A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago
(By Rick Kaempfer)
*Cuts at Alpha Media
=Reduction in force. According to Radio Insight, ten staffers were laid off at Alpha Media suburban stations this week. Some high-profile cuts including the legendary rock jock Mitch Michaels at the River. I talked to Mitch and this was his response to the news. “I’m sad that the powers at The River didn’t feel I was worthy enough to keep around. I brought my best every day and enjoyed my run there. I will miss the folks who listened. But when one door closes, another one opens! Don’t stop rockin’, it keeps you young.”
=Also let go, WXLC PD/midday guy Frank Wright (after 21 years) and morning man Wes McKane, and Star 105.5 afternoon man DJ Clinto. Clinto posted a video about his feelings on his Facebook page. (If you click on this link, you can read more and see Clinto’s video.) In addition, Wiil Rock morning co-host Stino is gone (Kenosha), as is Anthony Koris from Star 96.7 (Joliet), Dawn Avello from Q-Rock in Coal City, morning co-host Bill Lawrence (WLIP), and afternoon host Lou Rugani (also WLIP-Kenosha). Rugani has been on the air more than 30 years.
=This is a decision that comes from corporate headquarters. It’s rare to see cuts like this with on-air staff. Some are not being replaced (the co-hosts), some are being replaced by syndicated shows, and some by management who will have to wear more than one hat. Of course, most of them are already wearing several hats.
*RIP Dave Wills
=Wills was only 58 years old when he passed away on Sunday. He was a Chicago boy (Oak Lawn High School, Elmhurst College) through and through. The sportscaster began his career here (WMAQ & WMVP) and worked on White Sox broadcasts (1997-2004) as the pre- and post-game host. He later attained his dream of becoming a major league baseball announcer in Tampa Bay in 2005. Wills was the radio play-by-play man for the Rays the last 18 years. Seemingly everyone in the Chicago sports world has a connection to Wills, but none closer than Channel 32 sportscaster Lou Canellis.
Dave & I were life long friends, kindergarten, grade school, high school, co sports editors of HS paper, roommates after college, Sportsphone together, Chicago’s Very Own https://t.co/dEY2WTomXG— Lou Canellis FOX 32 (@LouCanellis) March 5, 2023
=George Ofman interviewed Wills for his podcast just last year.
*Scotty Kay Goes National
=US-99 afternoon man Scotty Kay has been given a national platform by Audacy, beginning this Sunday. The show will air every Sunday from 10am-3pm on all Audacy country stations (22 of them).
*Byrd officially named afternoon host at the Drive
=The announcement came this morning. Byrd had been filling in during this slot on WDRV since Seaver stepped down in December. From the news release of the announcement, Byrd's response: “I'm incredibly excited, honored and humbled to take on this new role in afternoons at the legendary 97.1 The Drive in Chicago as the next chapter in my odyssey! Much gratitude to Keith Hastings, Jeff England, Greg Strassell, Fred Jacobs, Ginny Morris and the entire Hubbard Chicago family for the belief and the opportunity. Can't wait to get started!”
*WLIT is a Crystal Radio Award Finalist
=The NAB Announced the finalists for this year’s prestigious Crystal Radio Award, and the only Chicago station to make the list this year was WLIT. The award is given out every year to recognize radio stations for their commitment to community service.
*Give a Vet a Pet
= The Sherman & Tingle show at the Drive is also a community minded show, and this past week they inspired their audience to help out another good cause. They raised more than $78,000 to “Give a Vet a Pet.” In this case it means they will be able to provide five veterans with service dogs.
*Margaret Larkin interviews WBEZ’s Michael Puente
=Margaret records these podcasts for the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. Puente is a leading Latino voice in Chicago, and a reporter for Chicago’s NPR station, WBEZ.
=She has done a few live shows here and there since her husband suffered a stroke last month, but according to her website, this week of live shows marks her return to the airwaves. She also updated her listeners about her husband’s health: “The best news of all is that Jon is improving every day. Your prayers and good wishes have been a great help. Thank you.”
=Jonathan Hood, coming off a sportscaster of the year award (from the Pitch and Hit Club of Chicago) for his work on UIC basketball games, moves over to the UIC diamond beginning this week. For the first time ever an audio broadcast of all 33 UIC baseball games will be available on the Flames network streaming live at UICFlames.com. For more information and the full schedule, click here.
=The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System announced the winners of the 2023 Media Awards. Harper College radio came home with two of them. The radio station (88.3FM) won for best community college radio station, and the hosts of Streaming Verse, Nina Stoner & Chris Smith, won for best talk show.
=From the everybody-has-a-podcast department. Now you can include Kelly Ripa to the list. Her new podcast is called “Let’s Talk Off Camera with Kelly Ripa”
*The Loop Files
=Every Tuesday I revisit one of my old Loop interviews, and this week it was an interview with the late great Carla Leonardo. It’s here if you missed it.
