Musings, observations, and written works from the publisher of Eckhartz Press, the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer, co-host of Minutia Men, Minutia Men Celebrity Interview and Free Kicks, and the author of "Back in the D.D.R", "EveryCubEver", "The Living Wills", "$everance," "Father Knows Nothing," "The Radio Producer's Handbook," "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", and "Gruen Weiss Vor".
Friday, September 19, 2008
Eddie Vedder's Cubs song
It was in the Trib and the Sun-Times this morning that Eddie is releasing a song for the Cubs. Here's a clip of him playing it live.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Media Notebook (Sept 18, 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
Reviewing the Sarah Palin interview
(Washington Post) Howard Kurtz reviews the interview thusly: "Anyone who said that Charlie Gibson might go easy on Sarah Palin might want to quickly delete those comments. What the ABC newsman conducted was a serious, professional interview that went right at the heart of what we want and need to know about the governor: Could she be president? Does she understand the nuances of international affairs? Does she have a world view? He was all business, respectful but persistent."
Couric to interview Palin
(TV Newser) TVNewser writes: "Katie Couric will interview Republican VP nominee Gov. Sarah Palin next week on the campaign trail, days before the first presidential debate. We hear the interview will air on the CBS Evening News and on all CBS News platforms. It will also include something the previous two interviews did not — time with Sen. John McCain and Palin together. The interview takes place Sunday (the 28th) and Monday."
More Comedy Gold...
Facebook political ads test limits
(Wall Street Journal) Emily Steele writes: "Clicking on the ads takes visitors straight to a story on the Web sites of those publications. People who click on the ad that reads "WSJ Says: Palin Lied," for instance, are directed to a story on The Wall Street Journal Web site about the contradictions in Gov. Palin's record regarding the "Bridge to Nowhere." But none of the publications cited in the ads bought them -- or even was aware of them. The buyer -- though never identified anywhere on the ads or on the pages that you land on after clicking on them -- is the liberal group MoveOn.org. It's the latest example of fuzziness about who's behind what when it comes to political ads online."
When the only thing you care about is stock price, what happens to your industry when the stock price tanks? Exhibits A & B below...
Bumpy road for radio staffers
(Chicago Sun Times) Robert Feder writes: "The idiots who've ruined radio are up to their old tricks again. This time around, the loss of jobs and destruction of localism has hit Metro Networks/Shadow Broadcast Services, thanks to sweeping cutbacks by parent company Westwood One. In Chicago, at least five on-air staffers were cut in the first wave of layoffs meant to reduce the company's overall work force by 15 percent -- or 300 jobs. Among Friday's casualties were news bureau chief Perry Williams, reporter/editor Tom Gaines (known on the air as Tom Kelly), and reporters Jill Urchak, Bill Souronis and Dan Levy. Most had been there a decade or more. Westwood One bosses say they plan to consolidate Metro Networks' 60 operation centers into 13 regional hubs. Even as they plan to slash $30 million from their annual budget, they're claiming service will improve. "Though we regret the need to reduce staff, these initiatives will help ensure that Westwood One retains its industry leadership position," CEO Tom Beusse said in a statement. What makes these job losses especially galling is that so many local radio stations rationalized the elimination of their own news operations in the first place by outsourcing those functions to bare bones Metro/Shadow."
Emmis cuts salary for its 64 most highly compensated employees
(Radio-info.com) Tom Taylor writes: "A while back, founder/CEO Jeff Smulyan announced he’d be reducing his own salary to $1 (though there were still bonuses and his take as a major shareholder – something that’s worth much less at current stock prices). But the action Emmis just informed the SEC about is more than a symbolic $1 salary – these “mostly highly compensated employees” are having their salaries cut way back to $15,000 for a very clear reason: “to increase defined consolidated operating cash flow” under the company’s November 2, 2006 “revolver”, or revolving credit agreement. Less money paid out to executives goes right to the bottom line and helps with lenders...Emmis will make up the shortfall between the 15 grand and their usual salary in quarterly bonuses taken from the proceeds of the sale of the last Emmis TV property, WVUE. But only if “certain performance targets from a prior quarter are hit.” Otherwise they’ll get stock, not cash."
Meanwhile, the newspaper business is in deep doo-doo too...
