Robservations on the media beat:
Eddie Olczyk, the former Chicago Blackhawks center turned sports broadcaster, is joining ESPN Radio sports/talk WMVP AM 1000 as co-host of David Kaplan’s midday show. Starting this week, he’ll appear with Kaplan from 9 a.m. to noon two days a week (generally Mondays and Fridays). Jim Pastor, vice president and general manager of ESPN 1000, said in a statement: “What fans may not realize is that Eddie is not only a legendary hockey and horse racing broadcaster, but having grown up here, he’s also a huge fan of all Chicago sports teams. Pairing him twice a week with his good friend David Kaplan will give him a chance to put those passions on display for ESPN listeners.” Calling it “an incredible opportunity,” Olczyk said: “To work with Kap, who is a great friend and a media legend in our city, will be challenging and a lot of fun. I cannot wait to join him.” Olczyk, who recently bounced back from colon cancer, will continue as an analyst for NBC Sports, NBC Sports Chicago and Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9.
Tronc, the most ridiculed and reviled corporate name in all of media, will soon be history. The parent company of the Chicago Tribune will revert to its former identity — Tribune Publishing Inc. — according to a spokeswoman, who said the change was approved by the company’s board last month. Now that tronc has sold the Los Angeles Times (the $500 million deal closed Monday), the renaming is considered “imminent.” Tronc, which supposedly stood for “Tribune Online Content,” was a relic of Michael Ferro, who forced the godawful name on the company in 2016. The Chicago tech entrepreneur, who still is tronc’s biggest shareholder, stepped down as chairman in March just hours before Fortune magazine published allegations of sexual misconduct.
The sale of the Los Angeles Times and the appointment of Norman Pearlstine as executive editor brought to an end the newsroom leadership of Jim Kirk. The former publisher and editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times had been commuting from Chicago and serving as editor of the L.A. Times under tronc. “Through months of uncertainty, Jim has been a steady hand helping to ensure that The Times continues to do what it does best,” new owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong told staffers in an email. “He is a real pro, as they say. Jim has removed obstacles, managed the staff capably and done what every leader at The Times hopes to do: Oversee incredible works of journalism. . . . My family and I are incredibly grateful for his leadership during this time and wish him the best going forward.” No word yet on what’s next for Kirk.
Steve King and Johnnie Putman have been tapped to host the inaugural broadcast Wednesday of “WGN Nightside,” the new late-night show on Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN 720-AM. Airing from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., it’s the bridge between evening co-hosts Patti Vasquez and Andrea Darlas and overnight host Nick Digilio. King and Putman, who drew top ratings for WGN on overnights for more than 26 years, were inducted in the WGN Walk of Fame in 2015. Could this lead to more for the husband-and-wife team? “If, now and then, the planets align and WGN and the two of us feel like revisiting this kind of occasional slide back inside your radio speaker, it might be fun,” King said. “WGN Nightside” will air on nights without live sports broadcasts.
Cumulus Media closed Monday on the $18 million purchase of WKQX 101.1-FM from Merlin Media. Cumulus has been operating the alternative rock station since 2014 under a local marketing agreement with Merlin. The deal also gives Cumulus the call letters and intellectual property of former classic rock WLUP 97.9-FM. (Merlin sold The Loop in March to Educational Media Foundation.) Cumulus also owns news/talk WLS 890-AM and classic hits WLS 94.7-FM. In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, 101 WKQX tied for 14th place with a 3.1 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 1,248,100.
Funeral arrangements have been announced for Elizabeth Brackett, the longtime Chicago journalist and world champion triathlete who died Sunday after a bicycle accident at 76. Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Kenilworth Union Church, 211 Kenilworth Avenue, in Kenilworth. Highlights of Brackett’s remarkable career — including her work for “The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour” on PBS and “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW-Channel 11 — have been posted on the Media Burn video archive. (Here is the link.)
Monday’s comment of the day: John Landecker: There are a ton of different ways to spin the WGN ratings story. First of all is the PPM method which is too technical to get into here. Then you have the general demise of AM radio. WBBM avoids both of those trends with great programming of the all news format and decades of Chicago radio history behind it. I think the “Trump bashing” and “liberal” as the reasons behind the ratings drop only goes so far. If that were the case WLS AM should be doing a a lot better than they are. What ever your political leanings I think we should root for WGN. Say what you will they have live, local programming 24 hrs a day. No syndication. No one from the outside. I believe WLS does two local shows a day. Big John [Howell] and Ray [Stevens] and Steve [Dahl] in the afternoon. I like both shows but am not a fan of syndication regardless of its viewpoint. It’s ironic that these WGN ratings happen just as Sinclair prepares to take control.