Friday, February 23, 2024

Media Notebook--2-23-24


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



*Chicago Radio Ratings

=A few big moves this month in the radio ratings. These numbers are M-SU, 6am-Midnight, ages 6+. The top ten are…

WLIT 6.9


WDRV 5.8

WVAZ 5.1

 WXRT 5.0

WOJO 4.6

WUSN 3.5

WSCR 3.4

WLS-FM 3.3

WGN 3.1

=During the holiday season WLIT had a 16.0, so after they stopped playing holiday music, those numbers had to go somewhere. What’s interesting here is they didn’t necessarily go where they were before the holidays. For instance, WXRT had a huge month (+1.8), so did WBBM-AM (+1.3), and the Score-WSCR (+0.9). Those Score numbers are as good as I’ve ever seen them.

=WVAZ, on the other hand, lost audience (-1.0). They were the only station in the top 15 to do so, other than WBMX (-0.2)



*New Afternoon Man at WXRT

=Changes are rare at WXRT, but there’s a big one coming soon. This week the station announced a new afternoon host/music director. His name is Andy Chandley, and he’s been on the air in Los Angeles for the past few decades. Chanley grew up in the area (Indiana). His arrival moves Ryan Arnold back to evenings, and Emma Mac to weekends.


*Audacy Restructuring Plan Approved

=Radio Insight has the details. Let the George Soros conspiracy theories begin.

*Cumulus Fighting Off Hostile Takeover

=Remember the story of the Singapore-based billionaire who gutted Sports Illustrated? His company is trying to do a hostile takeover of Cumulus Media, which owns (in Chicago) WLS-AM, WLS-FM, and WKQX-FM. Cumulus is taking steps this week to fight them off.


*Rob Hart’s Tour of the Titanic

=Rob anchors at WBBM-AM 780 by day. He’s also a Titanic historian by night…



*Danny Parkins Profile

=Barrett Sports Media did a profile of The Score’s afternoon co-host Danny Parkins. You can read it here.


*Ex-Chicago Radio

= PJ Kling’s VP position at NuVooDoo has been eliminated. He had been with the company since 2016. Before that, he worked in Chicago radio for WKQX and WLUP (2011-2015)



*Podcast Corner

=Funny or Die is returning to the podcasting world. Their latest podcast is called God Bless These Braces.


*Harper Radio Brings Home More Hardware

This time it’s the 2024 BEA Festival of Media Arts Awards. Congrats to…

=Student Ricardo “Richy” GarciaHarper Radio show host, for his audio submission “NoirVember” (Best of Festival)

=Student and WHCM General Manager Matt ByrneHarper Radio show host, for his audio submission “The Night Shift Promo

=Student Cheryl Winkelmann for her video entry “Short Film Insanity”.



*The Loop Files

=The date is March 9. At least five former Loopers (Mitch Michaels, John Landecker, Dan McNeil, Roman Sawczak, and me) will be there. A live podcast will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing.





*February 18, 1998—Harry Caray dies

=A momentous day in Chicago broadcasting history. The Cubs had just signed his grandson Chip to work in the booth alongside Harry, but Harry never made it to Opening Day. Hard to imagine a more beloved announcer in history. Harry’s been gone now for more than 25 years and he’s still remembered by legions of fans who probably never heard him live. A fourth generation of Carays begins this season (story in TV section below)

=My all-time favorite Harry Caray play-by-play moment.



*February 19—Lou Canellis birthday

=Lou broke through locally when he was tapped to be the sideline reporter during Bulls broadcasts in the midst of the team’s championship run. He probably interviewed Michael Jordan more than any other sportscaster in town. Of course, Lou now holds down the fort as the main sports anchor at Fox-32 Chicago. For the past few years he has been the host of the station’s extensive Bears coverage.



*February 19—Rich Samuels birthday

=Rich was a TV reporter for Channel 5 for nearly two decades (1973-1990) and then worked at Channel 11 as a correspondent for Chicago Tonight. Rich is one of the foremost Chicago media historians. His site is a goldmine of information about broadcasting in Chicago between the years 1921-1989. 


*February 19—Jill Urchak-Levy birthday

=In 2010, before she married fellow Chicago broadcaster Dan Levy and added the hyphenate last name, I interviewed Jill for Chicago Radio Spotlight



*Februry 19—Neil Fiorito birthday

=Neil is the afternoon Traffic Anchor on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM.