McClatchy cuts jobs; Star Ledger may shut
(Wall Street Journal) The malaise afflicting the newspaper industry worsened Tuesday as McClatchy Co. announced its second major staff reduction in three months and the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., took a possible step toward closure. The developments indicate the industry's fortunes may be falling further and faster than previously thought. McClatchy's latest round of cuts, which will trim 10% of its work force, follows a 10% reduction announced in June. Meanwhile, the owners of the Star-Ledger appear resigned to the darkest of the paper's possible fates despite deep pockets and a firm hold on an affluent market.
Tribune, Zell named in employee's lawsuit
(Wall Street Journal) Ovide and Koppel write: "One current and five former Tribune Co. employees accused the company and Chief Executive Sam Zell in a lawsuit Tuesday of mismanaging the newspaper-and-television concern, the latest sign of worker protest against Mr. Zell's oversight. The lawsuit, filed in a Los Angeles federal court, alleges Tribune and Mr. Zell have failed to uphold their fiduciary duty to the company's employee stock-ownership plan, Tribune's majority owner. The lawsuit also claims Mr. Zell and other Tribune officials have improperly raided worker pension funds. 'Zell and his accessories threaten to destroy the Tribune Company and its assets,' the lawsuit says."
Are real journalists jealous of Jon Stewart?
(Alternet) Norman Soloman writes: "Absent from the fawning media coverage of The Daily Show is evident self-awareness that the elaborate praise is a tacit form of convoluted self-loathing -- in professional terms anyway -- among the likes of, say, Times journalists. Their own media institution is so circumscribed and so lumbering in its daily incarnation that they're apt to be amazed and envious at the incisively documented presentations on The Daily Show. That's the way it goes in medialand. What isn't conspicuous is apt to be insidious. The tick-tock of U.S. media hypnosis may be passably good at looking back -- reexamining some aspects of propaganda for the Iraq invasion, for instance, years after it occurs -- while now helping to mesmerize the country into escalation of the war in Afghanistan. But let's not quibble. Everybody has a job to do."
An anchor lets down her hair
(NY Times) David Carr writes: "The election season has been very good to a woman who seems to be benefiting from her status as an outsider in terms of gender and history. That would be Katie Couric, the anchor of the CBS Evening News. Sure, Gov. Sarah Palin makes headlines while Ms. Couric just reads them. And Ms. Couric has yet to prove that all of the lucre and attention lavished on her debut an anchor almost exactly two years ago was a smart business bet. Early efforts at innovation fell flat in the ratings, and a subsequent return to the evening news template left the impression that Ms. Couric was starring in her own hostage video...But once she left the anchor desk, she was everywhere at the conventions — soliciting people in a video on Digg about what questions to ask as a reporter for a nightly Webcast (cbsnews.com), seeking out the kind of conversations that made “Today” such a monster in the ratings. There was no convention bump in the ratings for Ms. Couric, and CBS and she remain a long way from precious bragging rights. But the odd anchor out has been in the middle of things for the last few weeks."
Anderson Cooper Off Camera
(USA Weekend) Monica Collins writes: "In April, Cooper casually relayed how a stalker had shown up at his apartment that morning with suitcases. Because of incidents like this, a guard, hired by CNN, now escorts Cooper home each night after he finishes anchoring Anderson Cooper 360. The need for protection complicates the life of this anchor who, for the most part, attempts to live without pretension. 'He doesn't want an entourage,' says Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/U.S. He comes into the building in his T-shirt and knapsack." Details magazine editor Dan Peres, who has known Cooper for nearly a decade, seconds this notion. 'You seldom meet him at a big, fancy restaurant,' Peres says. 'He doesn't care. If anything, he wants to fly as far under the radar as he possibly can.'"
Building Teamwork with Talent
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) This week I reprinted a piece I wrote earlier this year for The Robinson Report, an industry publication. It was also reprinted in All Access. It contains my three tips for dealing with talent.
Mini Interview: Leslie Keiling
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) Every week I'm featuring excerpts from my SHORE Magazine article about 14 local radio voices. This week: WGN's Leslie Keiling.
Chicago Radio Spotlight interview: Kevin Robinson
(Chicago Radio Spotlight) This weekend I spoke with the former program director of WJMK and The Fish, Kevin Robinson, about his time in Chicago, and his current consulting job. Coming this weekend, former "Morning Fix" co-host, Alan Cox.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This is the video of the special I wrote about in the Suburban Man column below. Check it out, because it's accompanied by the personal stories of each fan. Included amongst the fans: the founder of the Emil Verban Society (Bruce Ladd), boxer David Diaz, Ronnie Woo Woo Wickers, Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan, and my good friend Leslie Keiling's mother, Helen.
