A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago
(By Rick Kaempfer)
*Trish Biondo in the Country Radio Hall of Fame
=Former US-99 mainstay Trish Biondo was recognized this week for her lifelong commitment to country music radio by being named to the Country Radio Hall of Fame. Biondo was on the air at WUSN for 27 years. She is now a professor at Loyola University in Chicago.
*The 2024 Mustang Won’t Have an AM Radio
=The 1964 Mustang, the actual cool one, can’t believe this news. Unfortunately for AM Radio, Ford isn’t the first car company to announce this. Some of the new electric vehicles are also being made without AM Radios. The radio industry is busy lobbying Congress to pass a law preventing this (based on public emergency grounds—the EBS system), but it’s not getting anywhere at the moment.
*Andrea Darlas and Wendy Rice named to Illini Media Hall of Fame
=Both of these well-respected Chicago broadcasters got their radio start at WPGU-FM in Champaign-Urbana, which is why they are now in the Illini Media Hall of Fame. (My non-Hall-of-Fame career got started there too.) Andrea worked at WGN Radio as a newscaster and host. Wendy was a disc jockey at WXRT for decades. Congrats to Andrea (who I interviewed around her 10th anniversary at WGN Radio) and Wendy and the rest of the new Hall of Famers, like CNN’s Kyung Lah and broadcasting educator Jim Grimes. For a full list, click here. (Photo: Andrea Darlas and me at the WGN studios in 2019)
*New Voice for Radio Health Journal
=For more than three decades Reed Pence was the driving force behind the nationally syndicated Radio Health Journal (airing on 630+ stations), but he formally announced his retirement recently. This week the new voice of the show was revealed. Elizabeth Westfield is being given the microphone. Executive Producer Amirah Zaveri noted the significance of naming her to this role during Women’s History Month: "We're thrilled to welcome Elizabeth to the team and look forward to creating more opportunities for women and minorities in the media."
*Women Who WIN
=Speaking of Women’s History Month, iHeart Chicago’s radio stations (WGCI, WVAZ, WGRB, WLIT, WCHI, WKSC) are honoring eight women leaders in Chicago this month. They’ve teamed up with the YWCA and the Chicago Foundation for Women to recognize “Women Who Win”. This year’s winners are (in alphabetical order) Holly Buckendahl, CEO, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI); Rita Sola Cook, President, Bank of America Chicago; Senator Tammy Duckworth, Dr. Janice K. Jackson, CEO, Hope Chicago; Dorri C. McWhorter, President & CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago; Jamell Meeks, First Lady Emeritus, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago; Sylvia Puente, President & CEO, Latino Policy Forum; and Dorothy Tucker, Investigative Reporter, CBS2 Chicago and President, National Association of Black Journalists. This marks the third year iHeart has done this during Women’s History Month. To date, 25 women leaders in Chicago have been recognized.
*The Loop Files
=This week's dip into the Loop files features the late great Chet Coppock. Chet would have been thrilled to discover that it has attracted more hits than any Loop Files feature I've done so far.
=The 2023 iHeart Podcast awards were handed out this week too. See the full list of winners here. A few of my personal favorites made the list.
=Would you date a podcast bro? As someone who hosts three podcasts, I’m not a big fan of this line from the top of this New York Times piece: “My biggest mistake in life so far was dating a man with a podcast.”
=If you tune in to The Art of Being Well podcast you can hear about the strangest wellness technique Gwyneth Paltrow has used. She once used ozone therapy…rectally.
=How about a deeper dive into the Jussie Smollett story? Lionsgate has a companion podcast to their show about Jussie’s hoax.
*Former Chicago Radio Corner
=The Intercollegiate broadcasting system honored (former) Chicago radio’s Scot Bertram at their recent conference. He is now a lecturer in journalism and GM of WRFH at Hillsdale College and was named best faculty advisor at the IBS conference. John J. Miller, director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College said: “Scot has been invaluable to Hillsdale’s ability to reach a vast radio audience. He fosters a love for radio in our students and helps them understand the importance of quality journalism. This award is a testament to his dedication to helping our students succeed every day.”
*Roger Badesch Book Signing
=The former WGN radio newscaster wrote a memoir during the pandemic called The Unplanned Life. Because of when the book came out, Roger wasn’t able to make any appearances to promote it. That finally changes in a few weeks. Details below.
