinton's participation in future presidential debates on the network, a Clinton spokesman said. In a conference call with reporters, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson on Friday excoriated MSNBC's David Shuster for suggesting the Clinton campaign had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea by having her place phone calls to celebrities and Democratic Party "superdelegates" on her mother's behalf. Wolfson called Shuster's comment "beneath contempt" and disgusting. "I, at this point, can't envision a scenario where we would continue to engage in debates on that network," he added. MSNBC said Shuster, who apologized on the air for his comment, has been temporarily suspended from appearing on all NBC news broadcasts except to offer his apology.
New York Times: Clinton letter blasts Shuster


Chet Coppock suspended for racial remark
(Chicago Tribune) Ed Sherman writes: "Quick, somebody has to invent a vaccine. There's an epidemic of broadcast personalities who can't control what comes out of their mouths. Chet Coppock is the latest to suffer from this dreaded malady. WMVP-AM 1000 has suspended the veteran sportscaster until Feb. 23 after he made an offensive remark about Jews on his show Feb. 2. During an exchange with Ben Finfer, Coppock was asked to spell Jewish. He replied, "Money, M-O-N-E-Y." After hearing the remark, WMVP general manager Jim Pastor took Coppock, who works weekends, off his show Sunday and will keep him on the sidelines for the next two weekends."

Another Great Video: ESPN's Chris Berman talks about Canadian Drugs
(He is talking to someone off camera as he waits for his turn on the Monday Night Football halftime show)

Campaign Stories Lines, All Knotted Up
(Washington Post) Howard Kurtz writes: "Reporters consistently overestimate the importance of money in presidential campaigns: McCain was out of cash, and Huckabee never had any, so their chances were drastically downgraded. Romney gave his own campaign $50 million and his chances were constantly talked up. There have been factual errors as well. The Associated Press blew a major call Tuesday, projecting Clinton the winner in Missouri based on exit polls, even though much of the St. Louis vote hadn't come in. The wire service withdrew the call 90 minutes later, after Obama moved ahead in the state he would soon win. Another embarrassment was the Reuters/C-SPAN pre-election poll -- widely picked up online -- that gave Obama a 13-point lead in California. Instead, Clinton scored a 10-point win in the state. The poll also had Mitt Romney ahead by seven points in California; McCain easily carried the state. Pollster John Zogby, who conducted the survey, says he underestimated Hispanic turnout and overestimated black turnout."


Trading Pinstripes for Politics
(New York Times) David Carr writes: "The Wall Street Journal, which has historically had a thing for guys in pinstripes rendered in stippled drawings, is taking its makeover very seriously. During a week when the stock market fell more than 4 percent, a recession seemed more likely, and Microsoft was putting the moves on Yahoo, The Journal spent almost all of its front-page real estate above the fold on politics, replete with flashy graphics. Out with Ballmer and Bernanke; in with Obama, Clinton and McCain. When Rupert Murdoch closed his deal for The Wall Street Journal at the end of 2007, there was speculation that the paper’s news columns would take on an ideological tilt. Nothing of that sort has occurred, which raises the question of what Mr. Murdoch is going to do with the paper. And the answer after a week of wall-to-wall politics on the front page? You’re looking at it."

An Interview with Dean Richards
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) This past weekend on Chicago Radio Spotlight I spoke with WGN's "Man of Many Hats" Dean Richards about his WGN radio and television career, as well as his days as a music disc jockey. Coming this weekend: WXRT jock and WBBM air copter reporter Ken Sumka.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Suburban Man: I got a little verklempt

By Rick Kaempfer

I was watching one of my favorite TV shows a few weeks ago (The Colbert Report) and something unexpected happened. I got a little verklempt.

Colbert does a comedy show, but on this Tuesday night he did a lengthy piece about his Dad–and it was totally serious. In 1969 his father negotiated an end to the African-American hospital workers strike in South Carolina with civil rights leader Andrew Young. Young was Colbert’s in-studio guest on Tuesday night, and he praised the elder Colbert as a voice of reason in a time of great turmoil. The younger Colbert, the stone-faced deadpan humorist, very briefly lost the battle with his emotions for a split second. His face swelled with pride, and his eyes welled up.

Mine did too.

My wife watched the same thing and didn’t see it at all.

