Friday, May 10, 2024

Media Notebook--5-10-24


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



*You Didn’t See Nothin

=What a week for the Invisible Institute and USG Audio. On Monday they won a Pulitzer Prize for their You Didn’t See Nothin podcast. Yesterday they added a Peabody Award to their shelves. The series is about crime in Chicago, and features the formerly incarcerated journalist Yohance Lacour.



*WSHE Changes Formats

=Something needed to be done with the market’s 24th rated radio station, so on some level, this wasn’t a huge shock. On the other hand, this is the first “new format” to hit town in quite a while. The on-air staff remains, but WSHE is changing their music. They are going with a “millennial hits” format; hits from the 90s through the 10s. It’s now referred to as Throwback 100.3.



*Radio Mercury Award Finalists

=Congrats to the Drive (WDRV) for being named finalists for three Radio Mercury Awards (for commercial radio production). Named in the credits for all three of them, of course, is production guru Matt Bisbee. They are finalists in the Broadcast Radio Single Promotional Spot category. Several Chicago advertising agencies were also recognized. You can listen to the spots here.



*Drew Walker exits

=The 20-year US-99 veteran made the announcement this past weekend. Here’s what he posted on his Facebook page…

What can I say after 20 years? Simply, THANK YOU. Yesterday was my last day on the air at US*99. Why now? It's time for a change. What's next? I'm not allowed to say just yet but I am very, very excited about my future right here in Chicago. I promise that when I get the green light to talk about it, you'll be the first to know and it is GOOD! For US*99, it's been one of the great joys of my life to spend time with you there every day.

=Here’s another post from Drew…


*Dr. Fauci and WBEZ

=WBEZ is hosting an Evening with Dr. Anthony Fauci on June 26 at the Athenaeum Center. WBEZ’s Sasha Ann Simons will moderate the discussion. Tickets are available here.



*WLS-FM Becomes ProductionVault Station

=What does this mean exactly? Well, it’s a creative service that provides “extra sizzle” to a station through things like jingles and imaging. ProductionVault is the company that provides it, and WLS-FM is the pilot station for their Classic Hits format package.



*Podcast Corner

=From the “Everybody has a podcast” department, add former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.



*Rest in Peace

=Steve Albini

Chicago’s very own. This is a tough one. The acclaimed music producer (Nirvana, the Pixies, Jesus Lizard) was only 61 years old. Heart attack.

=Stuart Rosenberg

One of the founders of SPACE in Evanston. He was 68.

=Joe Thomas



*The Loop Files

=Thanks to Axios for this nice piece about the book.

=I’ll be on WGN Radio tonight at 7pm talking about the book with Dave Plier

=One last big signing this Saturday (3-7pm) at Pollyanna Brewing Company in Roselle, IL. I’ve been hearing that several other fellow Loopers are planning on attending. Come on out if you can.






 *May 5—Mark Caro birthday

=The long-time Chicago Tribune writer is now the host of a great podcast called Caro-pop. I wrote about the show for Illinois Entertainer last year.


May 5—Jimmy Caranne birthday

=Jimmy was a contributor at WBEZ for several years but is mainly known as an improv artist/actor/writer/comedian/teacher. Caranne is a Second City veteran.


May 5—Rafer Weigel birthday

=The son of legendary sports anchor Tim Weigel had a run here in Chicago as an anchor at WFLD-TV. What is he doing now?


*May 7—John “Swany” Swanson birthday

=Swany is the dean of Chicago radio producers. He got his start as a technical producer for Jonathon Brandmeier, but later produced shows by Steve Cochran and Kevin Matthews, and most famously was the executive producer of the long-running Eric and Kathy Show. He still produces the show that emerged from that, the Mix Morning Show. (And, oh yeah, he also co-wrote The Radio Producer’s Handbook with me).


*May 7—Dina Bair birthday

=Dina has been with WGN-TV since the mid-90s. She currently co-hosts the WGN Midday News and serves as the station’s medical reporter.


*May 7—Jack Miller birthday

=I worked with Jack at WJMK, but he also worked at WCLR, WFYR, and WCFL. Jack passed away a few years ago.


