Robservations: WGN’s ‘Sweetness’ special scores in primetime

Walter Payton

Robservations on the media beat:

Twenty years after his passing, Walter Payton is still a champion in Chicago. “Savoring Sweetness: The Life & Times of Walter Payton,” a one-hour special on the Chicago Bears legend, topped the primetime ratings for its premiere Wednesday on Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9. More than 172,300 households tuned in, according to Nielsen figures. It also finished first in key demographics. Payton’s son, WGN sports reporter Jarrett Payton, hosted the special, which featured interviews with teammates, family and friends of the famed running back. “Savoring Sweetness” will be rebroadcast at 10 p.m. Saturday on WGN and at noon Sunday on CLTV.

Adam Hoge

Bears Insider Adam Hoge, host of “Sports Central” on wgnradio.com, has been promoted to manager of digital sports content for Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN 720-AM. The move coincides with the launch of a content partnership between WGN and The Athletic, the subscription website. Hoge continues to co-host the podcast “Hoge & Jahns” with Adam Jahns, who covers Bears as a senior writer for The Athletic. The Bears-focused show will release additional weekly episodes as bonus content available only to subscribers of The Athletic.

James “Big Cat” Williams

James “Big Cat” Williams, the former Bears All-Pro offensive lineman, has returned as resident Bears analyst on WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight.” He’ll appear every Thursday before Sunday or Monday games, and every Wednesday before Thursday games. “His insights and analysis will be invaluable as we follow the Bears’ progress through the coming season and perhaps beyond to the playoffs and the Super Bowl,” said supervising producer Jay Smith. “Chicago Tonight” airs at 7 p.m. weeknights on the Window to the World Communications station.

Tom Griswold

Cumulus Media is bringing “The Bob & Tom Show” to Chicago. Starting Monday, the nationally syndicated morning show will air from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WKQX-HD2, the HD2 side channel of alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM. Hosted by Radio Hall of Famer Tom Griswold, the Indianapolis-based show features an ensemble cast delivering comedy, talk, news and sports. “American radio has always been led by what’s on the air in Chicago,” Griswold said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be part of the mix.” (Longtime partner Bob Kevoian retired in 2015.) According to Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, 22.2 percent of cars in the Chicago area are equipped with HD Radio, providing programming that complements the primary signals of terrestrial stations.

“South Side Stories”

Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM has teamed up with Comedy Central to launch a podcast inspired by the comedy series “South Side.” Hosted by Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin, creators, executive producers, writers and stars of the series, “South Side Stories” marks a first for a public media organization and cable television partner on a podcast. “This is an exciting collaboration for us at WBEZ Chicago,” said executive producer Kevin Dawson. “‘South Side Stories’ will give podcast listeners an authentic portrayal of what life on our city’s South Side is all about and worth celebrating, with the funny and sharp humor that only Comedy Central can deliver.”

Rachel Kelso

Rachel Kelso, a morning show producer at WSTR in Atlanta, has signed on as associate producer of Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle’s morning show at Hubbard Radio classic rock WDRV 97.1-FM. The newly created position reports to executive producer Jill Egan. Kelso, a native of Arlington, Texas, graduated from the University of Georgia. “As downsizing across our industry continues, it is refreshing and energizing to be afforded the opportunity to strengthen our roster and build upon the consistent success of ‘The Sherman & Tingle Show’ in Chicago,” said Rob Cressman, program director of The Drive.

John Lansing

John Lansing, former news director at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, has been named CEO of NPR. The veteran media executive most recently headed the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). Lansing previously headed the Scripps Networks cable empire. His brief tenure at CBS 2 in the mid-’90s was marked by a return to serious journalism after years of “if it bleeds, it leads” sensationalism.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Gustaf Rand: What I noticed about the Larry Yellen well wishes? His competitors all think the world of him. Think about that for a moment. Every other TV news operation in town is represented here. That is most cool. Godspeed, Larry.

A personal note: I’ll be posting sporadically here for the next few weeks while I spend time working on some personal business. I’ll be back on the beat full-time soon. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up for free email alerts in the box to the right under “Subscribe to Feder.”