Friday, May 17, 2024

Media Notebook--5-17-24


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




*Chicago Radio Ratings

=For the first time in over a year, WLIT is not the #1 station in Chicago. The new ratings champ is the Drive (WDRV), even though their ratings went down slightly this month. These are the top ten stations in the latest ratings (M-Sun, 6am-Midnight, 6+)

The Drive 6.2

WLIT 5.9

WVAZ 5.4


WOJO 5.2

WXRT 5.0

WLS-FM 4.6

WUSN 4.1

WGN 3.8

WSCR 3.3

=The two Spanish language stations had tremendous months. WOJO went up 0.7 and La Ley went up 0.8. Also, Me-TV FM had a big month, and they now reside just outside the top ten, with a monthly jump of 0.6 (overall 2.8). WLS-FM had their biggest month in over a year.

=WLIT dropped the most, nearly a full rating point (0.9).

=WBBM-AM remains the top revenue-producing station in town. It's in the top ten nationwide, with earnings of $30 million.



*Mary Sandberg Boyle

=She made this list last year too…



*Gabe Ramirez Out at the Score

=Ramirez had been part of the cluster for 15 years (previously at B-96), but when his contract ran out last week, it wasn’t renewed. Details here at Barrett Sports Media.


*Podcast Corner

=The podcasting listenership numbers were released this week for the first quarter of this year. According to the Edison Research numbers, these are the top ten rated podcasts…

The Joe Rogan Experience (Joe Rogan)

Crime Junkie (audiochuck)

The Daily (The New York Times)

New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce (Wave Sports + Entertainment)

Dateline NBC (NBC News)

This American Life (This American Life)

Call Her Daddy (Unwell)

SmartLess (Wondery)

Morbid (Wondery)

Stuff You Should Know (iHeartPodcasts)



*WCPT Profile

=Radio Ink did a profile this week of Chicago's WCPT. 820 AM is the station that gave us Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson

*Bill Snyder

=Bill is an Emmy-winning weather producer at WGN-TV, and now also a regular contributor to John Landecker’s show on WGN…


*Lee Harris

=A few weeks ago I linked to the list of National Radio Hall of Fame Nominees because Chicago’s very own Bob Stroud is among those nominated. I didn’t realize there was another Chicago connection. Lee Harris is a news anchor who once worked at WFYR in Chicago for legendary program director Dave Martin. A short interview with Lee was published this week by Inside Radio. 



*The Mix Helps with River Cleanup

=Last weekend was “Chicago River Day” and the Mix (WTMX) did their part. They recruited 2000 volunteers to clean up garbage and remove invasive plant material along the river. Several on-air staff members participated, including morning show members Violetta Podrumedic, Chris Petlak, and Nikki Chaiken, and Casey McCabe and Jenny Valliere from the afternoon show.



*Jim Hanke

=One of the people let go in the latest round of layoffs at Audacy.



*CHIRP Radio's Film Fest for Music Lovers

=CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) is staging a film festival this weekend at the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square. It's a festival of music documentaries. More details are here at Block Club Chicago.

*Rudy Guiliani

=You may have heard that Guiliani was suspended from his talk show on WABC in New York. If you want to know the story, this explanation from the station owner is a good primer. It's not the only problem for Rudy. He's also in danger of losing his show on NewsMax.


*Rest in Peace

=David Sanborn

One of the all-time saxophone greats.


*The Loop Files

=Thanks to everyone who came out to Roselle this weekend for my book signing in Roselle. Here's a photo featuring some of the Loopers who attended...(L-R: Tom Serritella, Wendy Snyder, Jimmy Mac McInerney, Brendan Sullivan, me, Neil Sant, Jeff Hoover, Dorothy Humphrey, and Ed "Edwardo" Williams.)

=On Friday night I appeared with Dave Plier on WGN Radio. You can listen to that here.

=Thanks to Tom Barnas for this piece in his “Stories from the 78”






*May 12—George Carlin birthday

=The brilliant comedian would have been 87 years old this week. Sadly, he passed away a long time ago. Shortly before his death, I wrote about my brush with Carlin. The article was written in 2007. It takes place in 2001. 



*May 13—Jim Baumann birthday

=Baumann just stepped down as executive editor of The Daily Herald. Last year he also penned a book that collected examples of his popular Grammar Moses column. It’s really quite good, and I don’t just say that because I published it.


*May 13—Mark Giangreco birthday

=The long-time Chicago sportscaster (WMAQ-TV, WLS-TV, ESPN Radio) is no longer on the air in Chicago, but he’s a great follow on Twitter. I was lucky enough to interview him a few times, including once on my podcast, and once for Shore Magazine.


*May 13—John Benedeck birthday

=John is a radio/podcast producer (WIND, Club 400), but he’s also one of the organists for the Chicago Cubs.


*May 14—Janet Shamlian birthday

=The former Channel 2 reporter is now a correspondent for CBS News, contributing to CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News. Janet grew up in Park Ridge.


*May 15—Lynn Sweet birthday

=The Chicago Sun Times reporter is the paper’s Washington Bureau Chief. She has worked for the Sun-Times since 1976.