*May 8—Ron Onesti birthday

=The popular local promoter brought back the Arcada Theater in St. Charles and the Des Plaines Theater in Des Plaines.


*May 10—Andy Masur birthday

=WGN Radio sportscaster Andy Masur has been part of the Chicago Cubs broadcasts (I interviewed him about that in 2010), part of the Chicago White Sox broadcasts (I interviewed him about that in 2020), and part of the San Diego Padres broadcasts. He also writes for Barrett Sports Media.

*May 11—Larry Hawley birthday

=Larry was a sports reporter/producer at WGN-TV. At the end of 2023 he announced that he is leaving the media business.


*May 11—Kevin Powell birthday

=Kevin is the afternoon sports anchor on WGN Radio.





*New Sox Play-by-Play Man Not Getting Great Reviews

=It’s not easy being the new guy, but White Sox TV play-by-play man John Schriffen is getting savaged on sports talk radio. Here are a few examples.


*Seinfeld’s New Netflix Movie Also Getting Panned

=It’s called “Frosted” and Richard Roeper reviewed it this week for the Sun Times. He calls it “one of the worst films of the decade.”


*The Bear Wins a Peabody Award

=Our current favorite show set in Chicago has added more hardware to their award shelf. PBS won 7 of them too. John Oliver also won one. The full list of winners is here.

*ABC News President Steps Down Suddenly

=Kim Godwin stepped down this weekend as president of ABC News. She was hailed three years ago after becoming the first Black woman to run a broadcast television news division, but it didn’t end well. Not only is she retiring from ABC; she is leaving the news business altogether. The Washington Post has more.

*Chicago Sky on WCIU

=After scoring two of the biggest names in the recent WNBA draft (Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese), interest is high for Chicago’s WNBA team this year. The Sky season begins next Wednesday (May 15) at 7PM, and WCIU (Channel 26) will be airing the game.



*Coming Soon: Me-TV Toons

=Shortly after my column posted last Friday, Me-TV made a big announcement about a new classic cartoon network. They are partnering with Warner Brothers Discovery, which of course, has a nearly unlimited supply of classic cartoons. The Sun-Times has the details.


*Also Coming Soon: A spinoff of “The Office”

=It won’t feature any of the characters from the original NBC show, but it will have the same format and style, and will be co-produced by the man who created the American version of “The Office”, Greg Daniels. You’ll love the setting for this one: “a dying historic Midwestern newspaper.”


*Girls on the Bus

=How about yet one more show about journalism. HBO Max's new show "Girls on the Bus" is written by a former New York Times reporter, and it's all about following Hillary Clinton's ten years of campaigns. Poynter did a Q&A with the show's creator.

*Cable News Corner

=Want to buy Sean Hannity’s house? He’s moving out of New York and selling his little Long Island home. If you need space, don’t bother. It’s only 11,000 square feet and only has nine bathrooms. 



*Q&A with Michael Steele

=The former RNC Chairman (and current MSNBC contributor) was interviewed this week by the media school at the University of Illinois (my alma mater). You can watch ithere.


*Rest in Peace

=Bernard Hill

Actor from Titanic and the Lord of the Rings sequel. He was 79.

=Susan Buckner

Actress from the film Grease. She was 72.






*Pulitzer Prize Winners

=Congrats to Sarah Conway of City News and Trina Reynolds Tyler of the Invisible Institute for winning the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for their series “Missing in Chicago Parts 1-7”. Very impressive. Chicago author Jonathan Eig also won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Martin Luther King Jr. (King, a Life).

=Full list of Pulitzer winners can be found here.



*The Reader Returns to Once-a-Week Publishing

=Since COVID the Reader had moved back to bi-monthly publishing, but this week they announced June marks the return of once-a-week publishing.


*Chicago’s First Murder

=Interesting piece in Chicago magazine about the first murder in Chicago. It was committed by John Kinzie, the man they named the street after. 


*Q&A with NY Times Executive Editor

=His name is Joe Kahn. The Q&A was published in Semafor.






