A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
*Marconi Shutouts Chicago
=There were a few Chicagoans up for this year’s Marconi Awards Wednesday night in New York, but sadly, none of them brought home the trophy. Parkins & Spiegel from the Score lost out on major market personality of the year to Greg Hill (WEEI-Boston). WCMQ-Columbus beat out the Drive (WDRV) for Rock Station of the Year, and Janda Lane’s Behind the Song podcast lost the best radio podcast award to KSL-FM Salt Lake City. Full list of Marconi winners are here.
*The Rise of a Conservative Talk Radio Juggernaut
=The New York Times took a deep dive this week into Salem Media, owner of Chicago’s WIND-AM 560 (and many other stations in the country). Lots of information here about some of the hosts they syndicate (like local boy Charlie Kirk, and Hungarian firebrand Sebastian Gorka), but the one thing I didn’t realize is that Salem financed the election-denying 2000 Mules film by Dinesh D’Souza. Fact-checkers (including non-partisan Reuters) have been pretty brutal to that film (The Bulwark calls it a hilarious mockumentary). Even former Attorney General Bill Barr laughed at how ridiculous it was during the Jan 6 hearings.
=Salem was also in the news in Dallas this week, when they had to settle a case brought by victims of an informercial swindle. Inside Radio has the full story.
*Chuck Swirsky’s "Always a Pleasure"
=Jeff Agrest has a great piece in the Sun Times this week about Chuck Swirsky’s new Eckhartz Press book Always a Pleasure.
=Bob Sirott and Dave Eanet also interviewed Swirsk on WGN Radio.
=And yes, full disclosure, Eckhartz Press is my publishing company.
Everybody has a podcast now. Including…
=A princess. Megan Markle opened up about her days as a briefcase girl on Deal or No Deal in her latest podcast.
=A rock star. Billy Corgan’s podcast is called 33 with William Patrick Corgan
=A disgraced politician. Not to be outdone by his brother Chris, Andrew Cuomo has a podcast too. His first guest is the Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci.
=A political pundit. One of the reasons Rachel Maddow stepped back from her 5-nights-a-week hosting at MSNBC is so that she could host a series of podcasts (for real). Vanity Fair reviews her latest effort.
=A local newscaster. WBBM’s Lisa Fielding has a great podcast about the Chicago International Film Fest.
=You? Would you believe there’s a studio right here in Chicago that you can rent for the occasion?
=This story out of Boston is one that will blow away anyone who has worked as a radio producer (raising hand here). Mike Lockhart was the producer of the highly rated Toucher & Rich morning show. The station itself is one of the top 5 grossing stations in the country, and this is the top show on that station. So, imagine the surprise of the hosts when Lockhart was fired in a cost-cutting move. Co-host Rich Schertenlieb tried to explain to his bosses how important Lockhart was to the show, and how much they wanted him to stay, and how justifiable his salary was considering the success of the show and the station, but the bosses wouldn’t be swayed. So what did Schertenlieb do? He re-hired Lockhart himself and is paying his salary. Radio Ink has the full story.
*October 16 was the birthday of WXRT jock Johnny Mars. Here’s a photo of Johnny at the Bobby Skafish book signing in 2016 (with Greg Solk, Bobby Skafish and me).
*October 17 was Score head-honcho Mitch Rosen’s birthday. I had a chance to interview Mitch back in 2011 for Chicago Radio Spotlight.
*October 17 is also NBC-5’s LeeAnn Trotter’s birthday.
*Mark Edwards celebrated his birthday on October 18th. The former WLIT program director was kind enough to chat with me back in 2008.
*Former WXRT and WDRV music director Patty Martin also celebrated a birthday this week (October 18). I interviewed Patty back in 2011.
*October 19 is the birthday of WGN Radio’s John Williams. The long-time midday talker was featured in this Illinois Entertainer piece I wrote back in 2020.
*October 19 is also the birthday of the soon-to-be retired ABC-7 anchorman Alan Krashesky.
*The always lovable former WLUP and ESPN producer/production man Artie Kennedy celebrated his birthday on October 20. You can get an idea of Artie’s engaging personality from reading this interview I did with him back in 2009.
*October 22nd would have been Joe Collins’ birthday. One of Chicago’s best traffic reporters passed in 2017, just a few years after I interviewed him for Illinois Entertainer.