*May 15—Fred Huebner birthday

=Fred retired not too long ago after a long and distinguished sports radio career at both the Score and ESPN (WMVP). I interviewed Fred back in 2017 for Illinois Entertainer. 


*May 16—Bob Edwards birthday

=The legendary host of NPR’s Morning Edition would have been 77 years old  this week. He passed away earlier this year.


*May 16, 1929—The First Academy Awards

=Douglas Fairbanks was the host at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. 270 people attended. The radio broadcast of the Academy Awards began the following year.


*May 17—Robert Feder birthday

=When Robert retired after four decades on the beat, he left a gaping hole in Chicago media coverage. I remember when I was still working in the business, the first thing I did every morning was open the Sun-Times to his column to see if I was still employed. His last media gig was for the Daily Herald.


*May 17--Jim O’Donnell birthday

=One of the best writers on the local newspaper scene, Jim currently covers sports media for the Daily Herald. I featured him in my column at Illinois Entertainer back in 2018.


*May 17—Jordan Dash Orman-Weiss birthday

=He goes by Dash on the air at B-96. I interviewed him for Illinois Entertainer in 2021, when he was still at the Mix. 


*May 17—Jim Nantz birthday

=He may not be doing the Final Four anymore, but Nantz is still the biggest star at CBS Sports.





*Five Chicago TV Shows that are not The Bear

 =Axios has a piece this morning about some of the other television shows that are currently either set in Chicago or film here.


*Mike Lowe Reveals Diagnosis

=Stage 3 Colon Cancer. 



*CNN & ABC Score Presidential Debates

=One will be in June. The second in September. One won’t have an audience. The New York Times has the rest of the details.

*Venu Sports

=Remember the news about the streaming sports service that will combine Disney/Fox/Warner-Discovery. This week they said they are still on track to debut in the fall. They also revealed the name of the service: Venu Sports.

*C-SPAN Executive Suite

=The new CEO for C-Span is former CNN executive Sam Feist.


*NewsNation Executive Suite

=Announcements were made this week…


*Matt Kissane Scores Role in upcoming SNL Film

=Matt has been around for 30 years in Chicagoland, working as a comic actor and performer. One of the roles he has played frequently is an impersonation of Matt Foley, Farley’s motivational speaker. That experience has paid off for him. Kissane’s first film role will be portraying Chris Farley in the upcoming SNL 1975. Congrats to Matt.


*If TNT Loses the NBA

=Andy Masur delves into what will happen to the TNT NBA crew if TNT loses the broadcast rights to the NBA, which appears to be more and more likely.


*Seth Meyers Signs for Three More Years

=Meyers recently hit the ten-year mark as the host of the late-night show. Variety explains the new deal.


*Bourdain and Albini

=Both are gone now, but this segment captures them well…


*Bill Maher on CBS Sunday Morning

=I haven’t watched Maher in a few years, but this was a good interview with Bob Costa last weekend. You can read it or watch it here.


*Rest in Peace

=Rick Sallinger

Native Chicagoan. One-time Channel 5 reporter. Worked for CBS News and CNN. Illini Media Hall of Famer. He was 74.

=Roger Corman

King of the Low-Budget Movies. He was 98.




*Collapse of the News Industry is Taking its Soul Down with it

=Interesting piece in Politico this week by Jack Shafer. He argues that journalism needs swagger, and that swagger is slowly disappearing.

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 16, 2024

20 Years: The Man With the World's Longest Name


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 in 1999, while I was still working in radio, I got the validation I needed to launch my writing career (although it took another five years before I pulled the trigger). I won a national writing contest hosted by Diet Coke called "Living Life to It's Fullest". 

Details are below...

The following AP report announced that I won a national writing contest…


ATLANTA, May 17, 1999 /AP / -- Who says you can't break into the publishing world on your first try? Diet Coke is making it possible for one talented writer to do just that. Rick Kaempfer of Mt. Prospect, Illinois has been named the grand prize winner of the “diet Coke Living Life to It’s Fullest” writing contest.

Rick’s story was chosen from more than 4000 entries. The selection was made based on the judging of seven best-selling authors including Elmore Leonard, Nora Roberts, Lisa Scottoline, Maeve Binchy, Mark Victor Hansen, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Mark & Chrissy Donnelly. The entries were judged on originality, creativity, appropriateness to theme, and clarity. Twenty three finalists were also announced today.

Kaempfer, who lives in Mt. Prospect, a suburb of Chicago, with his wife and two young sons, read about the contest in his local newspaper (The Daily Herald) and, despite having never entered a contest before, was inspired to enter because of the title. “When I read about the ‘Living Life to the Fullest’ contest it reminded me of my grandfather,” says Rick. His is a whimsical tale about a man who adds the name of everyone who inspires him throughout his life to his own name.

As the grand prize winner, Rick and his wife will be flown to New York City on May 14th to live the life of a best-selling author during an all-expenses-paid, three-day, two-night trip. Highlights include a VIP tour of prestigious publishing houses HarperCollins Publishers and Penguin Putnam, Inc., as well as meetings with publishing executives to discuss his writing. Rick will also enjoy dining in the company of best-selling authors Mark & Chrissy Donnelly, Mark Victor Hansen, Nora Roberts, Lisa Scottoline and Elmore Leonard. His story will be published as an e-book that will appear on the diet Coke website through the end of this year.