Suburban Man: Welcome to broadcasting, kid
By Rick Kaempfer
About three weeks ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine with an interesting proposition. My friend’s mother had just been filmed for an upcoming ESPN special about the Cubs. The show (and an accompanying article in ESPN Magazine) was to feature Cubs fans from every decade of their losing century. My friend’s mother was chosen to be the representative for Cubs fans in their 90s.
While they were filming her, one of the writers of the project mentioned that they were having a difficult time finding a kid under ten years old who was articulate, comfortable in front of the camera, and devoted to the Cubs. My friend immediately thought of my son, Sean, who is all of those things. Would he be interested in representing Cubs fans under ten?
I asked Sean, and he raised his hands in the air. He screamed “YEAH!!!”
That got the ball rolling. The writer of the piece called me up and interviewed me about Sean. Was he really a die-hard Cubs fan? I asked Sean to name some of the players, and he effortlessly named half the team off the top of his head.
“But I can only do three of their batting stances,” Sean confessed.
“I think we have our boy,” the writer said.
He sent me the script that all of the fans were going to recite. The plan was to cut from one fan to another in a montage. After each fan read the script, they were going to be interviewed about their love of the team, their feelings about the hundred years since the last championship, and their chances for this year.
Sean made me practice the script with him several times a day for the next week. He had it down pat. He looked right at the camera, he smiled, and he pronounced everything perfectly. We did a few practice interviews, and Sean was charming, cute, enthusiastic and hilarious.
The writer called me to set up a filming time and location. They had it down to two choices: the local baseball field, or our backyard “field” where Sean plays every day. He said he would call me up the next day and make the final arrangements.
Sean was totally excited, and I must admit, so was I. I knew the names of the other people chosen to represent the other decades, and just being associated with this group would be something Sean would cherish for the rest of his life (once he realized who these people were–many of them were nationally known celebrities).
Then I got the call.
“Hate to be the bearer of bad news,” the writer told me, “but we found out yesterday that there’s a seven year old kid named Wrigley Field–and we’re going with him instead. Really sorry about that.”
I was disappointed, but mainly because I knew this news would crush Sean. I thought about telling him the lessons I learned during my twenty year broadcasting career, but I knew he wouldn’t understand any of that. This was just pure disappointment, and it couldn’t be dressed up as anything else or explained away with detached broadcasting industry logic.
I approached the subject with him as gingerly as possible. As I began to tell him that he wasn’t going to be used in the special after all, his eyes welled up. “But Dad, I knew the words. I knew the players…”
“I know, buddy,” I said as I comforted him with a hug, “but they found another boy that they want to use instead. They only picked him because his name is Wrigley Field.”
He looked up at me. “That’s his name?”
He broke into a big grin. “That’s the coolest name ever.”
And just like that (snap), he was over it. It must be great to be 5.
(Postscript: The show aired on Sunday, and just for the record, little Wrigley Field did a very nice job.)
Monday, September 15, 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: Contributed by "B"
And then the fight started....
My wife sat down on the couch next to me as I was flipping channels. She
asked, "What's on TV?"
I said, "Dust."
And then the fight started.
My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She
said, "I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3
I bought her a scale.
And then the fight started.
When I got home last night, my wife demanded that I take her someplace
expensive... so, I took her to a gas station...
And then the fight started....
After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social
Security. The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver's
license to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized I had
left my wallet at home.
I told the woman that I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later.
The woman said, 'Unbutton your shirt'. So I opened my shirt revealing
my curly silver hair.
She said, 'That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me' and
she processed my Social Security application.
When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the
Social Security office.
She said, 'you should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten
And then the fight started...
My wife and I were sitting at a table at my high school reunion, and I
kept staring at a drunken lady swigging her drink as she sat alone at
My wife asked, 'Do you know her?'
'Yes,' I sighed, 'She's my old girlfriend. I understand she
took to drinking right
after we split up those many years ago, and I hear she
hasn't been sober since.'
'My God!' says my wife, 'who would think a person could go on
celebrating that long?'
And then the fight started...
I rear-ended a car this morning. So, there we were alongside the road
and slowly the other driver got out of his car. You know how sometimes
you just get soooo stressed and little things just seem funny?
Yeah, well I couldn't believe it... he was a DWARF!!!