=One last Sky Daniels bonus story from my Illinois Entertainer interview. Didn’t have room for this one either…“I was a new music guy. I loved it all. Lee (Abrams) wanted an advocate for new music. Imagine that today? If you said you were an advocate for new music they’d say, ‘Thanks for stopping by. We’re not going to validate your parking.’ I’ve had situations like that, when I’ve said I was an advocate for musicians they’d say ‘No thanks. We don’t want that here.’ But Lee wanted it. That’s what he was looking for. He wanted to discover new artists. To find out what really mattered to the audience. He also wanted jocks that would pound the pulpit. That were excited about the music. To make sure the listeners were excited. I’m forever in my debt to him, that’s for sure. We got steadily more and more and more corporate after that. That’s when I realized what a great rarity Lee’s dream was. You better get used to being a part of the machine, because that’s what’s out there in the rest of the world. It’s all about the shareholders. That was a lesson I had to learn, and I did. But I managed to challenge it the rest of my career. They never beat it out of me.”
*Sirius/XM cutting 8% of their workforce
=That’s 475 jobs, by the way. Not a small cut. A memo from CEO Jennifer Witz explained the reason for the cuts: “We are entering into a new phase for our company. The investments we are making in business this year, coupled with today’s uncertain economic environment, require us to think differently about how our organization is structured.”
*March 5—Ken Sumka birthday
=Ken worked at WXRT for years and also spent time as a traffic reporter on WBBM-News radio. He moved to Wisconsin a few years ago. I interviewed Ken for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2008.
*March 5—Scott Dirks birthday
=Scott was a mainstay at the Loop during both of the radio station’s hey-days (late 70s/late 80s), and later worked at WLS-FM, among others. One of my favorite old Chicago Radio Spotlight interviews. This one was in 2007.
*March 5—Phil Duncan birthday
=Phil Duncan was the morning man at WCLR back in the day and a long-time production director at US-99. He also worked at WLS-AM. Phil now lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
*March 5, 1982—John Belushi death anniversary
=This was a sad day in Chicago history, when we lost one of our own, John Belushi. Not only was he a native of the area (Wheaton) and a Second City star before his famous days at SNL, he also spent a lot of time in Chicago during the filming of the classic film The Blues Brothers. This is a photo from that time of John and Dan Aykroyd with John Records Landecker in the WLS Big 89 studios.
*March 6—Sean Compton birthday
=Sean is the president of Nexstar Networks, which includes the CW Network, NewsNation, Antenna-TV, Rewind-TV, and of course WGN Radio (among others).
*March 7, 2011—Harry Teinowitz arrested for DUI
=While this moment essentially ended Harry’s radio career in Chicago, it’s also the moment that saved his life. That’s what he told me when I interviewed him for my podcast last year. It also inspired a play that he co-wrote with his long-time friend and on-air partner Spike Manton. The play When Harry Met Rehab was nominated for a Jeff award last year.
*March 8—Lester Holt birthday.
=Lester is the anchor of the NBC Nightly News, but we’ll always remember him in Chicago for his time at Channel 2, and more importantly, his starring role in the video we all had to watch during jury duty. This photo with his former colleague Rich King appears in Rich’s latest book Ike and Me
*March 8, 2020—Clark Weber death anniversary
=Weber was the biggest star in Chicago during his days at WLS Radio, when the rock format was first adopted at the station in the early 60s. He remained the air in Chicago for the next 50 years. I got a chance to interview Clark a few times, but this one from 2007 was my favorite. Some incredible stories, including a great one about the Beatles.
*March 8—Drew Walker birthday
=Drew has done virtually every shift on the air at US-99. At one point I think he was on for seven hours a day. He’s now the 9-Noon jock there. I interviewed him in 2007 for Chicago Radio Spotlight.
March 8—Franklyn MacCormack birthday.
=MacCormack passed more than 50 years ago (1971), but Rich King tells a memorable story about him in his book Ike & Me…. The anchor on the radio in those small hours of the morning was a legend, Franklyn MacCormack, who possessed one of the great radio voices in an era that was full of them. His voice was deep, full, mellow, and sensual befitting the niche he had carved out for himself. He recited the poetry of love which flowed from his lips like syrup over a bed of music, big band, classical or Broadway hits. "You look so lovely, my dear as you stand in your elegant evening gown near the glow of the fireplace. The flames giving the light to your radiant smile, the classic outline of your face is breathtaking. My love for you grows with every passing moment." The story of what happened when Rich walked in the studio one night while one of these records was playing is something you’ll never forget.