What can I say? It’s a dad thing. Every man I know has father issues, but for people like Stephen Colbert–who lost his father when he was young, those issues run deep. I could see it in his eyes.

And I could see it in my eyes. I also lost my dad when I was young. I also have great pride in my father. I also have people tell me stories about my dad with the same passion and respect that Andrew Young professed to Colbert.

I don’t care who you are–that will make you a little verklempt.

It makes your mind go there, to that place you don’t normally allow yourself to go. You suddenly miss your dad so much you can’t bear it.

My dad has been gone so long I can’t even hear his voice anymore. That’s probably one of the reasons I have so overcompensated with my own boys. I’ve tried to use my father as a model—his steady temperament and his guiding hand, while trying to give them what he couldn’t give me...time. It’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to stay home and raise them.

In the one split second I saw Stephen Colbert drop the facade, that’s what was going through my mind.

And I got a little verklempt.

(Here's something else that will get you a little verklempt on Abraham Lincoln's birthday: Honest Abe. Thank you child poet David Stern for touching my heart.)

This originally appeared on my blog at NWI Parent, "Father Knows Nothing." If you haven't yet checked out "Father Knows Nothing", there are several new columns there that I haven't shared here at Suburban Man headquarters.

Click here to see them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Musings

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: Contributed by "B"

This is the new MUST HAVE for any office/cubicle. Are you stressed? Are the squeeze and koosh balls just not getting it anymore? Do you need that special "pick-me-up" in the middle of the work day?


Inside this binder you will find 'solutions' to everyday problems. If you are having problems with the photocopier, having difficulty dealing with co-workers, having computer problems...order the RED BINDER and keep it on your shelf in case of emergencies. You'll never feel stressed at work again!

Stories You Might Have Missed

1. Woman buckles beer, not child
(The story doesn't say what kind of beer it was...but if it was a Budweiser product, I hope the judge has no mercy.)

2. Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal filmed at a cockfight
(The article doesn't say which one of them won. I've got $5 on the high-kicking Marichal.)

3. Chicago voters told pens have invisible ink
(There's nowhere like Chicago on election day)

4. Worst Headline Ever: Ike Beats Tina To Death
(I missed this when it came out in December. Thanks to "B" for alerting me to it.)

5. Chicago is 6th most miserable city in America
(One of the reasons they ranked us there? The Chicago Cubs. C'mon now! That's just piling on.)

Here are a few Beatles-related stories for my fellow Beatlemaniacs...

May Pang Breaks Silence
(John Lennon's mistress finally talks about their very strange relationship...which was arranged by Yoko.)

RIP Maharisi Mahesh Yogi
(He was the subject of the Beatles song "Sexy Sadie." Lennon changed the title and chorus to avoid a lawsuit.)

Heather cheated on Paul!
(I love the British Press. Their headline for this story, and I'm not kidding, is "Rumpy Stumpy." They refer to her repeatedly as the "the one-legged ex-hooker.")

Video of the week:
Sarah Silverman music video: "I'm F****** Matt Damon" (As seen on the Jimmy Kimmel show)

Picture of the week: Going the extra mile for Valentine's Day. Contributed by "M"

Reader Response

Regarding Suburban Man: "The Right Question"

"Just so you know, getting a male child to elaborate does not get any better as they get older. Female children will talk you into a coma. You're sorry you ever asked them a question because they'll go off on a rant and change the subject twenty times until you forgot what the original question was, and by then, who cares because you've tuned them out, anyway.

My son is now in college.

"How are you doing in class?"

Now, mind you, this is the answer I get no matter what the class. First off, my son is one of those students that had to be pushed throughout school. Where some kids get easy A's without breaking a sweat, he had to work to get a B, so I ask the above question very frequently, and now that he's over 18, the school will not give me any information. Some baloney about privacy laws. I'd like to tell them to shove their privacy laws or else they won't be getting tuition checks. So, I have to rely on the One Word Wonder.

"How's the speech class (that everyone screws around in and still gets A's or B's in)?"

Grade on subsequent report card? B+

"How's that pre-Calc class (that is harder than a bitch)?"

Grade on subsequent report card? D+

My son was put in speech class in first grade. He had no impediments, but the teacher told me, "He answers everything with one word." Uh-huh. I noticed that, thanks.

Typical phone conversation:

"Wanna talk to my mom?"

