Robservations on the media beat:
Alex Maragos, who’s been filling in alongside Zoraida Sambolin as morning news anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 since March, just landed the gig for keeps. “He’s done a terrific job in the role, and I am delighted that we are able to make the assignment permanent,” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, told staffers Wednesday. The Chicago native and graduate of Loyola Academy in Wilmette and Washington and Lee University in Virginia replaces Stefan Holt, who left for WNBC in New York. Maragos made news last August with his 184-market jump from West Lafayette, Indiana, to NBC 5 in Chicago. “NBC 5 News Today” airs from 4 to 7 a.m. weekdays with Sambolin, Maragos, meteorologist Andy Avalos and traffic reporter Kye Martin.
Michael Sneed, the Sun-Times warhorse and queen of Chicago gossip columnists, wasted no time Wednesday showing her new competitors who’s boss. On the day the Chicago Tribune unveiled its new Chicago Inc. column with a report on whether Mike Ditka was or wasn’t invited to boost Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, Sneed one-upped her old paper by getting Ditka and Trump together on the phone for a three-way conference call. Trump invited. Ditka declined. Sneed won. Rookie columnist Kim Janssen later updated his Chicago Inc. story — and blew a kiss to his “new so-called rival” Sneed via Twitter.
For the first time a Chinese orchestra will be heard in a multi-part radio series in the West. Chicago-based WFMT Radio Network announced the historic deal Wednesday with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra to produce and distribute 13 two-hour programs, starting this January. The series will be distributed to stations throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. “I’m so delighted that the WFMT Radio Network will be able to bring performances by this great Chinese orchestra to audiences in the United States and around the world,” WFMT general manager Steve Robinson said in a statement. The programs represent a continuation of the exchange of classical music radio programs between America and China that began in January 2015, he added.
Paul Lisnek, political analyst for Tribune Media WGN-Channel 9 and host of “Politics Tonight” on CLTV, has launched a weekly podcast on Chicago theater, the arts and politics. “Behind the Curtain” is the latest addition to the lineup on WGNPlus.com. “I recognize that WGN fans know me essentially for politics, and I am very excited that WGNPlus gives me the opportunity to spread my wings into another area of great interest to me — theater and the arts,” Lisnek said. “It’s a natural way for me to expand my role within the WGN family through a new and growing platform. The pleasure of a podcast is stretching barriers and limits, going in-depth, but without having to watch the clock because it’s time for a hard commercial break.”
“Sweet Folk Chicago” has come to a bitter end after six years. Hosted and produced by Rich Warren, the weekly showcase for local folk performers, venues and events aired for last time Saturday on WFMT FM 98.7, the Window to the World Communications classical music station. Starting this weekend, “Fiesta” will move to 7 p.m. Saturdays, followed by “Folkstage” at 8 p.m. and “The Midnight Special” at 9 p.m., according to David Polk, program director of WFMT. “It was a fine program with a devoted audience that will no doubt be disappointed,” Polk said of “Sweet Folk Chicago.” “I liked it, too. Unfortunately, it never found a broad enough audience.”
Scott Kleinberg, former social media editor of the Chicago Tribune, has quit after just eight weeks as social media director for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I tried to stick it out, but it was impossible,” he wrote in a Facebook post quoted by DNAInfo New York. “I don’t even know the word quit, but for the sake of my health and my sanity, I decided I needed to do just that.” He added: “I ended up with political hacks plus a boss who just couldn’t get it. It was a bad combination for sure.” Before Kleinberg left here in April, the Brooklyn native spent 11 years in Chicago, starting as senior news editor of RedEye and becoming the Tribune’s social media maven in 2011.
Katie O’Brien, a top news producer at WBEZ FM 91.5, is leaving the Chicago Public Media station after six years. Since joining the station from The Onion’s A.V. Club as an intern for the former “Eight Forty-Eight” morning show, she rose to reporter, producer and editor of the news desk. “Katie is a rock-star producer,” Rob Wildeboer, senior editor of news, told staffers. “Having done it all, she’s been thinking for the last few months about what she wants to do next. It’s not super clear yet what that might be so she’s taking a leap and I have every confidence she’ll be successful.”