Robservations: Sun-Times columnist roomed with congressman

Mark Brown (Photo: Chicago Newsroom)

Robservations on the media beat:

Luis Gutierrez

Let’s at least give Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown credit for disclosing forthrightly that he shared a hotel room and rental car expenses with Luis Gutierrez while covering the Democratic congressman’s trip to Puerto Rico last week. Brown called it “an admittedly unorthodox decision . . . to reduce the logistical difficulties of following [Gutierrez] around to hurricane-damaged locations on the island,” adding: “That arrangement would not normally pass ethical muster from a journalism standpoint, but I thought it was the best way to get the story in this situation.” Sorry, that doesn’t make it right. The Sun-Times never should approve a deal like that with any politician. If Brown couldn’t get another room, then I’d argue he shouldn’t have gone.

Penny Pollack

Penny Pollack, the influential dining editor of Chicago magazine, announced her retirement Tuesday after 30 years with the tronc-owned monthly. “Penny is a civic treasure whose name is synonymous with dining out in Chicago,” editor and publisher Susanna Homan said in a statement. “We are lucky that her wit and insight have graced our pages for three decades.” Pollack, 70, joined Chicago as a part-time dining assistant in 1987 and moved up to dining editor in 1994. Her final dining section will appear in the December issue.

WLUP studio

Cumulus Media has agreed to buy classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 and alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1 from Merlin Media, according to a filing this week with the FCC. Since 2014 Cumulus has been operating The Loop and 101WKQX under a local marketing agreement with Merlin. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but reports pegged the deal at about $70 million. In Chicago, Cumulus also owns news/talk WLS AM 890 and classic hits WLS FM 94.7. Merlin was formed by Randy Michaels in 2011 after his ouster as CEO of Tribune Co.

Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin, the senior U.S. senator from Illinois and assistant Democratic leader, has come out squarely against the merger of Chicago-based Tribune Media and Sinclair Broadcast Group. “The combination threatens to do permanent damage to the American tradition of local broadcasting and will take a wrecking ball to the pillars of objectivism and diversity in local broadcasting,” Durbin wrote this week in Crain’s Chicago Business. “It’s true that Sinclair mandated its stations distribute its self-produced conservative content. But whether broadcast content is coming from the right or the left, my concerns focus on the fact that no single company should be able to decide what 72 percent of the country’s news looks like.” Tribune Media is the parent company of WGN-Channel 9 and news/talk WGN AM 720.

Mary Nissenson

Mary Nissenson, a Peabody Award-winning reporter who worked at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, the Chicago bureau of NBC News, and stations in New York and Miami, died Monday in Sausalito, California, TV Spy reported. She was 65. Nissenson, who grew up in Highland Park and graduated from Vassar College and University of Chicago Law School, gave up a corporate law career to join CBS 2 in 1978 as chief investigator of its Factfinder unit. She later formed Foresight Communications, a Chicago-based production company. Complications from a face-lift in 1995 left her with chronic, debilitating pain and led her to establish the Triumph Over Pain Foundation, a pain patient advocacy group. In recent years Nissenson blogged as a media critic and commentator for TheWrap.com.

Tuesday’s best comment: Sam Accardo: [Sean] Hannity is nothing more than a WH mouthpiece, and shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence with the great John Records [Landecker].