Robservations on the media beat:
Sinclair Broadcast Group plans to sell WGN-Channel 9 and stations in New York and San Diego to comply with ownership limits as part of its amended $3.9 billion proposed merger with Tribune Media, according to a filing Wednesday with the FCC. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be taking over “Chicago’s Very Own.” Even if Sinclair transfers the license for WGN, the company still plans to operate it (and WPIX in New York) under “shared services agreements” with separate licensees. “It’ll be one of those arrangements where, for all intents and purposes, they still own and run the stations,” said a former FCC staffer, who called it “a complete and total evasion of the rules.” In any case, Sinclair is expected to own Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720 outright. The controversial merger still awaits FCC and Justice Department approval.
Lorraine Forte, executive editor of The Chicago Reporter and former editor-in-chief of Catalyst Chicago, has been hired by the Sun-Times as a member of its editorial board. Starting March 12 Forte will write editorials and help select and edit op-ed columns and letters. She will report to editorial page editor Tom McNamee. It’s a return to the Sun-Times for Forte, who previously was a reporter. “I’m really thrilled and excited to rejoin the staff of the Sun-Times,” she said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to playing a key role at the paper as it keeps moving forward during challenging but exciting times.”
Dave Newbart, former senior editor at DNAinfo Chicago, has been named interim executive editor of the Chicago Reader as parent company Sun-Times Media seeks a permanent replacement for Mark Konkol. Konkol was forced out after little more than two weeks after a cover he commissioned ignited a political and racial controversy. Before joining DNAinfo, Newbart was an assistant city editor and reporter for the Sun-Times. Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath said he brought Newbart in to “stabilize the Reader and get the next few issues out,” and hopes to name an editor within a few weeks. “I’m an optimist when it comes to the Reader,” Eisendrath added.
Dan Uslan, founding president and publisher of Michigan Avenue magazine has been promoted to market president and group publisher for Modern Luxury in Chicago. He’ll oversee the company’s CS (Chicago Social), Michigan Avenue, NS (North Shore), Modern Luxury Weddings Chicago, Weddings North Shore, Modern Luxury Interiors, Men’s Book Chicago, and Modern Luxury City Guide Chicago, among other titles. Uslan replaces Randy Hano, who left the company. Hano, a former publisher of Chicago magazine and Time Out Chicago, declined to comment. Uslan said in a statement: “Our esteemed publications represent the best of the city, and I am looking forward to continuing to build upon the highly successful media properties and authoritative luxury publications, events and digital offerings that Chicagoans have grown to expect.”
Friday marks the return of Weekend Plus as the weekly arts and entertainment section in the Sun-Times. It replaces Agenda, which had been co-produced with the staff of the Reader since 2013. The new Weekend Plus will include movie and television coverage from Richard Roeper and other features. “With an exciting new look and coverage of all-things Chicago, readers will find Weekend Plus essential to planning weekend fun,” Sun-Times editor-in-chief Chris Fusco said in a statement.
How does a retired weatherman spend his time? If you’re Jerry Taft you become an Uber driver. Reporters tracked down Taft, 74, in Naples, Florida, where he retired last month from ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 after more than 40 years as a Chicago meteorologist. First day’s earnings as a driver for hire: $84.61. Taft told the Chicago Tribune’s Kim Janssen: “It’s not about the money — it’s about getting out of the house and talking to people,” adding: “I promise I didn’t talk about the weather once.”
Wednesday’s best comment: Carl Grapentine: Thanks for all the kind words. But I’d like to point out that Rob Feder did a feature article on me for the Sun-Times when I was hired by WFMT in 1986 — and here he is reporting on my retirement 32 years later! Thanks … and all best to you.