Robservations: Chicago Jewish Star closes

Chicago Jewish Star

Robservations on the media beat:

It’s over and out for the Chicago Jewish Star after 27 years of publication. Billed as Chicago’s oldest independent Jewish newspaper, the Skokie-based biweekly cited “an industry-wide decline in advertising revenues” for shutting down the family-run operation Friday. Winner of six Peter Lisagor Awards for excellence in journalism, the paper is a finalist for two more in this year’s competition. “We wanted to make what we did matter,” founding editor Douglas Wertheimer wrote in a farewell editorial. “We never ceased trying to do our best.”

Chicago Tribune

In a major restructuring of its Chicago area operations, tronc is splitting off the Chicago Tribune from its other local publications. On Monday the company announced creation of Chicagoland Targeted Media, which will oversee all 39 suburban daily and weekly newspapers, as well as Hoy, Chicago magazine, Naperville magazine and Splash. “We evaluated a variety of different structures that would allow us to serve our readers and customers, achieve our growth goals for the targeted media properties and, at the same time, free up key resources as the Chicago Tribune implements its newly launched newsroom and sales organizations,” the company told employees. Par Ridder, corporate vice president of sales and circulation, will become vice president/general manager of the new group. While the realignment may appear to signal an impending spin-off, a tronc representative disputed that idea. But the company offered no further clarification.

Bill Kurtis

Legendary anchorman Bill Kurtis will kick off a four-part series on “The Media and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention — Then and Now,” presented by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The discussion series will examine issues faced by media at the tumultuous convention 50 years ago and their impact today. Kurtis will deliver the keynote address on “Media in the Crucible” at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Medill’s Chicago campus at 303 East Wacker Drive. Featuring an impressive lineup of panelists, future topics are “Conflict and the Media” (June 6), “The Artistic Convention” (July 11), and “The Media Legacy of Chicago ’68” (August 8). All four events are free and open to the public. (Here is the link to reserve tickets.)

Studs Terkel

More than 5,600 of Studs Terkel’s Chicago radio shows will be released to the public online next week. May 16 — the 106th birthday of the late broadcaster, author and oral historian — will mark the launch of The Studs Terkel Radio Archive at It will feature interviews he hosted from 1952 to 1997 on Window to the World Communications classical WFMT 98.7-FM. Administered by the Chicago History Museum, the site will include conversations with such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Simone de Beauvoir, Bob Dylan, Cesar Chavez and Toni Morrison.

Michael Kutza

Michael Kutza, founder of the Chicago International Film Festival, announced plans Monday to step down after 54 years as head of the nonprofit Cinema/Chicago, which oversees the annual event. “Having spent most of my life dedicated to celebrating film and running a non-profit organization, I am excited to help curate the programming for the 2018 festival before taking some time to recharge my batteries and complete my book on a 50-plus-year look at the behind the scenes of the festival,” said Kutza, 78, who started it all in 1964. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this role for more than five decades.”


Entercom Newsradio WBBM 780-AM isn’t the only Chicago area radio station celebrating its 50th anniversary on the air this week. WONC 89.1-FM, the student-operated rock station of North Central College will mark its 50th with an open house and live broadcast on the studio lawn Friday at 232 East Chicago Avenue in Naperville. (The actual launch date was July 1, 1968.) As Marie Wilson reported in Monday’s Daily Herald, the event also will salute the retirement of John Madormo after 38 years as general manager of the award-winning station.

Monday’s comments of the day: Dan Miller: No one can claim to be current on Chicago news without listening to WBBM Newsradio 780 at least twice a day. The station’s editors, writers and anchors pack more new information into 10 minutes (even with commercials) than 10 minutes with any other electronic or print news product in town.

Eric Zorn: I call bullshit on this claim. Spend 10 minutes with the Tribune website or the Sun-Times website or Crain’s or the Daily Herald’s . . . and you’ll know far more about what’s going on locally nationally and internationally than you will in a random 10-minute — or even 30 minute — listen to WBBM-AM. Not to throw shade on WBBM — it does a fine job within the confines of the format, which not only includes commercials but traffic reports at least 90 percent of which are ALWAYS irrelevant to an individual listener. But come on.