*March 9, 2018—The Loop Signs Off
=I wrote about this at the time it happened for the Illinois Entertainer. The former Loop is now a Christian music station. The last three songs the station played in their heathen last moments were Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil”, Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”
*March 9—Ed Silha birthday
=Known as “Computer Ed” on the Steve Dahl show for years, Silha is currently a podcasting mogul, the owner of the Radio Misfits Podcast Network. (Full disclosure—that network airs all three of my podcasts)
*March 9—Bob Ferguson birthday
=Bob is a 30+ year veteran of the Chicago radio world. Most of that time has been served in the engineering department at WGN Radio.
*March 10—Corey McPherrin birthday
=The native Chicagoan (south suburbs) has been a local television star for three decades, first at WBBM-Channel 2, and now for many years at WFLD-Channel 32. He has done news, sports, and mornings. Corey is currently the lead anchor on the 9pm news.
*March 10—Dan Jiggetts birthday
=The former Chicago Bears offensive lineman was also a sports radio pioneer during the early years of the Score, co-hosting the midday show with Mike North. He’s also done sports for Chicago television (Channel 2). His daughter Lauren is a local television star in her own right at WGN-TV. (Photo: Dan with Cheryl Raye Stout, and Jim O’Donnell at the Chet Coppock tribute event)
*March 11—Les Grobstein birthday
=Les passed away last year but he is remembered fondly by all those who knew him and listened to him at WLS-AM, WLUP-AM, and the Score. I interviewed him for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2009.
*March 11—Valerie Warner birthday
=Valerie was the co-host of Windy City Live at Channel 7 for ten years. This photo was taken on the Windy City Live set, along with the guest of the show that day, Joel Daly.
*March 11—Phil Schwarz
=The long-time Channel 7 weatherman retired just last week.
*A WGN Camera’s Journey
=A very cool story of this camera’s journey from the Tribune Tower to southern Indiana to last week’s return back home to the current WGN studios. It involves former WGN Radio great Max Armstrong, a former TV reporter named Stephen Gibson, and forty years of time.
*Collector’s Call Returns to Me-TV
=Collector’s Call is a Me-TV original series hosted by former Facts of Life actress Lisa Whelchel, and it returns for its fourth season on April 2nd at 5:30pm. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a look at pop culture memorabilia, and one-of-a-kind collectibles with an expert appraiser.
*NewsNation’s New Show
=The owner of NewsNation, Nextstar, bought the political publication/website “The Hill” a few years ago, and I suppose it was just a matter of time before they combined the two. Beginning April 4th at 4pm the political roundtable show “The Hill” will be part of the regular weekday lineup. The commentators on the show will be Chris Stirewalt (NewsNation’s political editor), veteran commentator and writer George Will, former Obama aide Johanna Maska, and Nialle Stanage from the Hill. More details are here courtesy of TV Newser
*Chris Rock’s Comedic Response to Will Smith
=It’s a mic-dropper, if you haven’t seen it yet. You can read about it here.
*Tyler Perry in Talks to Buy BET
=This seems totally fitting, doesn’t it? Tyler Perry is already one of the most successful businessmen in show biz.
*Cable News Corner
=This Fox/Dominion story is probably the biggest journalism scandal of my lifetime (but I’m only 59). 5 Big Takeaways from this week’s document dump.
*RIP Ted Powers
=Ted was a distinguished journalism teacher at MVCC, and the husband of Chicago broadcaster/writer Alison Moran.
*Washington Post new managing editor
=This is one of the top jobs in journalism.
WaPo editor Sally Buzbee notifies staffers over email that The Washington Post is hiring a new managing editor with oversight of key coverage areas: pic.twitter.com/qzREy6zLbY— Ben Mullin (@BenMullin) March 6, 2023
*Politico's executive editor steps down
=Dafna Linza was only in the job for one year. She had a personality conflict with the editor-in-chief Mathew Kaminsky. The New York Times has the story.
=Dafna Linza was only in the job for one year. She had a personality conflict with the editor-in-chief Mathew Kaminsky. The New York Times has the story.
*Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney working on an Elon Musk documentary
=I have a funny feeling it won’t be a love fest. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.
*Facebook parent company laying off thousands more
=This isn’t the same announcement Meta made a few months back. This is a second round of layoffs.
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: Ten Minutes Late
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview: Movie Expert Eric Litt with his Oscar picks
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview Classic: Voice Over Artist Debi Derryberry (Jimmy Neutron)
Free Kicks with Adam & Rick: FA Cup Update
Meet the Eckhartz Press Author: Chet Coppock
From the Eckhartz Book Shelf: Cheeseland by Randy Richardson
EveryCubEver: Handsome Ransom Jackson
My latest novel: Back in the D.D.R
Podcast Interview about Back in the D.D.R: Military Family Museum Podcast