March 12--Rich Koz birthday
=The great Svengoolie is no longer just a Chicago treasure. Thanks to Me-TV, he’s nationwide. I interviewed Rich about that lastyear. I also had a fun chat with him on my podcast a few years ago. For a really deep dive into Koz’s career, check out this piece from 2009. We talk about his beginnings in radio, including his time working with Dick Orkin and Jerry G. Bishop.
March 12—Kevin Matthews Birthday
= Kev remains one of the most gifted radio performers in Chicago history. I featured him in Illinois Entertainer in 2016 and interviewed him for my podcast in 2021. The podcast interview ends with another interview I did live on Kevin’s show on the Loop back in 1993. He insisted I do it in German. (Jim Shorts supposedly spoke German). He’s currently working on a documentary about his book Broken Mary and recently completed another (yet to be released) documentary about his band Ed Zeppelin. (Full disclosure: I’m the director of that film, and my son Tommy is the editor)
March 12—Mary DeBaggis birthday
=Mary has done traffic reports on virtually every radio station in Chicago over the years.
March 12—Dave Juday birthday
=Dave was a longtime sports reporter/anchor for ESPN Radio in Chicago. He now resides in the Phoenix area.
March 13—Adam Delevitt birthday
=Adam was the executive producer of the Mac, Jurko & Harry show, and later became program director of ESPN Radio in Chicago. I interviewed him for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2012. He is now Director of Broadcast and Streaming Media at Rush Street Interactive/Bet Rivers.
*March 14—Steve Cochran birthday
=The current morning man at WLS (890-AM) has been a big part of the Chicago radio landscape for more than thirty years, with stints at WCKG, WLUP-AM, WPNT, WIND, and of course, WGN Radio. A great interview subject. Here’s one from 2009 (for Chicago Radio Spotlight), and another from 2017 (for Illinois Entertainer).
*March 14—Dobie Maxwell birthday
=The pinnacle of comedian Dobie Maxwell’s radio career came in the early 00s when he was paired with Spike Manton & Max Bumgardner on the Loop morning show (97.9FM). He has since published a very popular book called Monkey in the Middle. I interviewed Dobie about his radio days for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2008, and about his book on my podcast in 2022.
*March 14—Pat Boyle birthday.
=Pat has been the Chicago Blackhawks host and anchor/reporter at NBC-Sports Chicago for nearly 20 years now.
*March 14—Chris Rongey birthday
=Rongey was associated closely with the White Sox during his time in Chicago media. He was the radio in-studio host for the White Sox and occasionally filled in as play-by-play man. He also wrote about the White Sox for the Daily Herald. Chris is now in St. Louis, working for the legendary KMOX.
*March 14—Jerry Taft birthday
=Taft was one of the most popular weathermen in Chicago television history, first at Channel 5 and later at Channel 7. That run at Channel 7 lasted 33 years. Jerry retired from the business in 2018 and passed away in 2020.
*March 15, 1960—WSBC signs on the air
=When the station began broadcasting in 1960, WSBC-FM carried a variety of musical programming including classical, jazz, and folk. In 1971, it moved into a new location at 4949 W. Belmont and changed the call letters to WXRT. In 1972, the progressive rock format was introduced by Don Bridges, Mitch Michaels, John Platt, Bob Schulman and Seth Mason. It’s still going strong today, 51 years later.
*March 15, 1976—WCFL signs off as a Top-40 station
=The new format was beautiful music. One of the tragic days in Chicago radio history. I still maintain that the old WCFL jingles from the late 60s were the greatest jingles in radio history.
*March 15—Ben Hollis birthday
=Ben was the host of WTTW’s “Wild Chicago” which was a groundbreaking program back in it’s day. Rick Kogan wrote about Ben and that show a few years ago in the Chicago Tribune.
*March 16—Scott Simon birthday
=The host of NPR’s Weekend Edition and Special Contributor at CBS Sunday Morning grew up in Chicago and has strong attachments to the city despite living in the DC area for many years. He wrote a book about his love of the Cubs (My Cubs: A Love Story), contributed to the book Cubsessions, and also to the John Landecker book Records Truly Is My Middle Name.
