Robservations on the media beat:
WCKG 1530-AM, the DuPage Radio sports/talk station that’s been calling itself “Fox Sports Radio,” this week is being rebranded as “Sportsbook Radio.” The move capitalizes on the legalization of sports wagering at casinos in Illinois. No word yet on any new programming at the west suburban Elmhurst station or on a replacement for Rich Eisen, whose syndicated midday show will be dropped by Premiere Networks, as of April 7. “We’re planning to develop long-form and short-form ‘Sportsbook Radio’ content on WCKG, with local casino and media partners to be announced,” said station manager Matt Dubiel. “That work is underway, but rather than have sports personalities cover gambling, we’d prefer to have gambling experts on air. Ultimately, we will see our studio inside a Chicago-area sportsbook to get as close to the action as possible.”
It took longer than expected, but veteran Chicago radio newsman John Dempsey is reuniting with Big John Howell. Starting Monday, Dempsey will shift to afternoons on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM, rejoining Howell, whose show airs from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The duo worked together for four years in mornings before Howell moved to afternoons in 2019. “I am thrilled to be working again with my friend John Howell,” said Dempsey, who’s been a fixture at WLS since 2007. “I think we have a proven on-air chemistry and connection that will well-serve our listeners in the run-up to this important 2020 election. Plus, and more importantly, this will free up our mornings so John and I can golf together.” News anchor Lauren Cohn will shift from afternoons to middays and will continue as a fill-in host at the station, according to an announcement Monday by Stephanie Tichenor, program director of WLS.
Steve Sanders announced his retirement five weeks ago (and stepped down on February 28), but WGN-Channel 9 doesn’t seem in any rush to name his replacement. A spokeswoman for the Nexstar Media Group station said there’s no time frame to designate a permanent successor on the midday newscast Sanders co-anchored with Dina Bair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Until then a variety of staffers will continue to rotate in the job.
A tip of the hat to our old friend Deborah Norville, who just marked her 25th year as anchor of “Inside Edition,” making her the longest-serving anchor on a daily TV news program. Before she achieved network stardom on NBC’s “Today,” Norville spent five years as a news anchor and reporter at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. In 1995 she replaced Bill O’Reilly as host of “Inside Edition.” In Chicago the syndicated magazine show airs at 3 p.m. weekdays on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.
Among the latest casualties of coronavirus concerns is the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association and Illinois Press Foundation, which was set for May 7 and 8 in Springfield. It’s been postponed until October, “given the uncertainty of the impact of the coronavirus,” according to the organization. Also derailed Monday was a long-planned 60th anniversary reunion of WLS Musicradio Alumni (1960 to 1985), which was set for March 28 in Chicago. No word yet on when it will be rescheduled.
Monday’s comment of the day: Ron Riley: I want to thank you for that wonderful tribute to my longtime friend and former colleague Clark Weber. He and I shared so many great memories both on and off the air. He was a spirited person and always ready with some hilarious remark and a good laugh. He’ll truly be missed by many of us whose lives he touched.