*Former WJJD/WJMK/Satellite Music Network jock/newsman Kurt Scholle (air name: Kurt Schafer) also has a birthday on October 22. He's a dead-ringer for Santa during the holiday season.
*And last but not least, Chicago television’s investigative reporter extraordinaire Pam Zekman’s birthday is October 22nd too.
*The Charles Thomas Ads
=If you live in Chicago and you watch TV, you’ve seen the ads featuring former Channel 7 reporter Charles Thomas. It seems that everyone has a strong opinion on those ads. Axios Chicago did a deep dive on this story, and it’s well worth the read.
*ABC Producer Mystery
=This is one of the strangest stories in the news this week. ABC News Producer James Gordon Meek’s home was raided by the FBI back in April. He abruptly resigned shortly thereafter and hasn’t been seen by friends or neighbors since. Rolling Stone reported the story (behind a paywall), but the Daily Beast has a pretty good recap.
*What has happened to Lara Logan?
=At one time Lara Logan was a respected television journalist working for CBS News. Things seems to have changed a bit. From this morning’s Reliable Sources by Oliver Darcy…”Lara Logan has gotten herself banned from yet another network. After being dumped by Fox News for comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to an infamous Nazi doctor, the one-time "60 Minutes" correspondent appeared on Newsmax and went full QAnon, claiming that "the open border is Satan's way of taking control of the world" and that the elites "want us eating insects [and] cockroaches" while they "dine on the blood of children."
*Charles Barkley the $100 million man
=Barkley was a great (Hall of Fame) basketball player, but he may be even better as a basketball studio analyst. TNT apparently thinks so. The $100 million contract they offered him this week is more money than he ever made playing basketball.
*Matthew Perry’s Colostomy Bag
=Pretty grim piece here in Deadline about Matthew Perry and just how close he came to dying due to his opioid addiction. He was in a coma for 2 weeks. He wore a colostomy bag for months. He says: “My therapist said, ‘The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life. And a little window opened and I crawled through it and I no longer want Oxycontin anymore.”
*Cable News Corner
=New York Times profile of Fox News CEO Suzanne Smith on the eve of her deposition in the $1.6 billion Dominion lawsuit.
=Netflix added another 2.4 million subscribers, which bucked the recent trends. (That's one way to avoid seeing political ads)
=Streaming is more friendly to women on screen and off, according to this Deadline piece.
TRUST IN MEDIA
*Gallup Poll Shows Only 34% Trust Mass Media to Report “Fully, Accurately, Fairly”
=That’s an all-time low for the poll, which isn’t a great sign heading into an important midterm election. This mainly breaks down on a partisan basis, with 70% of Democrats trusting the media (at least somewhat), and only 14% of Republicans.
= I wrote an entire novel about this ($everance) fifteen years ago, predicting that we were heading in this direction. It was supposed to be a satire, a warning of how bad it could get if we kept going this way. I blame myself for lack of imagination because today’s reality is much worse than the one I cartoonishly predicted in 2007.
=Mass media certainly deserves some of this disdain. I could write another book about things they have done that led to this distrust. On the other hand, the information sources people are choosing instead of mass media, are often clearly and provably less full, accurate and/or fair. Here’s the question Gallup should ask next time: Do you even want reporting that is full, accurate and fair…if it goes against your team? I’d love to see the numbers on that poll. For both sides of the political spectrum.
=The latest media outlet to try to correct this problem is Semafor, which debuted this week. According to their co-founder (former New York Times media writer) Ben Smith: “… it’s come as a painful realization to me that the problem with news right now isn’t just that there aren’t enough reporters out there getting scoops. Readers, listeners, and viewers are drowning in a stew of assertions and opinions.” Check it out here, if you are interested.
=With all this in mind, I found this local story in the news this week even more interesting. Media Literary Class teaching high school kids to separate fact from fake now mandatory thanks to Naperville grad. (h/t Chicago Public Square)
*Kanye is trying to buy Parler
=By the time I print this link, I suspect the news will have changed, but as of this moment, the rapper is trying to buy the social media outlet.
*How to Write a Best Seller
=First, marry the former president’s daughter. Second, write a book. Third, ask the former president’s campaign fund to buy over $158,000 worth of books. As the author of seven books (and an eighth on the way soon), I'm beginning to see why I’ve never cracked the NY Times Best seller list, unlike first time author Jared Kushner.
If you have any media stories (Chicago or national) that you think I might like to share in future columns, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com