Robservations on the media beat:
Thousands of words were written and spoken last week about the departure of the Chicago Tribune from Tribune Tower. But none resonated as much as this tweet by City Hall reporter Gregory Pratt: “I know the @chicagotribune is not Tribune Tower. It’s the staff and its readers. But the fact that a corporate divorce brought on by years of high-level corporate hijinx led to our building being sold out from underneath us will always sting. Corporate capitalism at its worst,” Pratt wrote. The eviction of the newspaper from its namesake home at 435 North Michigan Avenue didn’t have to happen. It only came about because the bosses of Tribune Media — a separate entity from the newspaper’s owner tronc — were determined to squeeze every penny out of the company before selling what was left to Sinclair Broadcast Group. For the short-term profit of a relatively small number of investors, the long-term legacy of a Chicago institution was lost. After 93 years in a landmark neo-Gothic cathedral of journalism, now the Tribune occupies leased space in One Prudential Plaza. What a shame.
In the latest nod to its organized labor ownership, the Chicago Sun-Times no longer outsources its customer service to a call center in Honduras. As of June 1, all calls are being handled by “the voices of other hardworking Chicagoans,” according to Nykia Wright, chief operating officer of Sun-Times Media. It’s about being a “local paper with local people on staff to serve our customers,” Wright said in a statement. Using local workers “debunks the myth that migrating jobs overseas always is more economical,” she added. (Update: The call center workers for the Sun-Times are not affiliated with a union.)
“DriveChicago,” the weekly talk show sponsored by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, has returned after three years to Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM. Airing at 8 a.m. Saturdays, the one-hour show is hosted by WLS news anchor Jennifer Keiper, who covered the auto industry for years as Midwest correspondent for Fox News Radio. The show also features Mark Bilek, director of communications and technology for the CATA, and Jim OBrill, director of marketing for the CATA and the Chicago Auto Show. “‘DriveChicago’ won’t only be about fast cars, but also trucks, SUVs, unique vehicles, industry news, trends, local events, and so much more,” Keiper said in a statement.
Pat Kelley, longtime Chicago area radio exec who served as senior vice president and general manager of the former smooth jazz station WLFM 87.7-FM, is returning to oversee Townsquare Media’s four-station cluster in Rockford. Since 2013 Kelley has been Northern Colorado market president for Townsquare in Ft. Collins, Colorado. In Rockford he’ll succeed Rod Zimmerman, who’s retiring July 1. Zimmerman previously was senior vice president and market manager of the former CBS Radio stations in Chicago.
Chicago TV newsman Patrick Elwood picked up a 2018 Illinois Father of the Year Award Thursday from the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. The general assignment reporter for Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 and father of four was recognized for raising $14 million for pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, among other charitable efforts. “So honored but still wondering if my kids had a vote:)?!” Elwood wrote on Facebook.
Friday’s comment of the day: Jake Hewitt: I consider myself pretty progressive, but I was really disappointed in the Sun-Times’ blind endorsements of union-backed challengers against incumbents with solid voting records but dared to oppose certain union-backed laws (e.g. the soda tax), and thought their primary coverage was biased in favor of J.B. Pritzker. When John Kass recently accused the news division of protecting a key members of ownership, they didn’t even respond. Worst, they cut or minimized the role of some of their best people (Mark Brown for example). I used to bemoan the thought of the Tribune being the only real watchdog in town – now I’m just kind of melancholy about it. I still subscribe to Sundays and the digital version, but I don’t read as much as I did even just a few years ago.