Robservations on the media beat:
It’s probably fitting for Steve Dahl to be the last live voice we’ll hear on The Loop. The Chicago broadcast legend and Radio Hall of Famer, who rose to stardom four decades ago on WLUP FM 97.9, will preside over an official send-off for the classic rock station today. It comes on the eve of its takeover by Educational Media Foundation and switch to contemporary Christian music just before midnight Saturday. To mark the passing, Dahl’s afternoon show on news/talk WLS AM 890 will be simulcast on The Loop. Both stations broadcast from Cumulus Media studios. Among Dahl’s special guests will be fellow Loop luminaries Sky Daniels and Kevin Matthews. “I’ve been trying to wrap my head around WLUP switching from ‘Where Chicago Rocks’ to ‘Where Chicago Prays,’” Dahl said. “The Loop bounced radio waves around this city and into listeners’ brains for 40 years. Luckily, the curtain never comes down in the theater of the mind, so in that sense it will live on. I am honored/concerned I’ve been given the keys to lock the place up. Have you seen my keys?”
Also paying tribute to The Loop today will be longtime competitor WDRV FM 97.1, the Hubbard Radio classic rock station known as The Drive. The daylong salute will kick off at 10 a.m. with a special edition of “Ten at Ten” hosted by midday personality Bob Stroud, who’s also a veteran of The Loop. Program director Rob Cressman promises some “interesting surprises” as The Drive honors its rival and welcomes classic rock fans to switch to The Drive.
But wait, there’s more: David Plier, weekend host on Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720, has lined up Loop legends Garry Meier, Kevin Matthews, Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff to reminisce about the station’s glory days and its impact on the radio landscape. (Snyder and Leff, who first teamed up on The Loop, now host middays on WGN.) Plier’s show airs at 2 a.m. Sunday and uploads as a podcast Sunday morning at wgnradio.com.
It was only last spring that Chicagoly won the Peter Lisagor Award for general excellent in print journalism. Now the quarterly magazine is out of business. After two years of publication, 22nd Century Media has pulled the plug on Chicagoly, effective with its winter issue. Despite consistently good work, the print edition never turned a profit. “It’s truly a shame, because what we produced was special and compelling, and it was unique — and needed — in Chicago,” said publisher Joe Coughlin. “The messages from our readers since the announcement have really blown us away.”
The best media news of the week comes from Block Club Chicago, the nonprofit neighborhood news website being launched by editors from the former DNAinfo Chicago. Raising $183,720 from more than 3,000 contributors in one month, the startup became Kickstarter’s most-funded local journalism project in U.S. history. “We are tremendously honored and energized by the response to our Kickstarter,” said editor-in-chief Shamus Toomey. “Chicago really showed us they both miss DNAinfo and are eager for Block Club Chicago to come along. We can’t wait to get back to doing what we love.” Toomey said he expects the site to debut in late April or early May.
An effort to unionize editorial employees of the Chicago Tribune may be heating up. Staffers met Thursday night at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North with representatives of the Chicago News Guild, longtime bargaining agent for the Sun-Times and numerous suburban papers. The move comes on the eve of a sweeping reorganization of the Tribune newsroom in which employees may be required to reapply for their jobs. Further cuts are expected as the newspaper prepares to leave Tribune Tower for smaller space at Prudential Plaza. Earlier this year news staffers at the Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the News Guild-Communications Workers of America. Tronc, parent company of the Tribune and the L.A. Times, subsequently announced the sale of the L.A. Times.
There’s a $46 million deal in the works to sell the transmitter site of all-news WBBM AM 780 in Itasca. Entercom CEO David Field this week disclosed the price tag (but not the buyer), according to Tom Taylor Now. It’s expected to cost the company $2 million to move the antenna a few miles west to Bloomingdale, where WBBM Newsradio would share the transmitter site of sports/talk WSCR AM 670. As reported last fall, the move would require the 50,000-watt powerhouse to drop to 35,000 watts during the daytime and 42,000 watts at night. The nondescript white brick bunker in Itasca has been home of WBBM’s signal since 1942.
Thursday’s best comment: Richard Heffernan: Every time I’m back in Chicago, I’m deeply saddened by the sorry state of radio. What was once a truly great radio town has become like every other market with lame bits, faux outrage and forced laughter. But I happened to catch the first hour of the Steve Dahl Show on Monday (the day the Loop was sold) and it was nothing short of brilliant. The discussion of the Loop being sold and becoming a Christian radio station was smart, spontaneous and original. I laughed out loud more than once. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at anything on the radio but a politician. I read Steve getting a lot of grief in the comments section, but I don’t think you guys appreciate what you’ve got. Especially with this line up. It was observational, subversive and a spot on reaction to an iconic event. It was great broadcasting. Something you never hear these days.