Ready or not, Chicago, Justin Kaufmann is about to deliver “The Download.”
Starting this Thursday, the multitalented radio veteran will double as host and producer of an ambitious new show from 7 to 11 p.m. weeknights on Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720.
“I could wait and workshop the show for months till everything was ready to go, but where is the fun in that?” said Kaufmann, who just joined the station after two decades at Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5. “I promised WGN listeners train wreck radio, so all aboard!”
Todd Manley, vice president of content and programming at WGN, described “The Download” as a “daily mirror on Chicago revealed in multiple chapters,” saying: “You’ll hear a variation of WGN talk soup that replays pieces of interviews from earlier in the day not in ‘best of’ style, but to challenge ourselves to be more reflective and less reactive.
“Justin has a passion for revealing the hidden stories in breaking news, and we’ll pack one hour each night with A-list guests, too. We also look forward to town hall conversations on location and some deep dives into music and comedy. You’ll be treated to a kind of sonic architecture you won’t hear anywhere else,” Manley said.
Kaufmann said he already has lined up Jason Sudeikis, Donnie Madia, Martha Lavey, Scott Waguespack and Rick Kogan as guests for his first couple of shows. “If they fail to show, I’ll just find Ronnie Woo-Woo,” he said.
WGN listeners heard a sneak preview on April 1 when Kaufmann faked a one-hour live broadcast of a Cubs opening-day game as an April Fools stunt. It would be hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off as hilariously as he and his cohorts did.
Kaufmann, 40, most recently was executive producer at WBEZ, overseeing “The Morning Shift” and “The Afternoon Shift,” among other shows. The far northwest suburban native joined the public radio station in 1994 straight out of Columbia College. He also founded the Schadenfreude comedy ensemble and created Ed Bus, the fictional 53rd ward alderman.
Now he’s hoping everything comes together on Chicago’s legendary news/talk station. Added Kaufmann: “I’m ready to bring that NPR sensibility to WGN. Which means stories about the orange fields of Botswana accompanied by seven seconds of dead air.”