Friday, June 30, 2023

Media Notebook--6-30-23


A curation of news items about the media from this past week, with a particular emphasis on Chicago

(By Rick Kaempfer)




*Eric Ferguson Lawsuit Dropped

=The Chicago Tribune posted a front-page article this week reporting that former WTMX producer Cynthia DeNicolo has dropped her lawsuit against Eric Ferguson. That news was a big shock because the trial was already scheduled. Attorneys for both sides declined to comment, and there’s no indication if there was a financial settlement or not. This marks the official end of the controversial saga. Late last year DeNicolo’s defamation lawsuit against Hubbard was also dismissed.

*Harry Teinowitz Has a New Liver

=This is exciting news. Harry went in for liver transplant surgery this week and it was a success. 

*Salem Falls Out of NASDAQ Compliance

=First it was Audacy. Now it’s Salem. Who is next?


*Meet Anna DeShawn

=Anna is a Chicagoan and a radio host focusing on telling queer stories. Thank you Block Club Chicago for featuring her this week. Click here if you'd like to know more about her and her show.

*AI Commercials

=According to this report in Inside Radio, AI can now write radio commercials in less than a minute. As someone who once co-owned an advertising agency specializing in radio ads, I’m happy I decided to get out of the business. 



*Larry Wert Interview

=The July issue of Illinois Entertainer comes out tomorrow. It will include my interview with former NBC, Tribune, and Loop boss Larry Wert.



*Max Armstrong Book

=The 48-year-veteran farm reporter teased the news on his Facebook page this week: “More Stories From The Heartland” to be published by Bantry Bay Books. It will be in print, digital and an audiobook. We may have some at the Half Century of Progress and the Farm Progress Show, if they allow us.



*Podcast Corner

=From the ‘everybody has a podcast now’ department, add Seth Meyers to the list. His late-night television show is sidelined during the writers strike, so Seth and his brother are doing a podcast about their family trips from childhood.

=Stitcher is being shut down by Sirius/XM. It has been a leading podcast app for 15 years. 

=Want to check out an all-Chicago podcast? Host Brent Petersen grew up in the Chicago burbs. The authors are both Chicago authors. The book is about Chicago food. And the Radio Misfits Podcast Network is based in Chicago.


*Brilliantly Black Business Awards

=Chicago’s iHeartMedia stations-- 107.5 WGCI, WVAZ (V103), WGRB-AM (Inspiration 1390), WLIT (93.9 Lite FM), WCHI (Rock 95 FIVE), WKSC (103.5 Kiss FM) and WVON (BIN 640 AM)  are bringing back the "Brilliantly Black Business Awards.” Black-owned businesses in Chicago and NW Indiana have a chance to win. 10 winners will be picked. For more information about how to nominate a business, click here.

*The Loop Files

=This week’s interview is with Jimmy Mac McInerney. You can read it here.





*June 25, 2017

=John Records Landecker was named to the National Radio Hall of Fame. He was inducted by his longtime friend and colleague Bob Sirott.

*June 25—Mark Suppelsa birthday

=I got a chance to interview the Channel 9 anchor a few times before his retirement, including this one from 2009.

*June 25—John Kass birthday

=The former Chicago Tribune columnist and WLS Radio host suffered a heart attack and stroke earlier this year, but he is back to writing a blog. This week’s post is a sincere thank you to the folks at Shirley Ryan who helped him recover. 


*June 27—Jim Wiser birthday

=He is probably most famous for his time as Jonathon Brandmeier’s producer (Jimmy “Bud” Wiser), but Wiser went on to produce Fox Thing in the Morning at WFLD-TV and Spike O’Dell and Greg Jarrett’s morning shows at WGN Radio. I interviewed him in 2013 during his time at the Tribune.


*June 27—Adam Howarth birthday

=Adam is the Director of Coaching for the Illinois Youth Soccer Association, but he’s also the co-host of the Free Kicks podcast about the English Premier League. It’s currently on summer hiatus but will return in August on the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.


*June 27—Doug Buffone birthday

=The Chicago Bears legend was just as beloved in Chicago during his post-playing days, particularly during his days at the Score. He passed away in 2015


*June 28—Steve Downes birthday

=The former morning man at both the Loop and the Drive is probably better known for his voice over work, especially in the world of video games. I interviewed him about that in 2008.

*June 28—Elon Musk birthday

=The owner of Twitter was born in 1971.


*June 28—Mark Grace birthday

=The Marquee Network commentator (and former Cubs first baseman) turned 59 years old this week.