*TikTok Sues the US

=Saw this one coming…

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, May 09, 2024

20 Years--Free Excerpt from "Back in the DDR"


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.

This week I'm featuring a free excerpt from my novel Back in the DDR. Many real life events are recounted in the book, including the death of German terrorist Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Brigade. She was found hanged in her prison cell this week (May 9) in 1976.

This excerpt shows how that event was woven into the novel. It takes place the evening after the main character (and narrator) Rudi accidentally hit a Colonel's wife with a water balloon thrown off a third floor balcony...

Dwayne headed back to his apartment, and David and I went to our building. It had been six hours since the splash-down. I shook David’s hand outside his apartment before the walk up the potentially dangerous two flights of stairs above.

                “Good luck,” David said.

                “If anything happens to me,” I said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you’ve taught me.”

                David put his hand on my shoulder. He couldn’t form the words to say his final goodbye. When his apartment door closed, I was all alone.

                I tiptoed past the scary Southern lady’s apartment and was relieved that she didn’t hear me. I took a deep breath outside our apartment door. It was now or never.

                When the door opened, I saw Dad sitting on his blue recliner. He was smoking a cigarette and reading the newspaper. He didn’t even look up. I could hear Mom in the kitchen, getting dinner ready. The table was already set. I closed the door behind me and tried to walk to my room as casually as possible. Mom saw me first.

                “Oh there you are,” she said. “Where have you been?”

                “Um,” I sputtered. “They have a piano at the teen club.” A totally true, if completely unrelated, statement.

                “Wash up for dinner,” she said.

                Dad didn’t say a word. He seemed entranced by the story he was reading in the paper. I could only see the front-page headline: “Ulrike Meinhof Hangs Herself in Prison”

                The three of us sat at our usual spots at the dining room table. Dad at the head of the table, mom to his left, and me on his right. Dinner smelled tremendous. One of mom’s specialties, Rouladen. Dad closed his eyes and said the blessing.

                “Dear Lord,” he said, “thank you for this wonderful food, and the incredible culinary talents you sent me through this beautiful woman Helga.”

                Mom smiled.

                “And Lord,” he continued, “I know you probably didn’t call for Ulrike Meinhof to join you in the kingdom of heaven, but if for some reason you have a communist terrorist section up there, please re-educate them about the world before I come to join you, so I won’t have to listen to their radical nonsense for eternity. Amen.”

                All three of us did the sign of the cross.

                “Oh,” Dad said, “one more thing. Lord, please give some peace to the crazy woman who lives below us. May she walk out the front door of our building for the rest of her time here without getting hit by another water balloon, and please forgive whoever hit her with that water balloon today, for he or she probably didn’t do it on purpose. Amen.”

                “Amen,” Mom said.

                I was afraid to speak.

                I cut through my Rouladen, and carefully snuck a glance at Dad’s face.

                He was grinning.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Studio Walls--May 8, 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.

Here are a few from the archives...

May 5, 1989—Field of Dreams debuts

=Dad, would you like to have a catch? Our Dwier Brown interview 

May 5, 2016--The Minutia Men Podcast debuts 

=That's right, this is our 8th anniversary. That's a lot of minutiae. 

May 6, 1998

=Kerry Wood strikes out 20 batters in a game, setting a record. I was there and told the story in this episode of Minutia Men

May 7, 1898—Watford Football Club debuts 

=Happy 126th birthday to Watford, a reminder to listen to Free Kicks with Adam & Rick.

May 8, 2015—Rick appears on Lossano & Friends

=I ended up telling my Larry Lujack story

May 8, 1993—First Matt Foley sketch on SNL

=We had the real Matt Foley (Farley's college buddy) on the show. 

May 9—Danny Rapp of Danny & The Juniors birthday. 

=The Rascals leader Felix Cavaliere got his start in Danny's band, and told us that story in this episode of Minutia Men Celebrity Interview.  

May 10—Bono’s birthday. 

=Irish actress Amy Shiels (Twin Peaks) was on the show, and we swapped Bono stories.  

May 11--Minutia Men release 50th episode (2017). 