*February 20—Tom Skilling birthday

=Simply the greatest weatherman/meteorologist in Chicago history. Tom Skilling is still going strong every night on WGN-TV, but at the end of this month he is officially retiring.

=I had him on my podcast this week and he explained this photo.  He will also be my featured interview in the next Illinois Entertainer.



*February 20—Tom Waddle birthday

=The former Chicago Bear receiver has been a mainstay on the Chicago radio dial for decades now, first at WGN Radio with David Kaplan, and now at ESPN Radio (AM 1000) with Marc SilvermanWaddle & Silvy are on the air every weekday afternoon.


*February 20—Cynthia DeNicolo birthday

=Cynthia was one of the producers of the Eric & Kathy show on WTMX. She made news a few years ago when she sued the station and Eric Ferguson. That case was later dismissed.



*February 22—Matt Piacente birthday

=Matt has been in the TV news business in Chicago since 1998, first with Channel 5 as an executive producer and manager, and since 2016 he’s been the VP/News Director at Channel 32.


*February 22—Marty Zivin birthday

=It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since he passed away. Robert Feder wrote a beautiful tribute to Marty when he passed away that begins with this memorable line: “Marty Zivin loved radio more than anyone I ever knew.”



*February 22—Bob Zak birthday

=Bob was an air personality at virtually all the suburban radio stations in Chicago (most notably a 14-year run at the River), but also worked at Y107.9 (the 70s station) and WCKG in the 90s. He’s currently at 1620 The Bear in Winter Haven, Florida.



*February 22, 1980

=Do you believe in Miracles?


*February 23—Monica Desantis birthday

=Desantis is a news and traffic reporter at WJOL in Will County, but has also worked at WLS and WBBM, and the short-lived Merlin Media all-news version of Q-101.

*February 23—Jim Anthony birthday

=Anthony was a newsman for WGN Radio for years but has since found a home in the world of public relations.



*February 23--Sarah Jindra birthday

=Co-host of WGN-TV daytime show, Spotlight Chicago.

*February 24—Harvey Wells birthday

=Harvey was a long-time radio executive in town for the likes of WXRT, WSCR, WCKG, WUSN, WCPT, and Nine-FM, among others. In 2022 he founded the company LowerTechBills.


*February 24—Ray Stevens birthday

=Ray was part of the Chicago radio landscape for thirty years, most notably at WUSN (US-99) with John Howell and later Lisa Dent, and also at WLS-AM 890. He’s currently doing talk radio in Kansas City. I’ve interviewed Ray several times over the years. Here’s one for Chicago Radio Spotlight from 2010.



*February 24—Paul Lepek birthday

=The former Carmel Catholic High School teacher has been doing a radio show at WRLR radio in Round Lake Beach since 2012.



*February 24—Jon Zaghloul birthday

=Jon hosts a YouTube sports talk show called SportsTalkChicago. I was so impressed with the youngster’s go-getter spirit, that I featured him in my column at Illinois Entertainer in 2021.






*Roz Varon to Retire

=On the heels of losing our most famous Chicago weatherperson (Tom Skilling), it looks like we’ll also be losing Chicago’s most famous TV traffic reporter. After a 35-year career at Channel 7, Roz Varon is stepping down on April 5th.

=This is the message Roz shared with her colleagues: When I walked through the doors at 190 N. State St. 35 years ago, little did I know I would spend the rest of my career there. The visionaries who decided that traffic should be a part of the new morning newscast they were about to launch, laid the groundwork for my perfect transition from radio traffic reporter to the first TV Traffic Anchor in the country. I have been blessed to work with and learn from the best in the business. A special thanks to Alan Krashesky for teaching me how to write packages for TV (SO different than radio) in one week before our morning show debuted. In the past 3 and a half decades I have worked with: - 3 General Managers - 4 News Directors - 9 Anchors - 3 Meteorologists While we’re at it, I’ve worked during the tenure of: - 5 Mayors - 7 Governors (2 who went to prison!)   I have covered a range of transportation stories, from the Chicago Flood of 1992 to the Chicago Blizzard of 2011. I reported on (and got to drive on before opening to the public) several new expressways and tollways, including Rt. 390 (Elgin-O’Hare Expressway), I-355 and the I-355 southern extension.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help so many get to their destinations safely and efficiently.  I have been fortunate to have gone “On The Road…” to locations throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. I have met all kinds of people, in all walks of life through this job, from celebrities to amazing locals who “Make Chicago Proud.”   On a personal note, I am incredibly blessed by the friendship and support of my colleagues who have stood by me during my battles with breast cancer since 2006. I am honored to have been inducted into the NATAS Silver Circle, and to have a “bucket list” dream come true, dancing in the “Countdown Chicago” New Year’s Eve special.   It has been an incredible career and I can’t think of anything I’d want to have changed as I journey forward - except maybe not having to get up at 1:30 in the morning!   -Roz