*March 18—Rich King birthday
=Rich King had a nearly 50-year career in Chicago media, including stints at WGN Radio, WBBM Radio, WBBM-TV and WGN-TV. He wrote a best-selling book about his wife called My Maggie, and last year wrote a memoir about his time working with WGN photographer Richard “Ike” Isaac (photo below) called Ike and Me, which was nominated for Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association.
*March 18—Len O’Kelly birthday
=Len worked on the air and off at several radio stations in Chicago, including WJMK-FM. He is now a professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, training the next generation of broadcasters. I interviewed him about that for Illinois Entertainer in 2017.
*WGN-TV Morning News invades Bourbon Street
=The St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza took place this morning in Merrionette Park. Among the guests they brought along with them: Cops in Kilts, Comedian Pat McGann, the Shannon Rovers, and the Jesse White Tumblers. (Photo: WGN website)
*Jim Nantz’s Last Dance
=March Madness is underway. Late last year, CBS sportscasting great Jim Nantz announced it would be his last Final Four. Andy Masur has a great piece in Barrett Sports Media about how emotional this moment may end up being for all of us. After all, Nance has been the voice of the Final Four now for 32 years.
*Regional Sports Bankruptcy
=I wrote about the potential of this happening a few weeks ago, and now it looks like a reality. Diamond Sports Group, which is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting, and handles the broadcasts of over 40 teams (MLB, NHL, NBA), is filing for bankruptcy. ESPN.com has more details. It appears this doesn’t include the Marquee Network (which is also owned by Sinclair), but it’s not a good sign for regional sports in general. Diamond Sports Group is $8 billion (with a B) in debt.
*Barbara Walters’ Legacy
=New York Magazine’s The Cut asked 17 female broadcasters to analyze Barbara’s legacy.
*Cable News Corner
=The struggling CNN morning show got some imported help this week. Two new executive producers were named. The Hollywood Reporter has the details.
=Fox News filed a motion to keep more confidential texts and e-mails from being released, claiming they would reveal their proprietary journalistic practices to competitors. No offense, but that’s not really a secret anymore, is it?
=21% of Fox News viewers trust the network less since this scandal broke.
=My favorite development in the Dominion/Fox News lawsuit, however, has to be a little glitch that was discovered by Semafor media writer Max Tani. He discovered an e-mail address from Rupert Murdoch that accidentally hadn’t been redacted. It led to this e-mail exchange with the media mogul.
*TV Critic Aaron Barnhart Officially Retires
=Barnhart was a TV Critic for the Kansas City Star for 15 years, and his work appeared in Village Voice, New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly. As recently as last October he was writing his television criticism for Primetimer. This week he explained his absence to his newsletter followers (he is caring for his ailing wife) and announced he wouldn't be coming back to the beat. Barnhart is an NU grad, and one of the pioneers of the e-mail newsletter. Among the people Barnhart has inspired over the years is Chicago Public Square's Charlie Meyerson. This interview Charlie did with Aaron in 1996 helped spark his decision to leave radio.
*He’s Here, He’s There, He’s Every f-in where
=Great feature in NYT about Brett Goldstein. The Ted Lasso star (Roy Kent) is on a roll. If you love Ted Lasso (which returned this week) or the show Shrinking (which Goldstein writes), you’ll enjoy this article.
*Ryan Reynolds Sells Mint Mobile to T-Mobile
=The price tag for this little move was $1.35 billion. If I were a player on the Wrexham soccer team (Reynolds co-owns them too), I’d immediately ask for a raise. The show, Welcome to Wrexham, is another one of my favorites.
SOCIAL MEDIA/DIGITAL NEWS
*TikTok Considers Divorce from Chinese Parent Company
=They’ll only do it if things sour further in America. Bloomberg has the details.
=The FBI and DOJ are investigating TikTok's parent company (Bytedance) to see how they used TikTok to spy on journalists. Forbes has that story.
*How are things going for Buzzfeed?
=It ain’t pretty. The digital publication reported a $200+ million loss this past year.
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: Hail to the Chief
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview: Movie Expert Eric Litt
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview Classic: The Dirty Dancing songwriters
Free Kicks with Adam & Rick: The Relegation Battle
Meet the Eckhartz Press Author: Joel Daly
From the Eckhartz Book Shelf: Chili Dog MVP by John Owens and David Fletcher
EveryCubEver: Joe Pepitone
My latest novel: Back in the D.D.R
Podcast Interview about Back in the D.D.R: Military Family Museum Podcast