A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago…
=The January issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and includes my (10th) annual In Memoriam column. We lost some important Chicago media people this year, and this is my attempt to pay homage.
*Chicago Radio Ratings
=The December ratings came out over the holidays, and there wasn’t a very big surprise at the top of the rankings. WLIT killed the competition with Christmas music. They went from a 6.0 to a 12.4, and more than doubled the second-place station (The Drive, WDRV, with a 5.4). Rounding out the top ten were WVAZ (5.3), WBBM-AM (4.9), WXRT (4.1), WTMX (4.0), WOJO (3.7), WBEZ (3.7), WLS-FM (3.5), and WUSN & WGN-AM (tied for tenth with 3.0). The rest of the numbers are here.
=A few other notes, according to Radio Insight, WBBM-FM’s ratings were their worst since the winter of 1971. They sit at a 1.5 right now. Not going much better over at WSHE, which is now called “The New 100.3”. Their 1.3 is the lowest number at that station since 1991.
*One Last Note About Christmas Music
=Another story you might have missed over the holidays. A man in Mt. Prospect actually tallied the number of times each Christmas song was played on WLIT. Fox-32 Chicago and Block Club Chicago both reported on that story.
*Hub Arkush Returns
=Dan Wiederer is a Bears beat reporter and an on-contributor at The Score.
AMAZING moment here at Halas Hall this AM.@Hub_Arkush has walked back into the building. Incredible.— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) January 4, 2023
John Tarpey, Bears VP of safety and security who helped save Hub's life in Aug., gave him his security badge back. "You dropped this."
*Twenty Years of George Noory on Coast to Coast
=It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. This month marks his 20th anniversary hosting the show that airs overnights on 640 stations nationwide, including WCGO in Evanston. At one time the UFO enthusiast got big overnight numbers for WLS-AM 890.
*Bob Sirott Profiled
=Jim Cryns wrote a great piece about WGN morning man Bob Sirott this week at Barrett News Media. I've interviewed Bob a half dozen times over the years, and I think Jim got some material out of him that I never did. You can read it here.
Brandon Herman Scores Morning Show Downstate
=I’ve previously interviewed Brandon Herman for Illinois Entertainer because of his prowess in high school (Lyons Township) and college (North Central in Naperville) radio, so I was excited to hear he has scored his first professional gig. He is now the morning man (weekdays 6-10 am) at WUEZ in Carterville, Illinois (in the Marion-Carbondale market). He also hosts middays on Saturdays.
*RIP Jack Miller
=I worked with Jack at WJMK/WJJD back in the 1990s. Sad to hear this news. It didn’t hit the local press probably because Jack had been living in different markets for quite some time, but Jack’s friend Stan Adams (a local Chicago actor and former radio guy) posted this news on Facebook the other day… Received a Christmas card from Brian Beirne, former PD of WFYR-FM back in the 70’s. He informed me that our good friend and Colleague Jack Miller passed away on July 25th after a serious illness. Jack was a talented guy and loved anything to do with radio, especially being on it. Jack started out at WEXI in Arlington Heights and worked his way to WBBM-FM, WGLD, WFYR, WCFL (Using the name of Michael Scott at night, as he was working at WFYR afternoons under his real name), WAIT, WCLR, WJMK, WWRM and WRBQ both in Tampa, Florida.
*The Loop Files
=I started up a new feature this week that will run on my blog every Tuesday called “The Loop Files.” Every week I feature an interview from a former colleague/friend/acquaintance who worked at the legendary radio station. This week it’s former Johnny B/Danny Bonaduce/Richard Roeper/Steve Cochran producer Artie Kennedy. Some great stories here.
*Radio.com is for sale
=It hasn’t been in use for a while (since 2021), but the owner of the domain name (Audacy) has put it on the block for sale. It was purchased for $30,000 in 1996 when radio was still hot, but the internet was in its infancy. It’s available now when radio is struggling, but the internet is ubiquitous, for a measly $2.5 million. The auction runs through March 28. RadioInk has more details.
=It’s a good time to be a combination British Monarchy enthusiast and podcast fan. There are now no fewer than five podcasts about the subject, and the New York Times has some suggestions for which podcasts are the best.
*January 2, 1992/The Score debuts
=At first it was only on during the daytime hours at 820 AM. It later migrated to 1160 AM, before landing in it’s current location at 670 AM. The first all-sports-talk station in Chicago was a bold experiment at the time of its debut. Now every market in America has at least one sports-talk station.
*January 3/Rick Gieser’s birthday.
=Rick was one of the originals at the Score. He was the first executive producer of the morning show. Tom Shaer was the morning show host. Tom Webb was the newsman. Dawn Shuneman DeSart was the traffic reporter. Henry Henderson was the associate producer.
*January 3, 1965/Wally Phillips Morning Show Debuts on WGN Radio
=It began one of the greatest runs of success in radio history. (Thanks to Chicago Radio Archives and Memories for posting this ad)
*January 3/Tanya Maher’s birthday
=Tanya is a gifted voice over artist who also did traffic reports in Chicago for years.
*January 3, 2016/Barry O’Keefe’s death
=The longtime newsman at WTMX passed away this week seven years ago. I interviewed him back in 2008 shortly after he left the Eric and Kathy show.
*January 3, 1998/Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me debuts
=The announcer for the NPR/WBEZ classic is Bill Kurtis. I interviewed him about that (and many other things) for my podcast a few years ago.
*January 4/Dave Kerner’s birthday
=Dave has been doing radio for more than four decades and has been with WBBM-AM since 2004. He previously worked at the Score.
