Robservations on the media beat:
The golden pipes of Bill Kurtis soon will be heard as the signature voice of WGN AM 720. The Chicago broadcasting legend has been hired to record all station identifications and promos for the Tribune Media news/talk flagship, starting in January. “It’s the perfect mashup with Bill [combining] that voice of authority and voice of play,” said Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Though generations of Chicagoans know Kurtis, 76, as the quintessential purveyor of hard news, millions more recognize his voice from Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” movies, NPR’s “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” and countless commercials and documentaries. He also hosts the daily series “Through the Decades” on the digital broadcast network Decades.
Sorry to see another great talent forced out at Crain’s Chicago Business. Roger Schillerstrom, the first (and only) staff cartoonist in the company’s history, has been laid off. His farewell cartoon (captioned “34 years and no longer counting. It’s been a good run. Best wishes and thanks for your readership!!!”) appeared Friday. Winner of nine Peter Lisagor Awards for editorial cartooning, Schillerstrom started his career in 1982 by freelancing for several Crain publications before he was hired as staff cartoonist in 1989.
At a time of shrinking news budgets everywhere, they’re bucking the trend at ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism operation. ProPublica Illinois will launch in 2017 with the hiring of a Chicago-based editor and a staff of 10 journalists, according to an announcement last week. “Illinois has a wealth of subjects for searching investigative journalism, and we see enormous potential for ProPublica Illinois to have a real impact,” Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, said in a statement. “We look forward also to working with local publishing partners to bring Illinois readers more high-quality accountability reporting.”
Nine months after signing on with ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 as a per diem reporter, Liz Nagy has been promoted to full-time staff general assignment reporter. ABC 7 news director Jennifer Graves called Nagy “a very talented, aggressive reporter who knows how to get to the heart of the story.” A Philadelphia native and graduate of Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, she began at WEIU, the PBS station in Charleston, Illinois. Nagy also worked at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami, WEAR, the ABC affiliate in Pensacola, Florida, and WVIR, the NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Abdon Pallasch, who left the Sun-Times in 2012 after 13 years as an ace political reporter, has a new job: He’s just joined the staff of recently elected Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza as director of communications. Pallasch most recently was director of public affairs for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and before that assistant budget director under former Governor Pat Quinn.
Bill Florian, a unique and colorful character in Chicago radio history, died Wednesday of lung cancer at 84. From 1955 to 2001 Florian owned and operated the former WNIB as a classical music station with his wife Sonia (and their menagerie of cats and dogs). The grizzled patriarch, who rode one of his three BMW motorcycles to work each day, once described himself to me as “a stubborn Bohemian from the South Side.” After turning down offers for years, the couple finally (and reluctantly) accepted $165 million from Bonneville International, which turned WNIB into classic rock WDRV FM 97.1. The Florians used the windfall to create the charitable NIB Foundation. Earlier this year the foundation donated its vast classical music library (including more than 18,000 CDs and 5,000 LPs) to Lincoln Park High School.