*June 28, 1975

=Super CFL record survey, featuring the morning team of Dick and Doug. Thanks to Chicago Radio Archives and Memories for posting it.


*June 29—Chuck Schaden birthday

=Chuck has been keeping old-time radio alive for decades. His show “Those Were the Days” still airs every weekend on WDCB 90.9, although now it is hosted by Steve Darnall. Schaden was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1993.


*June 29—Craig Sager birthday

=A fixture on NBA basketball television coverage for decades. Sager passed away in 2016. (Photo with Chicago Bulls Radio PBP man Chuck Swirsky).


*June 30—Cristina Ohr birthday

=Cristina was the GM of the Loop during the Bonneville days, and before that was the sales manager at WVAZ. She is now a professional/executive coach.


*July 1—Shemp DeYoung birthday

=His real first name is Mark, and for many years he was well known to Chicago radio listeners as the producer for Kevin Matthews, Danny Bonaduce, and Steve Dahl. His nickname Shemp was given to him by Kevin. DeYoung currently resides in Texas. (PHOTO: The Loop producers in the late 80s…Wiser, Shemp and me)

*July 1—Karen Hand birthday

=Karen was a newscaster at WLS AM before her star turn as the newsperson on Eddie & Jobo’s show on B-96. I got a chance to interview her for Chicago Radio Spotlight in 2008.






*Smoke on the Water

=The city of Chicago has been engulfed in Canadian smoke all week. Here are a few examples of how Chicago’s TV newsrooms covered the biggest story in the news this week. (CBS-2, NBC-5, ABC-7, WGN-9, Fox-32)



*Marcella Raymond’s Final Weekend Break

=After 25 years on WGN-TV…



*The Bear Scores Huge Numbers for FX/Hulu

=The Bear is a show about Chicago (Axios-Chicago has a story about the real Chicago restaurants showcased in the show), but the rest of the country loves it too. The numbers are up 70% since the second season launched this week. Variety has the details.


*Ryan Seacrest to Take Over Wheel of Fortune

=Of course he will. Seacrest lives by the motto “you can’t have too many jobs." Pat Sajak will step down at the end of this season. Variety has the story. And Vanna White wants a raise. Puck has that story.


*Iowa meteorologist quits after death threats

=Talking about climate change on air led to death threats, so this Iowa meteorologist quit to devote himself to the cause.


*Neil Everett Signs Off at ESPN

=The SportsCenter anchor had been on ESPN for 23 years before stepping down last week. The network gave Neil a nice sendoff…


*Cable News Corner

=Fox News announces new prime-time lineup. Laura Ingraham to 6pm CT followed by Jesse Waters, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfield.

=30 years of Dana Bash

=Don Lemon’s first interview since leaving CNN. 

=A New Golden Age of Lawyers Who are Good at Talking on TV. If you watch any of the cable news networks you know the lawyers featured in this Washington Post article. 



*NBC Signs “Best Soccer Announcer in the World”

=That’s what they call Jon Champion. Big get for NBC. I know most of you are not soccer fans, but I am.

 *Rest In Peace

=Archie Fletcher. He was the co-founder of Fletcher Camera, and a giant in the local film community. He was 90 years old.

=Joe Pedott. The native Chicagoan was the advertising genius behind the Clapper and the Chia-pet. He passed away at the age of 91. 

=David Bohrman. He created the “Magic Wall” that CNN uses in their election coverage. He was 69. 

=Julian Sands. The Room with a View actor’s body was found this week in the mountains of California. He was 65.






*Jim O’Donnell’s Take on Chicago’s NASCAR race

=The Daily Herald’s sports media critic Jim O’Donnell is one of the most gifted writers in Chicago. I just love this little turn of phrase in his column NASCAR, NBC Bringing Non-Muffled Nonsense to the Streets of Chicago: "Confederate-fried capitalism will meet civic intrusion Saturday and Sunday when the teched-up heirs to moonshiners and the General Lee go vrooming around Grant Park."


*USA Today Resumes Book Best Seller List

=The best seller list at USA Today has been on hiatus since December. The AP reports the reasons it went away, and the reasons it has returned. 



*National Geographic Lays Off Last Staff Writers

=Times aren’t quite as exciting at National Geographic as they were during young George Bailey’s life. The last of the National Geographic staff writers were let go this week. 



*Vox Media C-Suite Shakeup

=Vox is trying to diversify and is shuffling the deck at the top of the company to implement it. Axios has more details.  





*During breaking news, Twitter is no longer the go-to source

=I’ve noticed this too.  I was trying to follow the news in Russia last weekend during the near-coup.  A year ago Twitter would have been the place to go. Now it’s too spotty and unreliable. I went back to cable news.