*More Tom Skilling Love

=WGN went all out...


*The Fourth Caray

=First there was Harry. Then his son Skip. Then Skip’s son Chip. Now, there’s a fourth generation. Chris Caray has been signed to do play-by-play for the Oakland A’s. If he follows in his great-grandfather’s footsteps, he’ll do just that one season in Oakland before joining the White Sox.



*Jon Hansen Leaves WCIU

=He's down to only three jobs now...

*John Schriffen Debuts Today for White Sox

=The new TV voice of the White Sox debuts today. He'll be calling the White Sox spring training (do we still call it the Cactus League?) game against the Cubs. Jeff Agrest from the Sun Times caught up with him to chat about the challenge.

*Films About All Four Beatles

=The same director, Sam Mendes, will be at the helm for individual biopics about all four Beatles. Count me in. Paul, Ringo, and the families of John and George have signed off on the scripts. Variety has more info.



*Jon Stewart & John Oliver

=The Monday night numbers for The Daily Show were huge.

=Is it just me, or has Jon Stewart’s triumphant return to The Daily Show also caused John Oliver to crank it up a notch? He made news this week with his offer to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “Clarence Thomas is arguably the most consequential justice on the court right now, and he’s never really seemed to like the job. He’s said it’s not worth doing ‘for the grief.’ So what if he could keep the luxury perks that he clearly enjoys without having to endure all of that grief? We have a special offer for you tonight. We are prepared to offer you $1 million a year for the rest of your life if you simply agree to leave the Supreme Court immediately and never come back.”



*The Untold Story about the Founding of ESPN

=I knew none of this. It’s the story of the father-son team who came up with the idea for ESPN and were pushed out for peanuts (comparatively) just a few years later. 



*Sports Streamer Sued

=Remember that announcement of the mega-sports streamer (WB, Fox, ESPN combined) from a few weeks ago? They are already being sued. The Wall Street Journal has the story.



*America Ferrera to Direct Film of Chicago-Set Best Selling Novel

=The novel is called I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Block Club Chicago has more information about the project.



*The Live Price is Right Coming to Chicago

=At the Chicago Theater 



*More Award Shows

=Full list of winners from The People’s Choice Awards

=Full list of winners from The BAFTAS



*Sinclair’s Recipe for Local TV News

=A story about the agenda of Sinclair-owned local TV stations. From the Washington Post: The answers are evident in Sinclair’s programming. Crime, homelessness, illegal drug use, failing schools and other societal ills have long been core elements of local TV news coverage. But on Sinclair’s growing nationwide roster of stations, the editorial focus reflects Smith’s conservative views and plays on its audience’s fears that America’s cities are falling apart, according to media observers, Smith associates, and current and former staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal company matters.






*Chicago Reader’s Best of Chicago Issue

=This is the issue we wait for every year, in all its digital glory.


*The Top 25 Newspaper Circulations in US

=Chicago has one in the Top 25 (at #9). The top circulation in US belongs to the Wall Street Journal.

*Mehdi Hasan Joins the Guardian

=The former MSNBC anchor is now a columnist. 



*Pro-Publica Wins 3 Polk Awards

=One of the awards was given for their Supreme Court investigation.


*A Book Explains the Demise of Newspapers

=It’s called Hedged: How Private Investment Funds Helped Destroy American Newspapers and Undermine Democracy and it’s written by Margot Susca. Jack Shafer interviewed her for Politico.



*SEC Approves Merger Between Trump Media & Digital World Acquisition Corp

=What does it mean? It could potentially mean up to $4 billion for Trump. 

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.