Robservations on the media beat:
It didn’t take long for the new owner of WGN 720-AM to start shaking things up. Less than 24 hours after acquiring the former Tribune Broadcasting news/talk flagship, Nexstar Media Group fired Todd Manley, station manager and vice president of content, and named news and operations director Mary Sandberg Boyle interim boss. Manley, who’d headed programming since 2013, took the fall for WGN’s precipitously low ratings. In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, the station tied for 16th place overall, with mornings, middays, afternoons and evenings all out of the top 10. In a meeting with staffers Friday, new executive vice president Sean Compton hinted at more changes to come.
Dana Kozlov, the always excellent general-assignment reporter for WBBM-Channel 2, has been named lead political reporter at the CBS-owned station. “Dana will work to uncover corruption in our governmental agencies and also lead our coverage efforts as we move into the big 2020 political season,” said Jeff Harris, vice president/news director at CBS 2. The political beat has been open since Derrick Blakley retired in June. Kozlov, native of Palatine and graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined CBS 2 in 2003 after eight years at WGN-Channel 9.
The season’s final home game of the Chicago Cubs also marked a farewell for Daily Herald sportswriter Bruce Miles, who announced his semi-retirement Sunday. “It’s been a great ride on the Cubs beat for the Daily Herald since 1998 and on the baseball beat since 1989, when I would come out to both sides of town and help out the beat writers,” he wrote on Facebook. “I could not have asked for a better run. Stay tuned.” Cubs manager Joe Maddon presented Miles with a bottle of wine for his retirement.
WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Entercom all-news station, began broadcasting from new studios last week on the ninth floor of Two Prudential Plaza. “We’re excited about our brand new facilities,” said Ron Gleason, director of news and programming. “We have new equipment, new studios, and a state-of-art newsroom to help us better serve Chicagoans on the air, online and on their phones.” Also at WBBM Newsradio, the union representing news writers and assistant producers — the Writers Guild of America — has ratified a new three-year contract securing wage increases retroactive to April 6.
Tracy Williamson, founder of the marketing and promotion company TRE7 Entertainment, has been named program director of Crawford Broadcasting gospel WYCA 102.3-FM. She succeeds Debra Rhodes-Pettigrew, who continues to co-host afternoons with Norris Thompson. “We are excited about having Tracy on board,” said station manager Jana Bonds. “We are looking forward to continue serving and inspiring our WYCA Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana listeners.”
“Motive,” a new investigative podcast series, has been launched by Chicago Public Media news/talk WBEZ 91.5-FM. The first season, hosted by Sun-Times reporter Frank Main, chronicles the saga of Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, who was locked up as a 13-year-old boy for a murder he swore he didn’t commit, released as a 30-year-old man, and awarded $25 million for a wrongful conviction. He then lost it all and returned to prison after he shot a man from the driver’s seat of his Mercedes convertible. “The story of T.J. Jimenez is one of the most tragic stories I’ve covered — not only because of the damage done to him, but the damage he did to everyone around him,” Main said. “This podcast is an attempt to answer why it all happened.”
You can’t say iHeartMedia isn’t getting its money’s worth out of Jeffrey T. Mason. The longtime Chicago radio personality, who hosts weekends on country WEBG 95.5-FM, has just added Monday-through-Friday shows on three other national music formats. From Chicago he’s voice-tracking evenings on iHeart’s Lite Rock, Real Oldies and Soft Rock stations. (On Real Oldies he hosts Saturday nights as well.) “With four stations to choose from, there’s a little something for everyone . . . both musically and Jeffroly,” he said, adding: “I don’t think that’s really a word.”
Friday’s comment of the day: Dan Miller: A huge portion of what I heard about the news of the day over the last 41 years was designed and influenced by Larry Wert. A job well done, many thanks, and best of good fortune to you in the future.