He stormed over to my car, looked up at me, and shouted, 'I AM NOT
So, I looked down at him and said, 'Well, then which one are you?'
And then the fight started...
Stories you might have missed
1. Man suspected of sausage and spice attack set free
(He rubbed spices in the face of one man, and hit another man with an eight inch sausage. Sounds like a typical night at George Michael's house.)
2. Man bills Michigan town for cleaning public bathroom
(Can you say Obsessive compulsive?)
3. Mom allegedly uses daughter's ID to be cheerleader
(The other girls got suspicious in the locker room when she complained of hot flashes.)
4. Joe Biden's whoopsie-daisy
(Warning: This is hard to watch if you feel empathy for public figures. If not, you'll love it.)
5. To infinity and beyond
(This is quite a feel-good story)
Video of the week: Contributed by "D". Damon Wayan's colonoscopy
Photo of the week: Contributed by "B". Separated at Birth
Regarding Suburban Man: "Wait til your father gets home"
"Can we talk about weeds? I used to believe that my Father had kids just so he had someone to pick weeds every Summer weekend. My kids will do anything to avoid picking weeds.."
Regarding "Just One Bad Century"
"You gotta have faith" --those are not just the words of POP ICON (and part time men's room attendant) George Michael. Do you attend Church? Maybe it's time you started."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Chicago Radio Spotlight: Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson is a strategic partner at Audience Development Group. From 1992-2004 he was a prominent program director in Chicago at WJMK and WZFS/WYLL.
*Audience Development Group, 2006 – Present
*CBS Radio - Vice-President/HOT AC Format - March 2005-July 2006
*Y98 FM KYKY/St. Louis - Program Director - September 2004–July 2006
*106.7 The Fish WZFS & AM 1160 WYLL/Chicago - Program Director - April 2002–March 2004
*Oldies 104.3 WJMK & AM 1160 WJJD/Chicago - Program Director - December 1992–March 2002
*Mix 92.9 WBUF/Buffalo - Program Director - November 1991-December 1992
*95FM WVIC/Lansing - Program Director - August 1989-November 1991
*Y95 KOY/Phoenix - Assistant Program Director/Music Director/Research Director - November 1987-August 1989
*LRS102 WLRS/Louisville - Assistant Program Director/Music Director/Air Talent - December 1984-November 1987
*97WB WBWB/Bloomington - Everything - March 1981-December 1984
Rick: During the heyday of WJMK, you were the program director. I don't think people realize or remember just how big of a ratings powerhouse that station once was, and you were guiding it during most of those years.
Kevin: During that stretch, there we so many people who helped achieve a fantastic run where we were Top 5, 25-54 persons, 23 of 29 Arbitron surveys - often without resources while our competitors where investing truckloads in outside tactical marketing.
Part of the reason we flew under the radar was that I wasn't nearly the 'legend' in programming guys like the great Mike Phillips at K-EARTH or Joe McCoy (photo with Kevin) at CBS-FM were --so they received more well-deserved press, especially in the trade publications. If you remember, I had the personal policy of no trade press - thinking at the time that if you give an interview, you're simply sharing secrets.
Plus, I never lobbied hard for industry awards - although we received many Marconi nominations I thought the NAB voting process was flawed. Basing a nomination on a package of written, non-verified words without audio was simply wrong to me. But I was proud of the numerous A.I.R awards the staff and station picked up - audio nominations voted on by our peers, imagine that!
Rick: When John Landecker was hired at WJMK in 1993, that really marked a change in WJMK's approach. It was the first time WJMK really allowed a full-service morning show. Talk about some of the growing pains of that process from your perspective.
Kevin: The sole reason I was hired (other than that I would do it for the lowest cash amount and would put up with the dung flying out of the corner office) was to bring life to WJMK between the records. I was a Top 40 guy, NOT an oldies guy. I learned the music from my hours spent with Bill Drake, (Yes, that Bill Drake), then employed Top 40 momentum and acumen, including identifying a morning show that could drive numbers.
When Landecker (photo) was working with Saul Foos, he tried to get anyone from the Foos talent pool on WJMK. I kept asking him, 'why not YOU?' He said NO several times, until we had him fill-in a few times in August 1993 then put together a deal the next month.
In retrospect, Landecker tried too many things on the audience at once. He eventually grew into a GREAT morning talent after inside and outside guidance, including spectacular coaching and packaging from you. I still play my Landecker & The Legends CD's!
