Friday, January 05, 2024

Media Notebook--1-5-24


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



*What to Watch for in Local Chicago Media 2024

=Axios Chicago shines a spotlight on what could happen in Chicago radio, TV, print, and more in the coming year. 


*Destination Eat Drink

=The January issue of Illinois Entertainer is out and features my piece about one of my favorite podcasts, Destination Eat Drink. It’s hosted by former Chicagoan Brent Petersen


*Audacy to File for Bankruptcy

=This story has been coming for a long time. According to the Wall Street Journal, Audacy’s bankruptcy filing will take place in a few weeks. In Chicago, Audacy owns WXRT, WBBM AM & FM, WUSN, WBMX, and WSCR.

 *Salem Media Voluntarily De-lists From Nasdaq

=The financial implications of this move are explained by Radio Ink. Locally, Salem owns WIND-AM. 


*Spotify Backlash

=The changes announced last month by Spotify have enraged the music industry. Here’s one star’s reaction. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister: “That guy from Spotify. I wanna tell you, he should be taken out and shot. When he heard that artists were complaining about how little we get paid, his response was ‘make more music.’ Like we’re producing cans of Coke!”

 *RIP Ian Punnett

=Sad news over the break. 

=I interviewed Ian for Chicago Radio Spotlight back in 2007


*Taylor Swift Tops Elvis

=This is hallowed ground. She has now spent more weeks at #1 than Elvis. 


*Podcast Corner

=In 2024, the industry hopes AI will jumpstart growth. P.S: Add foreign language voice over artists and translators to the endangered professions list. 

=Dan Levy interviewed Garry Meier for his latest podcast. 


*The Loop Files

=Thanks to Pete McMurray and Steve Cochran for having me on WLS last week.

=The Chicago Writes podcast also features The Loop Files this month. 




*January 1, 2019

=Five years ago this week I interviewed Dave Fogel for Illinois Entertainer. He’s still going strong as the co-host of the morning show at WLS-FM. 


*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 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--Tanya Maher 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 eight 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 birthday

=Before retiring last year, Dave did radio for more than four decades including WBBM-AM (2004-2023). He previously worked at the Score.


*January 4, 1927/John Drury 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 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 58 years ago. Their studios are now on Michigan Avenue just south of the river.

*January 5--Mary Van De Velde birthday

=I interviewed the WGN traffic mainstay (and fellow U of I alum) back in 2009.


*January 6--Judd Sirott 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. 




*Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain

=At least the Steamboat Willie version does. The Verge has the details. 


*First Time Since 2015 Disney Isn’t Top Grossing Movie Studio

=In 2023 they were bested by Universal. Oppenheimer and the Super Mario brothers had more than a little to do with that. 


*Tracy Butler Celebrates 30 Years at ABC-7

=Congrats to Tracy. That’s a heck of a run. There were a few surprise guests who came in to wish her a happy anniversary. Click here to see who. 


*CAN-TV at 40

=CAN-TV has been serving the community now for 40 years. WBBM-News Radio has the story.


*50 Years of Happy Days

=The Catchy Comedy Network is featuring a Happy Days marathon to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. It begins on January 13th at 10am and runs until January 15th at 5am. 86 back-to-back episodes.

*How Fox changed the NFL

=Andy Masur’s take at Barrett Sports Media 


*Kimmel vs. Rogers

=I don’t know either of these guys personally, but there’s clearly one good guy here and one bad guy. Hint: the bad guy is a quarterback. I’m probably being too subtle. The bad guy is Aaron Rogers.


*Nicole Berlie announcement on NewsNation

=In case you missed her announcement over the break…

*Rest in Peace

Lost quite a few legends over the break…

=David Soul

The news broke this morning. Hutch is gone at age 80.

=Tommy Smothers

Tommy was 86. He will always be remembered for his groundbreaking 1960s show The Smothers Brothers, although this clip is pretty funny too.. 

=Shecky Green

The mercurial Las Vegas comic was 97. 

=Tom Wilkinson

The Academy Award nominated actor was 75. 

=Lee Sun-Kyun

Another Academy Award nominated actor. He was only 48.

=Mike Nussbaum

Chicago’s very own character actor nearly made it to 100. 

=Maurice Hines

The tap-dancing star was 80. 

=Glynis Johns

Best known for her role as Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. She was 100.


*Paula Abdul Accuses American Idol Producer of Sexual Assault

=It happened over 20 years ago. The New York Times has the story. 

=The day after Abdul’s lawsuit, two more women sued the same producer. 




*New York Times Sues for Copyright Infringement

=They claim that AI simply uses NYT content, sometimes verbatim, and that content is behind a paywall. NPR explains the case pretty well. 




*X (Twitter) Downgraded

=How bad has it been going at Twitter? Fidelity, which loaned Elon Musk money for the purchase, estimates its value is down 70% since Musk took over. 

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 or 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.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

20 years: Struck Dumb by the Beatles



This year marks my 20th year as a professional writer. Over the course of 2024, I'll be sharing a few of those offerings you may have missed along the way...

