Robservations: Top bidder for Chicago Tribune called influential liberal donor

Chicago Tribune

Robservations on the media beat:

Hansjörg Wyss

Hansjörg Wyss, the Swiss billionaire who has his sights set on owning the Chicago Tribune, has been a major donor to progressive causes and the Democrats who support them, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Along with hotel magnate Stewart W. Bainum Jr., Wyss has made a $680 million bid for Tribune Publishing, exceeding that of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital. “As a newspaper publisher, Mr. Wyss would be in a role very different from that of a behind-the-scenes backer of progressive causes,” the Times reported. “If he succeeds in his bid for Tribune Publishing, a chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The Daily News, he could help shape news coverage for millions of readers.” Earlier the Wall Street Journal reported that Wyss ultimately plans to turn over control of the Tribune to a nonprofit trust. Continue reading

Robservations: Kontender network brings more sports talk to Chicago

The Kontender

Robservations on the media beat:

Jon Zaghloul

Another sports talk offering has just been added to the Chicago media menu. This week marks the launch of The Kontender, a 24/7 digital audio network with commercial-free sports content focusing on Chicago and Washington, D.C. (Here is the link.) Chicago sports programming, including Pat Morenzoni’s “The Windy City Breeze” and Jon Zaghloul’s “Sports Talk Chicago,” will air on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (along with other content on Sundays). Washington sports content will air Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “We look to take advantage of talent that may be on the sidelines because of the economic trouble of traditional radio broadcasters,” said Joe Curci, marketing manager of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey-based network. “And we’re always looking to find new faces that haven’t gotten a look.” Plans for a mobile app are in development. Continue reading

Tribune’s Eric Zorn regrets ‘chilly tone’ of column on shooting of 13-year-old

Eric Zorn (Photo: Chicago Tonight/WTTW)

Saying he “should have done better,” Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn is expressing regret for what he called the “chilly, analytical tone” of his piece about the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by Chicago police.

Zorn’s Tuesday column, headlined “Let’s wait before turning slain 13-year-old Adam Toledo into a martyr,” urged people to withhold judgment until more facts are known. He argued that it’s too early to say whether police acted in justifiable self-defense, but “it’s not too early to stop romanticizing and infantilizing 13-year-olds.” (Here is the link.) Continue reading

Robservations: Weigel Broadcasting pulls the plug on ‘The Jam’

Felicia Lawrence, Jon Hansen and Amy Rutledge

Robservations on the media beat:

Friday will mark the final airing of “The Jam,” the low-rated evening talk show on WCIU-Channel 26.2/WMEU-Channel 48.1, the digital subchannels known as The U. Launched as a two-hour morning show in 2017 and hosted most recently by Felicia Lawrence, Jon Hansen and Amy Rutledge, “The Jam” was cut to one hour and moved to 6 p.m. weeknights when the pandemic shut down in-studio production. “Through very difficult conditions for the last 13 months, the team has produced live shows with a completely at-home team and featured important discussions on the key issues of our time,” Steve Farber, senior vice president of operations at Weigel Broadcasting, told staffers Wednesday. “Going forward, we are working on other Chicago-based content that we can scale differently.” Syndicated programming is expected to air at 6 p.m., starting Monday. Farber declined to say how many positions were affected, but insiders said as many as 10 jobs could be cut, including Steve Bailey, who was architect of “The Jam” as head of local programming and creative. Continue reading

Robservations: Ryan Chiaverini moonlights as lawyer in Lifetime movie

Elizabeth Rohm and Ryan Chiaverini

Robservations on the media beat:

Ryan Chiaverini spent Tuesday in front of the cameras, but it wasn’t as co-host of “Windy City Live.” Instead he was playing a small role as a lawyer for the upcoming Lifetime movie “Switched Before Birth.” It’s directed by Elisabeth Rohm, whom Chiaverini first worked with when the former “Law and Order” star auditioned to co-host “Windy City Live.” “Now here we are 10 years later working together,” he told me. “I’m not quitting my day job, but it’s fun to moonlight in the acting world. Hoping to do more in the future.” Chiaverini joined ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in 2006 and became co-host of “Windy City Live” with Val Warner in 2011. Continue reading

Robservations: Media Burn wins grant to launch Guerrilla Television Network

Media Burn Independent Video Archive

Robservations on the media beat:

Chicago’s Media Burn Independent Video Archive has received a $459,150 grant from the Council on Library Resources to collaborate with the University of Chicago on digitizing hundreds of previously unseen videotapes from the 1970s. In addition to Media Burn’s content, the new Guerrilla Television Network will include work from Appalshop, Community TV Network, Experimental TV Center, Kartemquin Films and New Orleans Video Access Center. The grant marks a significant expansion for the nonprofit treasure founded in 2003 by legendary Chicago producer Tom Weinberg. Executive director Sara Chapman said it’s vital to preserve and make available guerrilla videotape from the 1970s because “it represents such innovative and singular content that is imminently going to be lost and forever forgotten,” adding: “It will be a significant step towards elevating these under-recognized works to the place they deserve in cultural history.” Continue reading

Rival group steps up to outbid Alden for Tribune Publishing, report says

Chicago Tribune

Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss appear to have topped the bid of hedge fund Alden Global Capital to win full control of Tribune Publishing, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

According to the report, Bainum and Wyss submitted a bid worth $680 million — well over Alden’s $635 million offer for full control of the parent company of the Chicago Tribune. Continue reading

Moody Bible Institute sells AM radio flagship WMBI after 95 years

WMBI transmitter site in Addison (1927 photo)

WMBI 1110-AM, radio flagship of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute since 1926 and the oldest noncommercial Christian radio station in the country, has been sold, according to a Federal Communications Commission filing.

El Sembrador Ministries, a Spanish-language Catholic network based in Chatsworth, California, agreed to pay $1.6 million for the daytime-only AM station along with a construction permit for a translator at 106.3 FM. Continue reading

Mark Giangreco firing over Cheryl Burton remark tops most-read posts in March

Cheryl Burton and Mark Giangreco (Photo: Matt Smith)

The firing of veteran sports anchor Mark Giangreco from ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 after he referred to news anchor Cheryl Burton as someone who could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator” on a do-it-yourself show led the top 10 most-read stories here in March.

To read the full posts, click on the headlines: Continue reading

Robservations: One year later, Darrin Jackson tips his cap to Ed Farmer

Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson (2013 photo)

Robservations on the media beat:

Darrin Jackson

For Darrin Jackson it’s more than Opening Day as he starts his 22nd season as color analyst for Chicago White Sox baseball broadcasts. Today also marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Ed Farmer, Jackson’s close friend and longtime partner in the radio booth. “This has been the longest year in so many ways,” Jackson told me. “The state of the world, the state of our nation, and we’ve all dealt with personal trials and tribulations. But for me, the loss of Ed’s friendship and love can’t be replaced. I’m sure that I’m one of at least a thousand people who feel this way. Ed was a person who made our world better. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I don’t miss him. He was great for the White Sox and better for the community. Other than that, he was just little Eddie Farmer from Chicago.” Farmer, 70, died April 1, 2020, following a long battle with polycystic kidney disease. After an abbreviated 2020 season alongside play-by-play voice Andy Masur, Jackson is teaming with new partner Len Kasper on a new station — Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk WMVP 1000-AM. Continue reading