Robservations on the media beat:
The field of political newsletters in Chicago keeps getting more crowded. Latest to enter the race for readers is the Chicago Tribune. Morning Spin, the Tribune’s political briefing posted online every weekday, is now available as an email newsletter. Monday also marks the official launch of Crain’s On Politics, a Monday-through-Friday political newsletter from Crain’s Chicago Business. Other notable players include Politico Illinois Playbook from politico.com, Daily Tip Off from RebootIllinois.com, and the subscription newsletters Aldertrack.com and CapitolFax.com. Think this might be an election year?
To the delight and relief of his fans, the great Doug Banks returns Monday to his nationally syndicated radio show, which airs on iHeart Media urban adult-contemporary WVAZ FM 102.7 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Banks has been off the air for two months on medical leave with a kidney ailment. “Have you heard? It’s over . . . I’m back on Monday,” Banks said in a Facebook video. “Thanks for all the prayers, all the good thoughts, all the well wishes. I think it did some good because I am back.”
Chicago Tribune Media Group pulled the plug last week on the last five editions of TribLocal, the chain of hyperlocal suburban weeklies that once numbered 22 print editions and 90 websites. The 2014 acquisition of the suburban Pioneer Press group spelled the end for the competing brand, including the final five TribLocal titles in Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook, Downers Grove, Wheaton and the “Tri-Cities” of Geneva, St. Charles and Batavia. Under Bob Fleck, publisher and general manager of Chicago Tribune Suburban Media, the company is bringing back the Arlington Heights Post, a former Pioneer Press edition that had been discontinued by previous owner Sun-Times Media. No reductions in staff are planned, according to the company.
Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano announced the soft launch last week of Suso’s Fork, a new food website and blog named after the pet capuchin monkey Murciano kept as a child in Cuba. The site features recipes with a Latin twist, restaurant reports and other advice for healthful living. “It was a natural extension of what we were already doing on the air,” Murciano said. “Suso’s Fork seemed to be a great way to stay in touch with our fans and give them more of what they wanted.” The husband-and-wife broadcasters, who met as morning co-anchors at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, recently co-hosted middays at Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720.
The health news is good for Terri Hemmert. The revered midday personality at CBS Radio album adult alternative WXRT FM 93.1 reports her cancer surgery January 11 was successful. “No need for radiation or any other treatment!” the Radio Hall of Famer told fans. “I will still be off for a few weeks recovering from surgery, but plan to be back a week sooner than expected. Will need check-ups for the next five years and some genetic testing in a month but things look good. Our prayers have been answered!”
Radio legend John Records Landecker used to entertain millions over his 50,000-watt powerhouse in the 1970s. Last Friday he appeared to be having just as much fun broadcasting to a few dozen listeners from a Michigan City, Indiana, auto dealership. Landecker’s impromptu Facebook broadcast proved a delight for fans, who kept up a running dialogue with him online. No word on a repeat performance. Landecker signed off last July as nighttime host at Cumulus Media classic hits WLS FM 94.7 — four decades after he first boogie-checked into Chicago radio.
As expected, Connor McKnight has signed on as the new sports voice of Cumulus Media news/talk WLS AM 890. Starting Tuesday, he’ll turn up twice an hour with sports updates on Big John Howell’s morning show from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays. Over the weekend McKnight hosted coverage of SoxFest 2016 broadcasts from the Hilton Chicago, in advance of his new role as pre-game and post-game host for White Sox baseball broadcasts on WLS. Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720, where McKnight previously hosted on weekends and reported weekday afternoons for Roe Conn’s show, is expected to name his replacement by the start of baseball season.
Students at Columbia College Chicago may not know how lucky they are. Their newest adjunct professor of radio programming is Patty Martin, savvy veteran of Chicago’s rock radio scene. Martin stepped down in 2014 after 13 years as program director of Hubbard Radio classic hits WDRV FM 97.1 (and eight years before that as music director at WXRT). At Columbia College, she succeeds Rick O’Dell, another highly respected pro, who’s now devoting full time to programming Weigel Broadcasting’s WRME LP 87.7, the soft rock/oldies Me-TV FM.