Robservations on the media beat:
Cumulus Media, parent company of news/talk WLS 890-AM and two other radio stations in Chicago, could be first in line to make a bid for news/talk WGN 720-AM if the station’s incoming owners put it up for sale next year. Nexstar Media Group has agreed to acquire Tribune Media, which includes 42 television stations, WGN America cable network and the standalone radio station. It’s willing to sell WGN Radio, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, which reported that Nexstar has no plans to build out a radio portfolio. Mary Berner, president and CEO of Cumulus Media, told staffers in Chicago last week that the company definitely was interested in WGN Radio. “It’s on our radar,” one insider said. Cumulus Media, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, also owns classic hits WLS 94.7-FM and alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM. Also reportedly considered potential buyers of WGN Radio are Hubbard Radio and Entercom Communications.
You could start a pretty good newspaper just by hiring the 16 journalists who left the Chicago Tribune in the latest round of buyouts. They include three Pulitzer Prize finalists and 431 years of experience with the company, according to the Chicago Tribune Guild. A tip of the hat to: Mike Danahey, reporter; Marie Dillon, deputy editorial board editor; Nuccio DiNuzzo, photographer; Ted Gregory, reporter; Joe Knowles, content director for sports; Susan Lafferty, reporter; Marcia Lythcott, commentary page editor; Rich Martin, copy editor; Mike Miner, page designer and illustrator; Ken Paxson, associate sports editor; Steve Rosenbloom, sports columnist; Steve Schmadeke, reporter; Soren Smith, editorial clerk; Matthew Walberg, investigative reporter; Chris Walker, photographer; and Paul Weingarten, editorial board member.
Good news for Hosea Sanders, the veteran news anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 who’s been off the air since June, recovering from intestinal surgery and treatment for prostate cancer. “I’m hoping to be back on the anchor desk sometime this week!” Sanders told Facebook friends Sunday. “My latest scans show the cancer is undetectable at this point, however we will continue to monitor. In addition, doctors also removed a major portion of both my large and small intestines. That led to medical complications followed by daily home health care. My surgeons have now determined that the operation was successful.” Along with Cheryl Burton, Sanders co-anchors the 7 p.m. weeknight newscast produced by ABC 7 for Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-Channel 26.
Sujay Kumar, a former writer and editor for The Daily Beast and Fusion, has been hired as managing editor for print at the Chicago Reader. “Sujay brings to the Reader a thoughtful demeanor and a dedication to Chicago-based investigative work that will prove central to expanding the ways in which we can engage directly with the people of this city,” editor-in-chief Anne Elizabeth Moore said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to bring him on board as we reinvigorate the alternative newsweekly model at this vital moment.” Said Kumar: “The Reader has a rich history of doing two things I love — investigative work and culture reporting. I can’t wait to join the staff in Bronzeville and build on that legacy. Also, I like how the paper smells.”
After 18 months as vice president of policy at the Better Government Association, Madeleine Doubek has resigned to become executive director of Change Illinois, a nonprofit coalition advocating for automatic voter registration and an end to gerrymandering. She previously served as publisher of Reboot Illinois and as political editor, managing editor and executive editor/assistant vice president at the Daily Herald. “We will miss having Madeleine at the BGA, and look forward to finding a forceful leader to pick up where she left off in fighting for open and accountable government,” said David Greising, president and CEO of the BGA. “And Madeleine will be a valued partner in the redistricting effort as leader of Change Illinois.” Rachel Leven will head the BGA’s policy team on an interim basis.
Jeremy Peterson, who was known on air as “Pyke” at the former classic rock WLUP, has landed at WXKR in Toledo, Ohio, as morning host. He previously worked in Toledo at WIOT, where he voice-tracked his show to 40 stations nationwide. Under Cumulus Media, Peterson spent three years as evening personality at The Loop before his job was cut in a workforce reduction in 2017. The northern Wisconsin native also worked in Chicago at iHeartMedia Top 40 WKSC 103.5-FM and Cumulus Media alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM.
The creative team behind Me-TV FM — Weigel Broadcasting’s soft-rock oldies WRME 87.7-FM — rates national attention this week. Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting, and Rick O’Dell, program director of Me-TV FM, share the secrets of their phenomenal success on “Brandwidth on Demand,” the free monthly podcast for radio professionals hosted by David Martin and Kipper McGee. Sabin, who created the format in 2015, recalls how he felt his iPod better represented Chicagoland classic hits than options presented by other broadcasters. (Here is the link.)
Friday’s comment of the day: Bill Paige: Sure, one way to look at it is that gossip is a pointless waste of space in a daily newspaper. On the other hand, Chicago is kind of lucky to still enjoy the work of a 75-year-old columnist who knows where a lot of bodies are buried. Journalism’s long tradition of quoting “unconfirmed sources,” from Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper, to Liz Smith and Mike Sneed, is probably due a bit of respect.