WGN welcomes ‘Outside the Loop’ creator back inside

Mike Stephen

Mike Stephen

Mike Stephen, an acclaimed storyteller who began as an intern for Spike O’Dell at WGN AM 720 and went on to host and produce one of Chicago’s longest-running and most ambitious podcasts, is returning to his radio roots.

Starting October 4, Stephen’s “Outside the Loop Radio” will air from 6 to 7 a.m. Saturdays on the Tribune Broadcasting news/talk station, leading in to WGN’s “Mr. Fix It with Lou Manfredini.”

Billed as “Chicago’s Almost Above-Ground Audio Magazine,” the award-winning weekly podcast features interviews with local newsmakers on everything from arts and politics to the environment and food. Launched in 2006, it began airing the following year on Loyola University’s WLUW FM 88.7.

“Mike leads the next generation of urbanologists,” Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN, said in a statement. “ ‘OTL’ is a show rich with curiosity about neighbors and neighborhoods. It’ll be right at home on Chicago’s fencepost for conversation.”

Stephen, who was born and raised in west suburban Elmwood Park and graduated from Loyola University, first joined WGN as O’Dell’s morning show intern and later worked as a producer for a variety of hosts, including Manfredini, Rick Kogan and Nick Digilio.

“I grew up on WGN and learned so much of what I know about radio during my six years producing there,” Stephen said. “To now be joining the station as a host is an absolute dream come true.”

What’s in store? “Listeners can expect to learn things about their city they never knew and to have fun in the process. I’m thrilled that as I begin my eighth year of ‘Outside the Loop,’ it will now be amplified by the country’s greatest radio station.”

To accommodate Stephen’s show, WGN will move “The Frank Fontana Show” to Sundays and expand it to two hours, airing from 1 to 3 p.m. following Dean Richards.