=In April we just released our 350th. Time flies.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Publishing Portal--May 7, 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.

Happy Birthday

=Eckhartz Press author Ken Smoller is celebrating a birthday this week (May 6). Ken's book Last Comiskey is available for pre-order right now!

Two Book Events Coming this week...

May 9

=An appearance in Palos Heights by Surviving Sue author Vicki Atkinson. Don't miss it!

May 11

=The Loop Files Comes to Pollyana Brewing Company in Roselle!

=Axios Chicago wrote about that appearance this week, and included an interview with author Rick Kaempfer.

=Rick will be on WGN Radio on Friday night talking about this event and the book.
=And check this out. It's a staff pick this week at the Naperville Library.

*Coming Next Week!
=The launch party for Last Comiskey...

*Happy Anniversary!

=This week in 2016, we released Rantings of a Bitter Childless Woman by Jeanne Bellezzo. Here's a Q&A with the author the week the book came out.


=This week in 2019 was a big week for EveryCubEver. Rick got the official approval of the book from Cubs owner Tom Ricketts at a Cubs game on May 6, and then two days later Rick appeared on stage participating in the musical "Miracle"...

*Turn it Up

=This week in 2017, we signed author Bob Shannon (photo). He wrote the book Turn it Up for us. One of the chapters is about this week's birthday boy, the legendary announcer Gary Owens (May 10).

*Records Truly Is My Middle Name

=This week in 1976 one of the most memorable moments in John Landecker's book Records Truly is My Middle Name occurred. John and his friend John Travolta appeared at Woodfield Mall expecting to encounter a few hundred fans. Instead there were 20,000+.

*Hugh Hefner's First Funeral

=This week in 2016, Pat Colander appeared on Rick Kogan's show on WGN Radio discussing her book Hugh Hefner's First Funeral. You can listen to that interview here.

*Nose Over Toes

=This week in 2019, Janet Sutherland appeared on the Radio Health Journal, a program that is syndicated to over 500 radio stations in America. That's her with the show's executive producer, Reed Pence.

*The Living Wills

=This week (May 7) is WGN-TV's Dina Bair's birthday. Dina was a big supporter of our book The Living Wills. She interviewed Rick and Brendan on the midday show at WGN, and offered this review of the book...

  • This is so terrific and so creative! I was laughing out loud and I was crying. You absolutely have to pick up this book and read it. It’s wonderful.

    Dina Bair, WGN-Television

*Transatlantic Passage

=This week (May 10) is also WGN-TV's Larry Hawley's birthday. He had author Paul M. Banks on his television show, and offered this review of his book...

  • “Paul is as versatile of a sports journalist as I’ve ever met in my career, covering a wide variety of sports. This exploration of the growth of ‘The Beautiful Game’ in America and its emergence in the country’s mainstream culture serves as another testament to his universal sports expertise.”

    Larry Hawley, Sports Producer, WGN and CLTV


*We Have Company

=Bobby Skafish's great book about his many interviews with rock stars is also chockful of photos. One of them is celebrating a birthday this week. Here's Alex Van Halen (May 8) with Bobby...

Back in the DDR

=This week in 1976, terrorist Ulrike Meinhof was found  hanged in her prison cell. That event was woven into the pages of Back in the DDR. On Thursday, Rick will feature that excerpt on his blog.

Chili Dog MVP

=This week in 2022, Andy Masur interviewed Chili Dog MVP co-author John Owens (photo) on his podcast. That podcast is right here if you'd like to hear it.

*Behind the Glass

=The late NFL great Johnny Unitas would have been celebrating a birthday this week (May 7). He gets a full chapter in Randy Merkin's book Behind the Glass.

Your Dime My Dance Floor

=Chet Coppock often entertained counter-intuitive positions about the sports heroes of his lifetime. Sonny Liston (born May 8) was one of them. Liston was considered a villain in his day, but Chet always rooted for him. He explains the reasons why in Your Dime My Dance Floor.

*The Balding Handbook

=This week in 1977 was very important in the history of the combover. The Balding Handbook chronicled this momentous event. The book is no longer in print, but this free excerpt lives on.