A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago
(By Rick Kaempfer)
*Chicago Radio Ratings
=These are the ratings for January for the top 15 rated stations in Chicago. These numbers are 12+, all day.
=A few notables in these ratings. First of all, these strong WLIT numbers are not Christmas music ratings anymore. That 7.3 is higher than WLIT got in any non-Christmas book last year. Also, WXRT surged mightily, most likely because of interest in their excellent tributes to fallen comrade Lin Brehmer. The other station that made a big move was Kiss-FM (WKSC). They were in fifteenth place last month and moved all the way up to 10th.
=Full listings can be found here.
*NPR cutting 10% of workforce
=The CEO of the company, John Lansing, made the announcement this week via memo to his staff. About 100 people will be losing their jobs because of the anticipated slowdown in advertising revenue (which for NPR comes mainly in the form of underwriting). Here is his quote from the memo: "When we say we are eliminating filled positions, we are talking about our colleagues - people whose skills, spirit and talents help make NPR what it is today. This will be a major loss."
*RIP Richard Belzer
=Sad news this week. Yes, he was a comedian and television star (Law & Order), but Belzer was also a feature player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour (1973-1975) with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis in the days before Saturday Night Live. He followed his comrades there and served as the audience warm up during those iconic first five years. Belzer was very comfortable on the radio. He co-hosted his own show on WNBC in New York in the late 70s, was a regular guest on the Howard Stern show, and once guest-hosted the Steve & Garry show in Chicago in the late 80s. He even temporarily replaced Randi Rhodes on Air America Radio in the early 00s. He was one of the few comics or actors who could effortlessly sit behind the microphone and take calls from listeners. Belzer was 78 when he passed away on Sunday at his home in France. According to the Hollywood Reporter his last words were “F-you, motherf-er.”
=Tom Brady’s media company is shutting down it’s podcast division. Yes, that Tom Brady. Yes, he owns a media company.
=From the Everybody-Has-A-Podcast-Now departmet, add this musician to the list: Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
*Lon Dyson Interview
=This is quite a blast from the past, a 1985 interview of Lon Dyson. Talk about incredible pipes. What a voice. Dyson riffs about people like the Chess Brothers, early “race” music, and more. Of course, he also talked about his radio career. The interview was conducted by the late Bill Schenold. Thanks to the Chicago Radio Archives and Memories Facebook page for posting it. (Dyson passed away in 2004)
*Sky Daniels Bonus Story
=My Sky Daniels interview will appear in the next Illinois Entertainer. I spoke to Sky for nearly an hour, so there were lots of stories that necessarily had to be omitted from the final 900 word column. Here’s one that didn’t quite make the final version. Sky had a unique experience on the night of Disco Demolition: “I was on the air back at the station watching Disco Demolition on a TV monitor because I was on the air. They showed the cops at Comiskey, the kids climbing up the sides of the walls. The highway patrol wasn’t letting anyone get off at the exit anymore because there were so many people there. After they canceled the second game, I was still on the air. And suddenly there’s this mob at the front door of the station. I mean, they literally had baseball bats and were pounding at the door. I was thinking ‘What the f***?’ Everyone else was basking in the excitement and I was thinking I’m going to get my ass kicked here.”
*The Sounds Pays Tribute to Lin Brehmer
=The Sounds is a local newspaper from Lin’s old neighborhood. It’s not online, so I can’t link to the piece, but thanks to Mike Kessler for sending it to me. It’s a touching tribute from Lin’s neighbors. Download the photos to enlarge and read.
=Scott Miller (formerly of WGN/WDRV in Chicago) was part of the radio group in Bloomington, Illinois that just helped raise over $100,000 through the 15th Annual Radiothon for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
=Follow up on last week’s piece about ailing Portland Trailblazers radio announcer Brian Wheeler. Wheeler’s back story is truly inspirational. Just a few years ago he found his birth parents in Chicago. This video tells the story…
*The Loop Files
=This week’s featured ex-Looper is Byrd. I post this feature every Tuesday.
February 19—Lou Canellis birthday
=Lou broke through locally when he was tapped to be the sideline reporter during Bulls broadcasts in the midst of the team’s championship run. He probably interviewed Michael Jordan more than any other sportscaster in town. Of course, Lou now holds down the fort as the main sports anchor at Fox-32 Chicago. For the past few years he has been the host of the station’s extensive Bears coverage.
February 19—Rich Samuels birthday
=Rich was a TV reporter for Channel 5 for nearly two decades (1973-1990) and then worked at Channel 11 as a correspondent for Chicago Tonight. Rich is one of the foremost Chicago media historians. His site richsamuels.com is a goldmine of information about broadcasting in Chicago between the years 1921-1989.
February 19—Jill Urchak-Levy birthday
=Jill is a traffic reporter for WIND (560 AM) and the Score (670 AM) and the host of the On a Quest Paranormal podcast. In 2010, before she married fellow Chicago broadcaster Dan Levy and added the hyphenate last name, I interviewed Jill for Chicago Radio Spotlight.
February 19—Neil Fiorito birthday
=Neil is the afternoon Traffic Anchor on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM.
February 20—Tom Skilling birthday
=Simply the greatest weatherman/meteorologist in Chicago history. Tom Skilling is still going strong every night on WGN-TV.
February 20—Tom Waddle birthday
=The former Chicago Bear receiver has been a mainstay on the Chicago radio dial for decades now, first at WGN Radio with David Kaplan, and now at ESPN Radio (AM 1000) with Marc Silverman. Waddle & Silvy are on the air every weekday from 2-6pm.
February 22—Matt Piacente birthday
=Matt has been in the TV news business in Chicago since 1998, first with Channel 5 as an executive producer and manager, and since 2016 he’s been the VP/News Director at Channel 32.
