Robservations on the media beat:
Jennifer Hudson and John Cusack aren’t the only Chicagoans you’ll recognize in “Chi-Raq.” Val Warner, co-host of WLS-Channel 7’s “Windy City Live,” has a cameo role in director Spike Lee’s upcoming film spotlighting gang violence in Chicago. In a brief scene, she plays a TV news reporter who interviews Angela Bassett. How were Warner’s acting chops? “She was great,” Lee said in an on-air visit to the ABC 7 talk show last week. “She played herself.” After premiering November 22 at the Chicago Theatre, “Chi-Raq” opens December 4.
Steven Novak, veteran producer/director at Tribune Media WGN-Channel 9, has been elected president of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He completes the unexpired term of Marcus Riley, who stepped down last week to become director of digital media at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. “I am proud and honored to become president of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of NATAS,” Novak said. “NATAS is dedicated to excellence in television and I am looking forward to working with this great organization. We are looking to expand our reach and partnerships with stations and other media professionals as our industry continues to evolve.” A graduate of Sullivan High School and Northeastern Illinois University, Novak joined WGN in 1993 from Telemation Productions, where he started in 1984.
It’s on! Amy Guth has exceeded her Kickstarter goal of $48,000 to fund production of a documentary series about women and online harassment. By the end of last week, the Chicago journalist and talk show host had raised $54,496 from a total of 668 contributors. The series is expected to explore women’s stories in the digital world and delve into the widespread problem of invisible predators on social media. “Can’t wait to jump in and get to work on this,” Guth said.
The new year will bring a new reporter to ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Will Jones, who’s been a general assignment reporter since 2012 at WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit, joins ABC 7 on January 4. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Jones previously worked at WHNS-TV, the Fox affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina, WSAZ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia, and WXIX-TV, the Fox affiliate in Cincinnati. “Will is a dynamic reporter, experienced in breaking news, and will be a terrific addition to our news team,” said Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of ABC 7.
In the latest programming shakeup at WLEY FM 107.9, Juan Tapia is out as program director and midday personality. Leti Aguilera, vice president and general manager of the Spanish Broadcasting System regional Mexican station, said a replacement is expected to be named soon. Tapia, known as “El Oso Yogie,” joined La Ley in May 2014. In the interim, morning co-host Diane “La Diane” Fong has shifted to middays. Also at La Ley, Kimberly “La Kristy” Yanez has resigned for personal reasons as afternoon co-host. In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, La Ley ranked 27th with a 1.6 percent share and cumulative audience of 536,800.
There’s a new voice at night on Chicago’s other regional Mexican station. She’s Karen “La Coqueta” O’Brien, whose Dallas-based music show airs here from 9 p.m. to midnight weekdays on Univision Radio’s WOJO FM 105.1. Gone is the local nighttime show of Marialen “La Pecadora” Magana, who exited last month. A Chicago native, Magana worked at Loyola University’s WLUW FM 88.7 before joining Univision Radio in 2003.
Chicagoan Kurt Hanson’s Internet radio enterprise just hit another new milestone: Webcast metrics released Friday by Triton Digital show audience for AccuRadio grew 35 percent year-over-year, again making it the fastest-growing webcaster in America. (Next closest was Salem Communications, up 17 percent, followed by Univision Radio, up 16 percent, iHeartMedia, up 14 percent and Hubbard Radio, up 11 percent.) Boasting a million registered users, AccuRadio offers hundreds of music channels. It’s billed as “the first personalizable Internet radio station designed specifically for adults with sophisticated musical tastes.”