*January 4, 1927/John Drury’s birthday
=The legendary Channel 9 and Channel 7 anchorman was simply one of the most respected journalists in Chicago history. The high school radio awards were named after Drury posthumously (he died in 2007). Drury also had small roles in the films Richie Rich, Baby’s Day Out and Rent-a-Cop. Drury’s long-time producer Alex Burkholder wrote a book for Eckhartz Press in 2018 called Death of the Angels.
*January 4, 1963/Randy Salerno’s birthday
=Salerno was a reporter/anchor at WBBM-Channel 2 when he died in a tragic snowmobiling accident in late January 2008. He previously worked at WGN-TV.
*January 4, 1966/WFLD-TV debuts
=They began broadcasting from their original studios in Marina City this week 57 years ago. Their studios are now on Michigan Avenue just south of the river.
*January 5/Mary Van De Velde’s birthday
=I interviewed the WGN traffic mainstay (and fellow U of I alum) back in 2009. At that time she had just left Spike O’Dell’s show.
*January 6/Judd Sirott’s birthday
=Judd started in Chicago radio as a producer at the Score. He later went on to do Cubs and Blackhawks pre- and post-game shows and play-by-play for the Chicago Wolves. Judd is now the radio voice of the Boston Bruins. (His uncle is WGN morning man Bob Sirott)
=I interviewed Judd back in 2011, shortly before he made the move east.
*January 6/Anne Johnsos birthday
=The Medill School of Journalism grad has worked at both WGN and WBBM Radio. In 2017 she authored the book Potty Mouthed: Big Thoughts from Little Brains. It’s not about radio.
*January 7, 1944/Jim Bohannan’s birthday
=He passed away in November of 2022, but not before leaving behind a National Radio Hall of Fame career.
*WTTW Moves Chicago Tonight to 10pm
=The move doesn’t take effect until January 23rd, but this is a dramatic change. The show had been in its current timeslot (7pm) since the 1980s. I’m not sure exactly why they decided to go up against the other local newscasts, but here’s what they said in the release announcing the move: “There is a need for high-quality local news that takes people in our region deeper into the stories behind the headlines of the day,” said Jay Smith, Executive Producer of Chicago Tonight and News Director for WTTW News. “Our goal is for them to feel they can’t end the day without having read our daily newsletter, visited our website throughout the day, and watched Chicago Tonight at 10 pm.”
*Phil Rogers Retires From NBC-Channel 5
=There were quite a few familiar names that ended their careers at the end of last year, but Rogers was one of the biggest. The investigative reporter had a tremendous career. Here is the way he announced his departure on Facebook: BREAKING NEWS: It was during this week in 1991 that I walked into NBC Chicago as a brand new reporter. (They were taking a huge gamble on a guy who had never done television!) On Friday (December 30), almost exactly 31 years later, I am retiring from this amazing company. During those incredible years, I was privileged to do thousands of remarkable stories. And I met such amazing people who shared them Because in the end, that’s what we do—-we tell people’s stories. And I got to do that with the help of the greatest group of professionals who ever gathered under one broadcast roof. For a kid who grew up in Oklahoma watching space shots, political conventions, and elections on NBC, just imagine what a thrill it was to walk into that big building with the NBC Peacock on the roof every day! So I leave with a tremendous sense of gratitude. I have been truly blessed!
(Photo: Phil Rogers at the book signing of former colleague/Eckhartz Press author Chuck Quinzio, writer of Life Behind the Camera)
*Alex Maragos Promoted at Channel 5
=The former weekend anchor at Channel 5 has a new role in 2023. He will now be co-anchoring the 11am and 4pm newscasts with Marion Brooks, Monday through Friday. Brooks celebrated her 25th anniversary with NBC-5 this week.
=On his Facebook page Maragos handed out kudos and thanks to a few of the departing Channel 5 staffers, including news director Frank Whittaker (for “believing in me”), chief photographer Bill Jennings (“Billy made the impossible possible”), and producer Joe Kolina (“Every night he had a vision”).
*RIP Barbara Walters
=A true television journalism pioneer, the first female anchor of a network newscast, passed away this week at the age of 93. Barbara Walters was one of the giants of the industry. Her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky remains the highest rated news special of the past 25 years.
*Al Roker Returns to the Today Show
=He has been home recuperating from a pretty major health issue for the past two months, but beginning this morning, Al Roker is back in the saddle at the Today Show. People Magazine has the details.
*Cable News Corner
=CNN has added another former politician to their punditocracy. Say hello to CNN contributor Adam Kinzinger.
*Icons of the Ivy
=Bob Sirott interviewed Don Kessinger this week for Marquee Network’s Icons of the Ivy series. There’s a short video clip from that show here, along with all of the previous Icons of the Ivy, including Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg and more. (Photo of Sirott and Kessinger via Facebook)
*WCIU’s Game of the Week Schedule
=Basketball season is upon us and WCIU has posted their upcoming High School schedule of games. The first one is next Friday, January 13th, at 6:30pm. Oswego East vs. Joliet West.
*New Study Examines Effects of Social Media on Children
=The study was done by the University of North Carolina and published this week in JAMA Pediatrics. The results are interesting. Among their findings: children who grow up regularly checking their social media accounts become more sensitive to peer critiques later in life.
*Rolling Stone Ranks Top Singers of all-time
=Another one of those lists created to spark engagement and argument. Their top ten singers on this list are: Aretha, Whitney, Sam Cooke, Billy Holiday, Mariah Carey, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Otis Redding, and Al Green.
=I will not quibble with the greatness of those top ten. And I love John Lennon so much I named my second son after him. But, according to this list, he is the greatest White singer of all-time. C’mon. He’s a good singer, but is he better than Freddie Mercury (#14)? Better than Frank Sinatra (#19)? John wasn’t even the best singer in the Beatles. Paul McCartney (#26) was.
=See, they’ve already succeeded. Here I am taking the bait.
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