February 22—Marty Zivin birthday
=It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since he passed away. Robert Feder wrote a beautiful tribute to Marty when he passed away that begins with this memorable line: “Marty Zivin loved radio more than anyone I ever knew.”
February 22—Bob Zak birthday
=Bob was an air personality at virtually all the suburban radio stations in Chicago (most notably a 14-year run at the River), but also worked at Y107.9 (the 70s station) and WCKG in the 90s. He’s currently at 1620 The Bear in Winter Haven, Florida.
February 23—Monica Desantis birthday
=Desantis is a news and traffic reporter at WJOL in Will County, but has also worked at WLS and WBBM, and the short-lived Merlin Media all-news version of Q-101.
February 23—Jim Anthony birthday
=Anthony was a newsman for WGN Radio for years but has since found a home in the world of public relations.
February 24—Harvey Wells birthday
=Harvey was a long-time radio executive in town for the likes of WXRT, WSCR, WCKG, WUSN, WCPT, and Nine-FM, among others. In 2022 he founded the company LowerTechBills.
February 24—Ray Stevens birthday
=Ray has been part of the Chicago radio landscape for thirty years, most notably at WUSN (US-99) with John Howell and later Lisa Dent, and also at WLS-AM 890, where he can still be heard. I’ve interviewed Ray several times over the years. Here’s one for Chicago Radio Spotlight from 2010.
February 24—Paul Lepek birthday
=The former Carmel Catholic High School teacher has been doing a radio show at WRLR radio in Round Lake Beach since 2012.
February 24—Jon Zaghloul birthday
=Jon hosts a YouTube sports talk show called SportsTalkChicago. I was so impressed with the youngster’s go-getter spirit, that I featured him in my column at Illinois Entertainer in 2021.
*HBO-Max Cancels Chicago Show South Side
=This is a big blow to the Chicago TV community. South Side filmed live in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has more about the decision to end production.
*Shuffling the Weather Deck
=This past weekend Channel 7 news announced on the air that Greg Dutra was moving to evening weekend weatherman, replacing Phil Schwarz (photo), who will be retiring in March.
*TV Journalist Killed in Orlando
=Very sad story in Orlando. A 24-year-old local TV reporter named Dylan Lyons was killed by a gunman returning to the scene of the crime. Another journalist, photographer Jesse Walden, was also seriously injured. It’s amazing this doesn’t happen more often. I know quite a few TV reporters and photographers who have had close calls in dangerous situations.
*Local News Trusted More Than National News
=A new study conducted by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that more people trust their local news sources than national news sources. A more thorough breakdown of that study is here.
*A book about Sumner Redstone
=I read the autobiography of the former Viacom/CBS CEO when it first came out in 2000 or so, and was so appalled by it, it sparked me to write my first novel ($everance). I couldn’t believe that his editors and his publishing company (he owned Simon & Schuster) allowed him to publish it. He came off as petty, heartless, greedy, and mean. Well, there’s a new book out about him now, and if you believe the picture the authors (New York Times reporters James Stewart and Rachel Abrams) paint of Redstone in this book, his old editors actually did try to sanitize his autobiography. Turns out, he was even worse.
=I think this Columbia Journalism Review of the Fox News Dominion Lawsuit scandal is the most even-handed and sober analysis of what the lawsuit has revealed about the behind-the-scenes discussions at the network. These texts and e-mails prove that the network intentionally reported things they knew to be untrue. In addition to being the biggest possible sin in a "news" business, this could be the thing that loses them the case. Legal experts discuss that here.
=CNN morning anchor Don Lemon ran into trouble this week when he made comments about Nikki Haley’s age, saying she was no longer in her prime. He was taken off the air for a few days after that but returned to the show on Wednesday. It remains to be seen what this means for Lemon long-term. The ratings of the morning show are already shaky.
=MSNBC announced Tuesday that former Biden press secretary Jen Psaki will host a weekly talk show starting March 19. Inside With Jen Psaki will air Sundays at noon (and stream the next day on Peacock). Psaki will have to navigate the awkward transition from flack to journalist. Others have succeeded previously (most notably George Stephanopolous), but it’s a tricky maneuver.
*RIP Joe Goddard
=He passed away on Friday at the age of 85. Goddard was a sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times for 42 years, and a Cubs and Sox beat writer for 27 years. The Sun Times wrote a fitting tribute to the man they called “Young Joe”.
*Polk Award Winners Announced
*It’s Dangerous to be a Female Journalist
=A recent report by the International Center for Journalists doesn’t paint a very pretty picture about the abuse faced by female journalists these days. The Washington Post has a few examples of the hate, misogyny, and violence aimed at female journalists in this era of social media.
*Supreme Court hears case that could transform the internet
=The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case that could end legal protections from Section 230. The case is called Google vs. Gonzalez, and this article is a good primer on the possible implications ofthe case.
*Russian Propagandists Said to Buy Twitter Blue Check Verifications
=Not exactly a shocking development is it? Accounts pushing Russian propaganda are using Twitter Blue to further push their message. More information about that here.
As always, if you have any media story you’d like to share or think that I might be interested in sharing, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you're in Chicago media and wondering why I didn't mention your birthday, it's probably because I don't know it. Drop me a line and let me know and I'll put you on my calendar.
If you're interested in some of my other projects from this week...
Minutia Men: Legendary Employee Screwups: Jenkins-A-Palooza
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview: Voice Over Artist Sainty Nelson
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview Classic: The Mind the Gap Lady
Free Kicks with Adam & Rick: VARrrrrrgh
Meet the Eckhartz Press Author: M.L. Collins
From the Eckhartz Book Shelf: Cameo
EveryCubEver: Billy Herman
My latest novel: Back in the D.D.R
Podcast Interview about Back in the D.D.R: Military Family Museum Podcast