Robservations on the media beat:
Six weeks after he retired as chief political columnist for politico.com the venerable Roger Simon is back in print. Starting Friday, he’ll write a monthly column exclusively for the Sun-Times. The freelance deal is a homecoming of sorts for the South Shore native, who first joined the Sun-Times in 1972 and spent 12 years as an investigative reporter and columnist. For his initial column, Simon says what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s budget and first weeks in office.
Alex Kotlowitz, the acclaimed Chicago author, is the guiding force behind an eight-part podcast series about life in prison. “Written Inside: Stories About Prison Cells” premieres Tuesday on wbez.org, the website of Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5. New episodes will released biweekly. The series features essays written by inmates at Stateville Correctional Center. Each inmate’s story is voiced by a Chicago actor. “Much of my work is driven by a simple question: How does one live their life, especially those in extraordinary circumstances? And that’s what these essays set out to do, to give us a glimpse into how one lives their life behind bars,” Kotlowitz said in a statement. “I’m so accustomed to telling people’s stories, there was something exciting about helping people tell their own.”
All eyes are on Ajit Pai, new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, as the rumored merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Chicago-based Tribune Media moves closer to reality. For the blockbuster consolidation to go through, the FCC would have to loosen restrictions on ownership limits. In light of Sinclair’s ties to the Trump administration, that’s believed to be a good possibility — although, as analyst Leon Lazaroff notes, by no means a sure thing. For now no one is commenting. Sinclair owns 173 TV stations. Tribune owns 42 TV stations, including “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9, as well as news/talk WGN AM 720 and cable network WGN America.
It’ll be next year before Chicago Tribune readers see the results of a new partnership between parent company tronc and Arc Publishing, the digital software division of The Washington Post. The deal announced this week will integrate Arc Publishing’s technology onto the Los Angeles Times digital platform. Tribune and other tronc properties will follow. “This partnership will provide us with the capabilities that our reporters need to deliver award-winning journalism across all platforms and new tools that allow our marketing partners to connect with our growing digital audience,” tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with The Washington Post on additional technology initiatives that benefit our readers and advertisers.”
One tronc deal that won’t be happening is the acquisition of Us Weekly, the celebrity news and gossip magazine. Despite widespread reports that an agreement was imminent, Wenner Media announced Wednesday it had sold the magazine to American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer. It wasn’t clear whether it was a setback for Michael Ferro, the celebrity-obsessed chairman of tronc, or a strategic move by the company to go after other deals. In any case, it never seemed like a very good fit to the serious journalists still toiling away at the Tribune.