I wrote this piece for Shore Magazine in 2012. My regular column for the magazine was called "A Fine Mess". This piece was about one of my brushes with Beatles greatness. George Martin's birthday would have been this week...

Sir George Martin is an icon in the music business. If he had done nothing else in his career, the fact that he was the producer of every Beatles album except “Let it Be” would have been enough to cement his place in rock and roll history. He was their mentor, and they were my heroes.

When I received a phone call in December of 1995 alerting me to George Martin’s availability for radio interviews to promote the Beatles Anthology project, I was speechless for a moment. I cleared my throat, booked the interview, and bounced off the walls for twenty minutes or so before I told the host of the show—John Landecker. I wasn’t prepared for John’s reaction.

You should interview him,” he said.

“Why me?” I asked. “It’s your show.”

“Because you’re the Beatles fanatic,” he said. “I want you to do it.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but John had a master plan. He figured his normally unflappable German producer would turn into a stuttering, stammering fool if he was forced to interview one of his heroes. In John's mind, that had much more potential than a straight interview. When he started promoting the interview a few days later, he laid it on pretty thick to make me even more nervous.

“Don’t blow this Rick,” he said. “There are millions of Beatles fans in Chicago, and since we’re the only station that gets to interview him, you have to speak for all of them.”


Outwardly I wasn’t showing it, but it was getting to me. I called all of my Beatles friends across the country and asked them to submit questions to me. I carefully considered each of them, crossed off the ones that seemed “too inside” or “too geeky,” and prepared diligently. I knew we only had ten minutes with him, so I couldn’t waste a moment with frivolous questions.

The morning of the interview I came to the studio with a list of questions in my cold sweaty hands. When the hot-line rang to alert us that Mr. Martin was standing by at his microphone in London, the color left my face.

“Look at Rick,” John joked. “He’s white as a ghost.”

“Am not,” I said. My voice cracked.

John couldn’t stop laughing. “Maybe I better start the interview,” he said. “Sir George…are you with us?”

We couldn’t hear anything for a moment and then there he was. His lovely British accent responded: “Hello, John. How are you this morning?”

“I’m great,” John said. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to do something a little different this morning. My producer Rick is a gigantic Beatles fan, and he badgered me to let him do this interview, so I’m turning it over to him now. This will be fun--Producer interviewing Producer. Sir George Martin, this is Rick.”

He was silent for a moment again before answering politely: “Hello Rick.”

I almost fainted. I realize how pathetic this sounds in retrospect, but I don’t think I can find the proper words to explain how excited and nervous I was to be speaking with this man. 

George Martin was the producer of the Beatles! He had been sitting across the glass from John Lennon when he sang “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Hell, he pieced that song together for Lennon, and made suggestions, and…oh my God…I could barely breathe.

It didn’t help that John Landecker was rolling on the floor laughing at me, but I ventured on. I knew I would impress Sir George with my knowledge of the Beatles. I knew he would warm to me instantly when he heard my insightful questions. So I launched right into them.

That’s the last thing I remember. 

No, actually, that’s not entirely true. I do remember his response to my first question—even though I don’t remember the question itself.

Total silence.

That’s when I started flop-sweating. I lost all my confidence instantly. If I had my wits about me I would have realized that his silence was caused by the slight satellite delay, but I was too far gone by then. I was sure he was rolling his eyes at me from across the pond.  He eventually answered me, but I didn’t even listen to his answer. After my second or third question, Landecker was forced to jump in to rescue me. I completely and utterly failed.

John loved every second of the experience. I needed an IV to replenish my fluids.

That happened seventeen years ago, and I can finally laugh about it now. It’s not easy coming to grips with the fact that you’re the Bill Buckner of Beatles interviewers.

Here are a few others you might have missed...

*January 1, 2020—Former NBA Comish Stern dies. He missed his chance a few years earlier. Dave’s letter to help him was featured in a column I wrote at the time called Half Empty.

*January 2, 1970—This is the year “No shoes, no shirt, no service” signs began to become popular to protect stores from hippies. I wrote a piece for Shore Magazine about dress codes called Fashion Faux Pas of the Fashionably Criminally Insane

*January 4—Kris Bryant birthday.  I was a little upset the year they traded Bryant. (less upset now). In that year's edition of EveryCubEver I wrote a little poem about the trade...

A thank you poem for Kris Bryant…

On a rainy Wednesday night in 2016,

Kris gave us something no living Cub fan had seen,

With a smile on his face, his throw firmly stamped,

The 2016 Cubs, World Series Champs,

For that we’ll always remember Kris Bryant,

Even though some numnut traded him to the Giants.

--Rick Kaempfer 

*January 5 is International Bird Day. I have previously written why this day means a lot to me. Two birds are named after a fellow Kaempfer (Kaempfer’s Tody Tyrant and Kaempfer’s Woodpecker)

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Studio Walls--January 3, 2024


A weekly update/preview of my latest podcasts, and a look back at some of my previous audio work from this week in history over the past 40+ years.

