Robservations on the media beat:
A newsroom power struggle is over at the Chicago Sun-Times, where Carol Fowler is out after 14 months as senior vice president, digital news products. The action by the board of Sun-Times Media makes editor-in-chief Chris Fusco sole leader of the newsroom. “The board decided the newsroom structure didn’t work and the company is moving forward in a different direction,” Sun-Times Media said in a statement Tuesday. “The SVP position was eliminated.” Fowler’s departure follows that of Edwin Eisendrath, who resigned in October as chief executive officer of the company. Eisendrath hired Fowler to oversee “innovative storytelling,” including video production, podcasting and other digital media efforts. But her role — and Eisendrath’s interference — clashed with Fusco’s authority, according to insiders. Fowler previously served as news director of three Chicago stations (Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32) before she became an entrepreneur in social media management and strategy.
The future ownership of news/talk WGN 720-AM is up in the air again following the announcement Monday that Nexstar Media Group had agreed to buy Tribune Media. While “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9 may be the crown jewel among Tribune Media’s 42 television stations, the company’s sole radio station is unlikely to fit into the new owner’s plans. Pending regulatory approval and required divestitures, the Nexstar-Tribune deal won’t be finalized until late 2019. But industry speculation already has identified three big radio operators in Chicago — Hubbard Radio, Entercom Communications and iHeartMedia — as potential buyers of WGN Radio.
A five-part documentary series on the decline of Chicago’s African-American population will air next week on WVON 1690-AM, the Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk station. “Exodus: Movement of the People,” written and produced by WVON reporter Josh McGhee, will air weekdays at 7:50 and 11:50 a.m. and at 4:50 and 7:50 p.m., starting Monday. A podcast of the series also will be uploaded at wvon.com. “We wanted to find the right mix of people and tell a broader story in order to fully respect the black experience in Chicago,” McGhee said in a statement. “People care deeply about this city and their role in it, and we wanted to get it right.”
It’s the ultimate coffee table book for fans of Tribune Tower, home of the Chicago Tribune for 93 years until the landmark building was sold and the newspaper was evicted. Tribune Tower Farewell: A Celebration of the Iconic Tribune Tower and the People Who Worked There, just published by Weeva, features more than 300 color photographs by John O’Neill, who recently stepped down after four decades in sales and leadership roles at the Tribune. More than 40 employees contributed stories to the 300-page book, which includes an essay by the great Rick Kogan and a farewell drawing by Scott Stantis. (Here is the link.)
With Lisa Dent promoted to middays at country WEBG 95.5-FM, Jeffrey T. Mason takes over Dent’s former shift from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the iHeartMedia station. Soon to mark his 20th year on the air in Chicago, Mason joined Big 95.5 as a part-time host in June. Before that he hosted afternoons and middays at WJMK, the former CBS Radio classic hits station. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff . . . through a lot of stations . . . and I really appreciate you sticking with me!” Mason wrote on his blog. “Fingers crossed we can do this again soon on weekdays.”
Only days after publication of his memoir, Playing Games Is Serious Business, prominent Chicago talent agent Steve Zucker died of cancer Sunday at 78. After years as a criminal defense attorney, Zucker shifted to sports and media management in the 1980s after he began representing Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. “I am going to miss my long time friend and agent, Steve Zucker,” McMahon tweeted. “Steve played a big role in my career and I owe much of the success I had to him.” Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Am Shalom, 840 Vernon Avenue, Glencoe.
Tuesday’s comment of the day: Ron Smith: You CAN go home again. Congrats to Randy Lane, a great program director, consultant and all-round nice guy.