FYI: I've been doing this column every Friday for a year now, but it's time for a break. This is my last Media Notebook column until August. I’m taking off the month of July to finish writing my latest book. When the column returns, I hope to add a newsletter element to it. Fingers crossed. 

In the meantime, I don’t want to shortchange the July birthdays in the media. They are listed below. If a name is highlighted, you can click on the name to read or hear the interviews I’ve done with them over the years.


Upcoming July birthdays: Connie Szerszen (July 3), Jim Rose (July 5), Robert Loerzel (July 6), Steve Touhy (July 6), Paige Wiser (July 6), Nick Digilio (July 6), John Gehron (July 7), Dick Orkin (July 9), Will Clinger (July 9), Fred Mitchell (July 10), Connor McKnight (July 12), Barry James (July 12), John Chancellor (July 14), Steve Stone (July 14), Greg Easterling (July 14), Jonathon Brandmeier (July 15), Lauren O’Neil (July 15), Dr. Ian Smith (July 15), Lou Boudreau (July 17), Mike Kessler (July 17),  Terry Gibson (July 19), Todd Manley (July 19), Wayne Messmer (July 19), Pugs Moran (July 20), Danielle Tufano (July 21), Spike Manton (July 21), Tim Virgin (July 21), Ray Rayner (July 23), Kathy Brock (July 24), Anna Devlantes (July 25), Steve King (July 26), Rick Kaempfer (July 28), Walter Jacobson (July 28), Irv Kupcinet (July 31), Bill Frink (July 31)

See you in August.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

From the Eckhartz Bookshelf: Ike and Me

 With over 80 books in our library, this year we're taking some time every week to highlight one of the books on the Eckhartz bookshelf. This week's book is Ike and Me: What a Time it Was by Rich King. It was a finalist for Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year.

Ike and Me is the story of two guys from different backgrounds who became great friends working together in the golden age of local television news in Chicago. Rich King and Richard “Ike” Isaac have a combined one hundred years in broadcasting experience. Rich was a sports reporter and anchor at WBBM-TV and Radio, then at WGN-TV where he worked for 26 years with Ike who was a photojournalist on camera. Rich is White and was raised in a neighborhood where racism was rampant. Ike is Black and while race is a big part of the story there is much more. Rich and Ike worked in the golden era of local TV news. They had daily access to all the Chicago sports icons, Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Mike Ditka among many others. The inside stories of these Chicago legends are poignant, inspiring and at times very funny. “Ike and Me” is a half century of Chicago sports memories as well as a story about two guys who worked together and formed a strong bond when local TV sports coverage was at its zenith.


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Minutia Men Celebrity Interview Classic: Bill Kurtis


We have now done over 200 interviews on our various Minutia Men podcasts, and this year we're going to revisit some of the best. We interviewed Bill Kurtis a few years ago and covered his whole career, going all the way back to his college days as a radio DJ (they called him Tony Kurtis). The legendary newsman talked about his days with Walter Jacobson, the biggest story he ever covered, his involvement in the film "Anchorman" and his new (at the time) novel. Great conversation.

You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Loop Files: Jimmy Mac McInerney


 I'm working on a special project this year about a certain radio station, so I've been going back into my files and pulling out some old interviews with former Loop colleagues and pals. I'll feature one a week here on the blog. This week, it's Jimmy Mac McInerney. Jimmy was a producer for both Kevin Matthews and Jonathan Brandmeier. He also met his future wife at the Loop, Wendy Snyder. This interview is from 2008.

Rick: When I first met you in the early 90s, you were an intern with the Kevin Matthews show on the Loop. It was easy to tell which interns were going to make it in the business, and which interns weren't. You were one of those guys that did whatever you were asked whenever you were asked--from running the board on the Howard Stern show, to working with Kevin, and then eventually with Brandmeier. Talk about those early days and describe a typical day before Johnny hired you to come aboard his show full-time.

Jim: Something that made The Loop really cool back then was the camaraderie. There was a large group or us working there and we got to know each other really well. We all were working for the biggest names in the biz back then, and we were all very aware of it. I think we were really into what we were doing. It was very creative, and competitive. I worked on just about every show at The Loop during this time. It wasn’t uncommon for me to actually have my pillow with me because I was spending more time at the studio than at home! The demands and deadlines were always really tight, as is the nature of talk radio. It was a crazy time. We would almost come to blows over studio time…Then we would all go out to Flapjaws on Pearson for beer. Talent, management, producers, interns…We all would hang out, and sometimes even travel together. Whenever I see anyone from the old Loop, I feel like it’s a family reunion.

