A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
*Pat Hughes, Hall of Famer
=It’s about time! The radio play-by-play man for the Chicago Cubs was named the 2023 Ford Frick Award winner this week, which means that he is going to be part of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He has been with the Cubs since 1996. Now he will be in the same hallways as his former on-air partner Ron Santo.
=I interviewed Pat back in 2010 and we talked extensively about Ron.
*Court dismisses defamation case versus Hubbard
=It appears the legal drama at WTMX is officially over. Just a few months after Melissa McGurren’s case was dismissed, Cynthia DeNicola’s case has been dismissed as well. It was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be tried again. The judge basically agreed with the previous judge, writing “The Court finds its conclusions to be supported by an opinion issued in a related case from this District and which Hubbard filed as supplemental authority.”
*Seaver Says Farewell
=Last week I reported that afternoon host Steve Seaver had left the Drive (WDRV). This week he confirmed the news on his Facebook page…“For friends who many not know; my time, after 16 years is over at the home of Chicago’s Classic Rock. I’ll miss the camaraderie of my teammates and interaction with the listeners. We weren’t able to get a new deal done and that’s ok. Home is my sanctuary for the time being. Hopefully I won’t drive The Lovely Vanessa insane. Got no plans for the rest of the year other than taking care of the fam and spending time in my home studio. All the best! Seaver”
*Sherman & Tingle Name New Executive Producer
=The morning show at the Drive has a new executive producer. Veteran producer (Mancow & WLS) Midge “Cheez” Ripoli will take over the role beginning on January 3rd.
*WFMT Going After Younger Classical Music Fans
=Great article in the Sun Times this week about Kristina Lynn and LaRob Rafael, two new young classical music announcers at WFMT. They do a show together, which is geared more to young classical music fans. “We get along very well,” Lynn said. “We have fun talking about music. We’re laughing. He’s a singer, so he’s singing the music. We’re getting emotional, and I think that dynamic between us is really exciting. It’s different than what you normally hear on WFMT. We don’t have a lot of co-hosted things at all, so it’s really nice to hear our dynamic together.”
*RIP Norm Pattiz
=Norm’s name is probably not known to most Chicago radio listeners, but he was the founder of Westwood One, which brought us classics like The Dr. Demento Show, and more recently, the founder of PodcastOne. Pattiz was 79 years old when he passed away this week. I never met Norm, but I wrote and produced several national specials for Westwood One back in the early 2000s, and the only proviso they gave me was that each special must end with: “Executive Producer, Norm Pattiz.”
*Zander named Classic Rock Format Captain
=Mark Zander is a long-time on-air veteran of Chicago radio (most recently working at ESPN Radio), but he has also done a fair amount of radio programming as well (most recently at the River and Me-TV FM). Last week he got a call from another former Chicago programmer, Dave Shakes (B-96), and jumped at the chance to move out west to become the classic rock format captain in Redding and Chico California for Results Radio LLC (KTHU/Chico, KHRD/Redding)
=Stacey King's Give Me The Hot Sauce podcast moves to Audacy. Stacey has been doing the podcast since 2020 with co-host Mark Schanowski, but will now be part of the Audacy Chicago world, including all of the local radio support that brings. The Score (AM 670) will be a partner, and will feature King prominently. Why not? He's one of the most entertaining announcers in Chicago today.
*Jeff Smuylan Interview
=Jeff was the founder of Emmis Broadcasting (one-time owner of the Loop in Chicago) and was recently inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. He has a new book out, and Inside Radio interviewed him about it. I thought this part of the interview was interesting… Well, there's one memorable discussion where we had a meeting with Sam Zell, and Sam wanted to merge Emmis with Jacor, and we would run it. I said, ‘Sam if I want to make the most money, I would do this. But I know that in two years, you're going to look at this business and say it's peaked. And let's sell it and you would be right. And I know that, but I love what we do. And I want to keep doing it.’ And you know, now most people would look at that and say, ‘Boy, are you dumb. Because Sam did look at it and sold the business a few years later and did very well. I stayed in it and sort of watched the industry ride all the way down. But I don't have a lot of regrets. I loved it. I have no complaints about my life.
*Chuck & Mitch
=Look who showed up for Chuck Swirsky’s book signing on Wednesday night at the United Center, the Brand Manager of the Score, Mitch Rosen. Rosen has been very supportive of Chuck and his book. I asked him about it, and Mitch told me: “Chuck is family.” Rosen and Swirsky have known each other since Mitch interned for Chuck at WGN radio in the late 80s.
December, 2007—Interview with legendary radio production man Matt Bisbee in Radio and Production Magazine. Great stuff. Thanks to Chicago Radio Archives for uncovering this interview from 15 years ago this month.