Rick’s Notes:
The e-book has vanished into the nether world since the end of 1999, but the original children’s poem that my essay was based upon still remains. I wrote it in 1992 the day I learned my grandfather’s cancer had returned. It was a surreal experience. It came to me in a dream--the concept and the first few stanzas. I woke up in the middle of the night, and jotted it down. It isn’t really about my Opa, although he did like to take me to the park when I was a boy. It’s more about the spirit of him…the way my mind saw him as a child. This is the only children’s story I’ve ever written. My grandfather, Engelbert Ruscheinski, died in 1993. I never showed him this story.

I know it’s corny, but it’s a children’s story, and it did make me feel a lot better at the time. I hope you read this in that spirit.


Rudy liked to play in the park, there were so many things to do,
He could slide down the slide, or play in the sand, or he could swing on a swing or two,
Every day he went to the park, as soon as he finished school,
And he would wait for his mom to pick him up, that was his #1 rule.

One day the sun was shining bright, and he had little time left to play,
He couldn’t stop watching the man on the bench, who came to the park every day,
There was something about that old man there, and Rudy couldn’t help stare,
Birds were flocking and landing on him, and they came from everywhere,

He held a big bag, and fed all the birds, and soon the food was no more,
But they stayed to listen to the old man talk, and Rudy wondered, "What for?"
So he dropped the sand he was playing with, and he walked to the end of the park.
What was the old man saying to them—what were those soothing remarks?

But as he approached, the birds flew away, leaving Rudy alone with the man.
The man looked at Rudy, and Rudy looked back, and he almost turned and ran.
"What is your name?" came a gentle call, and he added, "You look like a Mike."
Rudy shook his head, and the man guessed on, "Are you Charlie, or Kenneth, or Ike?"

"Rudy's my name," he heard himself say, and he wondered about the man's name.
He wondered if he was supposed to guess back, were they playing some sort of game?
"What is your name?" Rudy asked the old man, then guessed "Are you a Joe?"
"Yes, I am," the old man replied, "and a Tom, and a Sean, and a Moe!"

"I'm also a Vince, a Benny, a Pete, a Billy, a Jim, and a Barry,
I'm a Chuck, and a Steve, a John, and a Beav, an Alex, a Mark and a Gary.
All of these names are part of me now, I’m the man with the world’s longest name,"
And he told little Rudy the story about, how he achieved this acclaim,

"I once had three names," the old man said,"A first, a middle and last.
But that was many years ago, before my loved ones passed,
When I was a boy, my granddad died; I mourned him and I cried,
My mother tried to comfort me, but I wanted to know why he died."

"God called for him," she said to me, "He also loves your granddad.
And he touched our lives, like no one else; be thankful for the years that we had.
What one thing will you miss the most, what made you love him so much?"
I said, “I loved the way he made me laugh, with a face, or a smile, or a touch."

"Do you think that you could do that, son, to people that you meet?"
I just nodded and looked at her, and I slowly got up to my feet.
"That way he still lives with us," I said, as the idea came.
"And since he is now part of me, I shall add his name to my name."

"I added his name to my other three, to make the total four.
And many years have passed since then, and I've added many more.
My father was great, and he loved to sing, and though he’ll never have fame,
When he died, I learned his songs, and I added his name to my name."

"My mother was kind and loved animals, she soothed them with her sweet words.
And when she died, I added her name, and I came to talk to her birds."
Rudy was quiet, but then he asked, "Have all of those people died?"
"Oh, no!" said the man, and he smiled at Rudy. "Inside me they're quite alive!"

"If you wanted to add my name," Rudy asked, "would you put it right after Mark?"
"If I added your name, I'd put it first, and I'd love to play in the park."
Rudy smiled and said “My mom’s coming soon, I better get back to the sand,”
And though he never saw him again, Rudy never forgot that old man.

Rick’s Notes:
My sister-in-law Kelly drew some beautiful pictures to accompany this story back in 1992, and I did try to sell it to a few publishers, but I didn't really know what I was doing in those days. In 1999 I was reading the Daily Herald, and saw the article about this contest. Something about that title "Living Life to It's Fullest" made me think of my grandfather, which made me think of this story. I dug it out of the closet, converted it to an essay, and sent it in. When they called a few months later to tell me I had won, I was taking a nap. Bridget didn't wake me up--she took a message. I always thought that was funny.

The pictures below were taken in late May 1999, when we arrived in New York to accept the prize.

The top photo shows the television cameras that followed us around (my wife Bridget accompanied me). Stories about this contest, and my winning the grand prize, appeared on dozens of television stations in the country, including WLS-TV (Channel 7) here in Chicago. 

The bottom photo was taken at lunch at the famous round table in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel where Dorothy Parker and her vicious circle used to dine every day in the 1920s. Chicken Soup for the Soul author Mark Victor Hansen and romance novelist Nora Roberts are having lunch with Bridget and me.