As for a typical day at The Loop in the early ‘90s…Was there such a thing????

Rick: You worked with Johnny B at two different radio stations (WLUP, WCKG), and I know you still have fondness for him. Everyone I know who has ever worked for him is still fiercely loyal. Why do you think that is, and how would you describe the experience of working for Brandmeier?

Jim: Johnny is a very straight up kinda guy. Always on the level. I loved the experience of working with Johnny (photo). I was an energetic and enthusiastic young dude and he was this super-intense, creative, motivated talent who just blew me away! He was an awesome role model for me because he knew how to focus his energy in a way I had never seen before – Deadly accurate. Plus, I was cocky as hell and he really knew how to put me in my place sometimes. Back in my 20s, I needed that guidance and he really was the older brother I never had. I think we clicked well, I worked with him for a long time and I even liked the whole LA to Chicago to LA arrangement. It was pretty wild and sometimes it frayed my nerves but I loved it!

Rick: It's difficult to sum up a decade, but what are a few of your favorite memories during the Brandmeier years?

Jim: We made a few trips to Upper Wisconsin to blow off some steam and those were really wild times! There were some other trips we made – Munich, Germany being a biggie - and big events like Loopstock in ’96, but nothing can compare with my memories of those trips to Wisconsin. Cold brew, pontoon boats, Wave-Runners, and a 12-gauge or two. I hung out with his dad and some other characters from his Wisconsin roots. We even dragged Piranha Man up there once! Talk about a walleye outta the water!!!

We did some wild stuff on the show as well and I felt we were really pushing the envelope with some of the audio production. We did some great phone scams. One time, I had a girl totally believing I was Jimmy Page! I created a ton of “Wacky Mac Edits” in which I would take sound-bytes of politicians, actors, whoever…And edit it waaaaay out of context. I loved putting those together. Back then, there was no internet or YouTube to find sounds. It was all done by creating your own collections. If you wanted audio from “Goodfellas” for example, you would have to get it from the film itself. In those days, I couldn’t just sit and watch a movie or tv. I was constantly stopping and starting it to grab sounds. And, I was babysitting about a hundred VCRs! But it was a blast and Johnny would always push me to do more.

Rick: You started as an intern for Kevin Matthews, and then when he came to WCKG, you produced his show there.  I've always said that in order to produce a show you have to be able to get into the head of the host so you can anticipate what he or she will need next. That must have been impossible with Kevin. Am I right or wrong?

Jim: I was always very much a fan of The Loop for music but when I returned home from college one summer, a friend recommended I listen to Kev (photo) because “he did a lot of funny Chicago shit...A lot of inside stuff”. I finally flipped over to AM1000 and sure enough, the guy was doing a lot of funny, inside-Chicago humor, but it was the crew of characters and bits that sucked me in. I was a big time Kev Head and I wanted to come to The Loop because of him. I got my foot in the door as a music intern, filing away the vinyl. It didn’t take me long to find my way around the station and talk my way onto his show staff. Fun times. His show was so spontaneous and you never knew which direction he would go in. Ideas would hit him at lightning speed and voices would start flying outta him like a possessed man. Quite honestly, Kevin doesn’t need a producer…He needs an exorcist.

Rick: I know one of the highlights of your radio career was meeting your lovely wife Wendy Snyder. Tell the story of how you two met.

Jim: I remember the first time I met Wendy. I was in the infamous “Jock Lounge” at The Loop in the Hancock building. I was hanging with Stan Lawrence and some other guys when Wendy walked in. Stan said something along the lines of “Hey China White, you and Jimmy Mac need to throw down on the flip, flop and fly.” Or something like that. It was a cool introduction to the future mother of my children.

Funny thing about dating a co-worker is when you decide to go public with your relationship. You worry so much about how people will react. But in our situation, everyone was like “Yeah, of course!”

Rick: At one point you were even producing her show (The Buzz and Wendy show). What was that like producing your wife's show?

Jim: Again, it all seemed very natural. I like working with Wendy on radio stuff. She’s passionate and she knows what she wants. But, she listens to me and I listen to her and we make a great team. That being said, there were occasionally “those days” here and there. I won’t lie to you. Sometimes our family lives would intrude on our work lives a little too much. I believe it’s what George Costanza would refer to as “worlds colliding”. But we both really loved working on that show with Buzz because he is our idol, our mentor, and our personal restaurant critic. That was a true radio family experience, but this time, our radio family extended to thousands of listeners!

Next week: John Swany Swanson