Podcasting preview/update

Minutia Men. Minutia Men Celebrity Interview, and Free Kicks with Adam and Rick are currently on a holiday break. They will return with new episodes beginning next week.

This Week from the Audio Archives

*January 3, 1998—Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me debuts. Dave and I had the opportunity to interview the voice of that fine NPR program, Bill Kurtis.

*January 3, 2012—Republican Iowa Caucuses were held. Among the candidates was the first openly gay man to run for President, Fred Karger. He told Dave and I that fascinating story

January 3—Birthday of Sir George Martin. I had the honor of interviewing the late Beatles producer back in 1996. We played the audio of that memorably embarrassing interview on this episode.

*January 5, 2021—Gabby’s Dollhouse debuts. If you have a little girl, you know that show. Dave and I chatted with the voice-over star, Sainty Nelson, who portrays the character Pillow Cat. 

*January 6 is Anthony Scaramucci's birthday. We interviewed him twice. The first time he was still in Trump's orbit. The second time he was not. See if you can tell a difference in his attitude. 

January 6, 1973—Schoolhouse Rock debuts on ABC. One of the singers from that series was Essra Mohawk. We chatted with her about five years ago and she has some great stories.  

And finally...this week in 1878, a frequent topic of discussion on Free Kicks, Everton F.C. was founded. Happy birthday/anniversary to the Blues in Liverpool.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Publishing Portal--January 2, 2024


The latest news from Eckhartz Press, and a chance to peek into some of the great previous offerings from our humble little publishing company.

EP News

*The Loop Files publicity tour continues

=Thanks to Pete McMurray and Steve Cochran for having me on WLS last week.

=The Chicago Writes podcast also features The Loop Files this month. 

=Thanks to everyone who bought it over the Christmas season. 

*A Peek Inside: Surviving Sue. Author Victoria Atkinson discusses the feedback she got at a recent book club event. Vicki also co-hosts a podcast called The Heart of the Matter.

*Eckhartz Press author Brent Petersen (Truffle Hunt) is featured in this month's Illinois Entertainer, talking about his podcast Destination Eat Drink.

*One of the questions I got asked quite often during my recent publicity tour: How do you choose the books you publish? We are a Chicago-based publisher, so we are looking for Chicago stories and/or Chicago authors. Our submission guidelines are posted on the website.

This Week in Eckhartz Press history

This week's look back at Eckhartz Press history gives some good examples of the type of stories and authors that we look for...

*In 2022, one of our top selling books was Chili Dog MVP, a look back at the magical 1972 White Sox season that featured the heroics of the great slugger Dick Allen. It was honored at the Book of the Year awards by the Chicago Writers Association that year.

*The Daily Herald featured the book this week in 2022.

*One of the other players featured in the book, the late Bart Johnson, was born this week in 1950.


*In 2012 we were a brand new company pushing our very first book. The Living Wills was a collaborative novel written by Brendan Sullivan and Rick Kaempfer using techniques we learned from the world of improv.

*We wrote it at The Catalyst Ranch, and they interviewed us this week in 2012 about our process.

*The Northwest Indiana Times also reviewed the book this week in 2012. 

*This week the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame celebrates its 10th year as a 501c3 Not For Profit. It's a great organization and we're proud to have the president and founder of the CLHOF as part of the Eckhartz Press stable of authors. Donald G. Evans wrote a wonderful collection of short stories called An Off-White Christmas.

*The notorious Chicago gangster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was born on January 1st. Lombardo is featured in the pages of Mob Adjacent by Jeffrey and Michael Gentile. The Eckhartz Press book was a finalist for CWA Book of the Year in 2020.



*The former Chicago Daily News arts reporter (and Northwestern University professor) Jack Hafferkamp released his novel Sepsis via Eckhartz Press this week in 2017.


*In 2022, Eckhartz Press released Chuck Swirsky's memoir Always a Pleasure. It features some great stories about his life as a sportscaster, and some memorable photos as well. Here he is with this week's birthday boy Lou Holtz. 

*In 2018, Eckhartz Press released the final book from another great Chicago sportscaster, Chet Coppock. Your Dime My Dance Floor is a tour through the history of Chicago sports, told by someone who had a front row seat. This photo from the book features Chet with this week's birthday boy, former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle.


*In 2021 we released a book about all the American soccer players who had gone to play professionally in the Premier League. It's called Transatlantic Passage, and was written by Paul Banks. Here's what this week's birthday boy Dave Kerner had to say about it...

  • “You’ll love reading about what it’s like to be a soccer (always going to be football to me!) fan from multiple perspectives. Thanks to Paul and this in depth look at the evolution of international soccer in the United States, in some ways negative for the men’s game, and in some ways positive for the women’s game.”

    Dave Kerner, Sports Anchor, WBBM Radio


And finally, this time last year I appeared on David W. Berner's podcast to tell him my New Years Resolutions. I vowed to finish a book I was writing about a certain radio station. For once, I lived up to my New Years resolution.