Rick: What are some of your fondest memories from your years at WJMK?
Kevin: The amazing staff that we were able to assemble. The building certainly wasn't 'talent friendly,' but we were able to change that.
Think about it - Legendary air talent like John Records Landecker, Dick Biondi (photo) and Catherine Johns, plus Brant Miller (Now mornings on WLS-FM) on weather and Richard Cantu on news (now with ABC Network News). Great jocks like Scott Miller and Greg Brown (now with WLS-FM). The BEST part-time staff in the city - three of our part-timers were former Chicago morning men. The parodies you and Vince Argento (now with Jonathon Brandmeier) put together and Bob Lawson's amazing imaging (who's still with WJMK - whatever they are doing) glued it together.
Plus across the hall at sister station WJJD we had Legends Clark Weber, Bob Hale and Bob Dearborn.
I have GREAT memories of everything I learned from the staff roaming the halls of 180 North Michigan. But bad memories of the furniture.
Rick: Is there anything in retrospect that you would have done differently?
Kevin: I would have celebrated our victories with greater vigor and caught more of the fecal matter flowing down the halls.
Rick: I've previously written about the experience of working with former WJMK general manager Harvey Pearlman. I think it's hard to explain to current radio people what Harvey was like. How would you describe his personality?
Kevin: Many of the Harvey stories are true -albeit amped up as those who translate history tend to do. He was one of those colorful radio icons that's hard to explain. He liked to yell, and he claimed he never fired anyone - people simply quit. Harvey could be radically angry one minute then your 'grandfather' the next. He was generous in his own way - I learned more about the business of radio from him than anyone else.
Harvey rarely cut people, if ever - the wholesale staff gutting took place after he left. Some of my favorite quotes, which will never be published, came from Harvey's office.
Rick: After you left WJMK, you were working with CBS as a national program director of one of their formats. In that role you traveled all over the country listening to some of the other CBS shows. Is there anyone out there in a smaller/medium sized market that you think would fit in well here in Chicago?
Kevin: That's a good question. The BIG issue is that MOST great radio talent do such a GREAT job of serving their local community that transferring them into Chicago wouldn't be a good match.
But since you're pinning me down to ONE, John Jay & Rich in Phoenix/Tuscon are simply amazing. They grab HUGE shares in and out of their target. Why Clear Channel hasn't placed them on Kiss in Chicago is stunning to me.
Rick: You've worked with some real legends. What Chicago radio personalities do you admire the most and why?
Kevin: Well, all of the people I mentioned earlier. Plus, I wish we could have worked with Fred Winston (photo) more but there was a history that proceeded you and me. Ron Britain is in the same boat. My three hour Ruth Chris lunch with Ron is the stuff of legend.
You might remember where Melissa Foreman was going to join us until she met Harvey. Her addition to the Landecker in the Morning show would have been remarkable.
Rick: You're currently working as a consultant. Tell us a little bit about what that entails?
Kevin: I hate the word 'consultant'. Yuck. It carries so much negative baggage from those bad ones who've carried the bag before me. Since I've had exposure and success in so many different formats, my clientèle runs the spectrum. Country, Oldies, Christian, Hot AC, Talk, Mainstream AC - I have them all.
I also have a few Americana formats - which I think is the NEXT BIG THING.
Plus, for some odd reason I've become somewhat known as a talent coach. There was one situation this Spring (because I don't share my pedigree unless asked) where we had a 'difficult' morning show. The owner, much to my chagrin, pulled out The Landecker Card to get him to pay attention. Ugh.
Most of my partnerships are in smaller markets and I try to lend what I've learned from guys like you to their particular situation - working completely custom depending on market opportunities. I'm talking to you now from Tyler, Texas!
Never do I come into a situation with a format or 'safe list' in my back pocket. Every opportunity is different - which is why I openly question the 'plug & play' format option.
I work with my Partners Tim Moore out of Naples and Brian Wright in Grand Rapids.
Rick: I've become a big fan of your weekly newsletter, The Robinson Report. You write about the business in a realistic, but positive way. How does one go about getting on the list to receive it?
Kevin: Anyone can subscribe at www.audiencedevelopmentgroup.com which might the longest URL on the net.
I try to write The Robinson Report for the NEXT generation - those who haven't been soiled by cookie-cutter formats and give them ONE thing to put into play (or to think about) each week.
The response is strong - which tells me there's plenty of life left in terrestrial radio.
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