The upside? I never have to worry about overage charges on his cell phone minutes."

344 days until we get a new president.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chicago Radio Spotlight: Dean Richards

Dean Richards does it all for WGN radio (entertainment reporter, weekend show host, production director), and is the entertainment reporter for WGN-TV Morning News.


1975, WLTD, Evanston (I was Chuck Schaden's engineer and got to read the weather on his original "Those Were The Days" show.)

1976, WMRO/WAUR, Aurora (a west suburban version of WGN and an automated FM station where I recorded voice tracks that were always out of sequence with the songs.)

1978, WFYR, Chicago (Evenings during the Fred Winston era at this great full service A/C)

1980, WCFL, Chicago (Evenings. For a Chicago kid, one of my boyhood dreams come true. I was a pimply-faced dork who used to hang out in the viewing room watching the jocks do their shows through the narrow windows at their Marina City studios.)

1984, WCLR, Chicago (Production Director and Weekend talent, A/C)

1986, ABC Radio Network (Program Director of StarStation, their adult contemporary format heard on 225 stations nationwide and midday talent)

1990, WNUA, Chicago (Mornings/Smooth Jazz)

1991-Present, WGN-TV Chicago/National (Staff announcer, Illinois Lottery Talent, in 1999 brought on to “WGN News at Noon” and then “WGN Morning News” as an entertainment critic/reporter)

1994-Present, WGN-AM Chicago (Another boyhood dream come true. Production Director/Announcer, Weekend Host, Weekday fill-in host)

Rick: My first question is, I think, an obvious one. You work on WGN Morning News on television, you do production at WGN radio during the day, you appear on Steve Cochran's afternoon show on WGN, and you have to go out at night to cover events as an entertainment reporter. When and where do you sleep?

Dean: And don't forget the interviews and screenings during the day and the weekend press junkets. If you've ever seen me in a restaurant after a nice meal or in a really dull movie, you know where I get my sleep. I guess you really have to love what you do to keep this pace. It is pretty busy but most days are fun. Thank goodness we have great makeup people and barrels of concealer.

Rick: I saw that the New York Times called you "Tribune Company's Man of Many Hats." Which of those hats is your favorite one to wear?

Dean: Like Dorothy Tillman, I love my hats for a variety of reasons. The "radio hat" allows me to dig into subjects with some depth. WGN is unique in that we have a lot of freedom to choose our own topics and how we present them.

The "TV hat " is what has re-energized my creativity. Learning a whole new way of writing and doing what I've done for 20 years was great. It helped me find my writing voice, not to mention being part of the best morning show in the country.

The "print hat" is the most challenging. I've told stories all of my professional life with audio and video so when I have to rely strictly on words, it's an entirely different kind of expression.

Rick: You've been at WGN for so long that people may not remember your distinguished DJ career (WCFL, WNUA, WFYR). Do you miss doing music radio at all? And what were some of the highlights of those days looking back at it now?

Dean: I don't miss music radio at all, especially in the state that it's in now. Toward the end of my WNUA days, I really had gotten pretty fed up with playing the same old songs, over and over and over. Couple that with the repetitive songs of Kenny G (photo) and Yanni, and you'll appreciate why I was at the end of my rope. It's got to be frustrating for jocks now since most stations are now so tight-listed with very little opportunity for talent to be talent. Most managers don't know how to motivate their talent to do great performances so the next best thing they do is to shut them up and shove liner cards in front of them. It's very sad and probably why alternative sources of music programming are making such inroads.

The best music station at which I worked was WFYR. Every show featured great talent. Don Kelly and Dave Martin were my program directors that really knew how to motivate talent to go for greatness everyday. The management was amazing. The news department (yes, at a music station) was second to none. Plus, being owned by RKO/General Tire, we got great discounts on steel-belted radials.

Rick: You've been in the market for 30 plus years. Who are some of the people on the air that influenced your own style, and who are some of the radio performers you most admire?

Dean: My early radio heroes were the WLS and WCFL top jocks of the day. Art Roberts, Ron Riley, Dick Biondi, Ron Britain and Barney Pip were my first radio awarenesses. I studied their every move. I had a pretend radio station in my basement where I'd do my version of their shows with a phonograph and tape recorder (dork again.) As I got older, it was all about Larry Lujack and Fred Winston (photo). Imagine how excited I was to get to work with Fred and become friends with him. I'd be embarrassed to listen to my earliest airchecks and hear how much of a bad rip-off of both I was. I can't believe someone didn't slap me!

