Robservations on the media beat:
Even Chicago’s spectacularly beautiful weather was in on the conspiracy to make Sunday a perfect day for Tom Skilling. Family, friends and co-workers from WGN-Channel 9 gathered Sunday night to surprise the superstar meteorologist, who turns 65 on Monday. What Skilling thought would be a quiet birthday dinner with friends became a grand and heartfelt tribute to Chicago’s most beloved broadcaster and America’s greatest weatherman. “I’m a senior citizen now — it’s official!” he told the roomful of well-wishers. “And by God, there’s life after senior citizenship!” Happy birthday, Tom.
With the 89th annual Academy Awards just around the corner Sunday, Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips is back on WFMT FM 98.7 with “The Film Score.” Phillips premiered the monthlong series on great movie music for the Window to the World Communications classical music station last year. All this week he’ll appear twice daily on WFMT — at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. — with highlights of movie musicals, including Oscar winners and “the ones that got away.” On February 27, Phillips will host a one-hour special recap of this week’s series at 10 p.m. on WFMT.
Univision Chicago officially dedicated new state-of-the-art radio studios Friday at 541 North Fairbanks Court, combining operations with Univision WGBO-Channel 66 and UniMás WXFT-Channel 60 and announcing the launch of Univision Local Media Content Creation Lab. Univision Radio includes Spanish-language stations WOJO FM 105.1, WPPN FM 106.7, WVIX FM 93.5/WVIV FM 103.1, and WRTO AM 1200. Expressing confidence in the project, Doug Levy, vice president and general manager of Univision Local Media here, said: “I know we will see continued success.”
Fans and colleagues are extending condolences to Ryan Chiaverini, co-host of WLS-Channel 7’s “Windy City Live,” on the loss of his mother. Edna Avery, 64, died Friday in California. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ryan’s mother,” John Idler, president and general manager of the ABC-owned station, said in a statement. “Ryan has been a devoted son who was by his mother’s side during the final stages of her courageous battle with cancer. In addition to being a valued member of ABC 7 and the ‘Windy City Live’ team, so many of Ryan’s co-workers, fans and people he’s connected with throughout Chicago, consider him a friend, and share his grief. I know you will all join me in supporting Ryan and keeping him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Laughter mixed with tears in Wilmette Friday night as friends raised a glass to Jeff McGrath, longtime Chicago television executive and former program director of ABC 7. McGrath, 73, died December 18 after a long illness. He was remembered as a generous mentor who championed many on both sides of the camera. Scott Steele, veteran meteorologist at WTMJ in Milwaukee, said he owed his career to McGrath, who hired him at ABC 7 as a 14-year-old intern (the youngest in the station’s history) and taught him the business inside and out. McGrath’s legacy also included discovering a 29-year-old Oprah Winfrey in Baltimore in 1983 and bringing her here to host “A.M. Chicago.”