December 7—Joe Callahan Jr.’s birthday. Joe is formerly part of the Kevin Matthews show, and an administrator of several Facebook groups including Chicago Rocks, Steve & Garry Fan Group, and Brandmeier Nation.
December 7—Carole Simpson’s birthday. Carole got her start in Chicago radio on WCFL and WBBM. She later became an esteemed television newscaster. She was the first African American woman to anchor a major network newscast (NBC), and the first woman of color to moderate a presidential debate (1992-Bush/Clinton/Perot). She wrote a book about her career called Newslady.
December 8—Sam Kinison’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that Sam has been gone for 30 years now. I previously wrote about my personal brush with the legendary comedian. It was a memorable one.
December 8—Al Fleishman’s birthday. Al teams up with former radio producer Mick Kahler to do parodies that are often featured on the WGN-TV morning show.
December 9—Jim Kerr’s birthday. Jim is in the National Radio Hall of Fame, mostly for his impressive career in New York, but as a young man he also worked in Chicago radio for a time at WDAI and WLS..
December 9—Harold Lee Rush’s birthday would have been today, but unfortunately Harold passed away earlier this year. He was a part of WGCI’s heyday. Robert Feder talked to him about those days back in 2020.
December 10—Michael Damsky’s birthday. The former Chicago radio executive (WXRT, WLS) was a fun interview for me back in 2011.
*The Chicago/Midwest Emmys
=The Chicago Midwest Emmy’s were handed out last weekend and nearly every Chicago station brought home some hardware. The full list of winners is here. WBBM led the way with 11, WGN brought home 8, WLS got 6, WMAQ won 3, WTTW also won 3, as did WSNS-TV (Telemundo). WGBO (Univision) came home with two trophies, and so did NBC Sports Chicago and the Marquee Network. WFLD won one. The ceremony was hosted by Sultan A. Salahuddin, producer, writer and star of the HBO Series South Side.
*100 Years Replay
=In May WGN-TV aired a documentary about the 100th anniversary of WGN Radio. It only ran once. If you missed it, or didn’t DVR it, you have another chance. They are going to re-run the show on New Years Eve at 4pm.
*Decades Network Pays Tribute to Kirstie Alley
=The former Cheers actress passed away this week at the age of 71. The Decades Network has been featuring her most famous episodes all week. That continues tonight from 10pm-11pm. The entire run of Kirstie’s years on Cheers (seasons 6-11), 84 episodes, will air from Saturday at 11am until Monday at 5am.
*A Genuine TV-Anchor Sex Scandal
=Haven’t had one of these in a while, maybe not since the Mika & Joe relationship leaked a few years ago. ABC News pulled Good Morning America 3 anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach off the air for a few days after tabloids broke the story that the two are involved in a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, they are both married to someone else. Robach is married (now separated) to former Melrose Place actor Andrew Shue. It should be said that while it may be a little distasteful and titillating, Holmes and Robach didn’t appear to break any company rules. The relationship is completely consensual, and neither anchor has a position of authority over the other. The investigation is on-going.
*Trevor Signs Off
=Last night was Trevor Noah’s final Daily Show. The New York Times has the story about that final show.
*The Best Christmas Movies/TV Shows of All-Time
*Cable News Corner
The last few weeks I’ve been sharing stories about the troubles at CNN. This week was a very bad week for their competitor Fox News.
=The New York Times: Defamation Suit Against Fox Grows Contentious.
=The Washington Post: Rupert Murdoch to be Deposed in Defamation Suit
*Alex Jones Files For Bankruptcy
=This is the least surprising story of the week. After losing lawsuit after lawsuit and being ordered to pay over a billion dollars in restitution, InfoWars host Alex Jones has declared bankruptcy. He now says he can only pay 1% of what he is being ordered to pay, which of course, sounds a little hard to believe after the trial revealed his net worth was somewhere between $135 million and $270 million.
*TikTok’s Very Bad Week
=Not a good week for TikTok here in the United States. The state of Indiana sued, claiming TikTok violates child-safety consumer laws. The state of Texas banned the use of Tiktok on all state devices.
*New York Times Staffers Stage a 24-hour Walkout
=Of course this is a story that you’ll not read about in the New York Times. The Washington Post, on the other hand, was more than happy to supply the details.
*Time Magazine names Volodymyr Zelenskyy Person of the Year
=There was a time (pun intended) when Time Magazine was held in high regard in America. That’s no longer the case, except for this one time (again, pun intended) of year. The person they name as Person of the Year is still a major news story. Some years they might not get it right (last year it was Elon Musk, for instance). This year they got it right. The president of Ukraine and “the spirit of Ukraine” were awarded this special honor.
*Back in the DDR
=One last mention of the book before Christmas. I’ll be signing and selling copies of my coming-of-age Cold War spy thriller, Back in the D.D.R., on Sunday from 2-5pm in Des Plaines. Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there.