Growing up here, my parents always had WGN on. Their classic talent lineup is still unmatched; Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, Roy Leonard, Eddie Schwartz. I probably developed my sense of broadcast responsibility from them. I also think that every radio person in Chicago over the past 25 years has been influenced by Steve Dahl. You have to admire how he pushed the envelope and opened up new horizons for all of us.

Rick: You regularly interview some of the biggest stars in the world. Who are some of your favorites and who have been some of the most difficult to deal with?

Dean: 95% of the celebs are pretty nice. (photo: Dean surprises Halle Berry with a tin of Garrett's Popcorn) They've got a job to do. They know I've got a job to do and we all co-exist perfectly. Through the years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of them so it's almost like visiting friends than interviewing movie stars. The best have been Tom Hanks, John Travolta, Diane Keaton, Bonnie Hunt (most of the Chicago people, in fact); they're down to earth, nice people. I could easily go on in my life without ever talking to Meg Ryan (condescending), Tommy Lee Jones (nasty), Debra Winger (confrontational) or the always-annoying Helen Hunt again.

Rick: Let's talk about the WGN-TV morning show. I think that's such a talented staff you've accumulated there. Who really runs that show, and who is responsible for creating the atmosphere of fun that comes through on the air?

Dean: It's the management that's smart enough to not mess around (too often) with something that’s working. It's a crew of incredibly talented people in front of and behind the cameras ; all working to make great TV everyday. Our morning show reminds me in a way of the TV show “M*A*S*H.” It's a bunch of constantly exhausted, irreverent, talented people, who know when to be serious and know when it's O.K. to goof around. There's an honesty to our show that seems to make it so refreshing.

We all contribute. We all are heard but Larry, Robin and Paul set the tone around which everything else must flow. Our producers and writers are amazing. My producer, Tyra Martin, is a Godsend. Segment producer, Jeff Hoover (photo) is the class clown who comes up with some of the show’s funniest bits. I also love Ana, Pat and Val. It's really like a family, sometimes dysfunctional, all working toward the same goal. Plus, it's really unusual to have such great talent who happen to also be great people in real life. We're all friends and have each other's backs.

Rick: I know that Randy Salerno was a former colleague of yours. Talk about how the news of his death affected the WGN newsroom.

Dean: There was a tangible shockwave that came over the newsroom the morning when we learned of Randy’s tragic accident. He worked with many of us for 11 years. The entire tone of the show changed as we suddenly had to put our emotions aside and report on the top story of the day, which also happened to be something that affected us all personally. There were quite a few tears that morning. It was similar to the day at WGN Radio when Bob Collins died.

For me, Randy was one of the first people in the newsroom to encourage me in my transition from radio to TV. His desk was across from mine and when our schedules had us there at the sam e time, he'd be merciless when something sucked and tremendously supportive when something was great. His sarcasm and wit were always on, commenting on everything and everyone that came to his mind. His skill and professionalism was contagious. He was a great guy.

Rick: You hosted and co-produced a television show that I think will become a classic for people of my generation: "Bozo, Gar, & Ray ". How did that show come about, and what kind of a reaction have you gotten?

Dean: ”Bozo, Gar & Ray: WGN TV Classics” was the brainchild of George Pappas . Aside from his duties in the WGN-TV programming department, he is the station's unofficial historian. It was George who somehow found and literally screened hundreds of tapes to find the best clips to include in the show. George pitched the show to the station and they realized the value of it. He and I wrote the show. Jeff Hoover and our amazing editor, Terry Bates, added their considerable talents to the show, piecing together what, we're all proud to say, has become a very special program to a lot of people.

The results have surpassed anything we could have imagined. We knew there'd be a nostalgic reaction to seeing all of the old clips but we were especially overwhelmed by the emotional response we received from people all over the country who grew up with these shows. We’ve even heard from people that didn't grow up here, who’ve made the show’s annual airing a holiday tradition of their own. Last year was the third year it’s aired. The ratings and response remain strong. It was a true labor of love.

Rick: Now that you've done it all, I have to ask you--what's left? Where do you see your career going from here?

Dean: Hell, I'm the voice of Victory Auto Wreckers. What more is there for me?