Robservations: More than 30 staffers furloughed at iHeartMedia Chicago stations

iHeartMedia Chicago

Robservations on the media beat:

More than 30 full-time and part-time employees were placed on temporary unpaid leave this week at iHeartMedia Chicago in response to the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Sources said staffers in every department were affected by 90-day furloughs ordered throughout the country’s biggest radio company. Officials of iHeartMedia Chicago did not respond to requests for comment. Earlier, the company’s top executives said in a statement: “To be clear, while this will involve a small total number of employees, they are valued colleagues and we did not take this step lightly. We look forward to welcoming them back as soon as we can.” The iHeartMedia cluster here includes urban contemporary WGCI 107.5-FM, urban adult-contemporary WVAZ 102.7-FM, Top 40 WKSC 103.5-FM, adult contemporary WLIT 93.9-FM, country WEBG 95.5-FM, and gospel WGRB 1390-AM.

Howard Stern

Through May 15, SiriusXM Radio is making its full streaming lineup of music, entertainment, news and information — including Howard Stern’s premium content — available for free. No credit card or commitment are required to access more than 300 channels via the SiriusXM app and SiriusXM.com/streamfree. (Here is the link.) “In the days ahead, we hope it’s a valuable source of information or diversion, a generous mix of fresh live content, and a source of companionship that comes from the hosts on our many shows and channels,” said Jim Meyer, CEO of SiriusXM. Stern is broadcasting from his home.

Lolly Bowean

While its staffers are dispersed by stay-at-home orders, the Chicago Tribune newsroom took three big hits this week: Lolly Bowean, a general assignment reporter for more than 15 years and a former Nieman Fellow, resigned to join the Field Foundation of Illinois as media and storytelling program officer. Tony Briscoe, an environmental reporter who has covered the Great Lakes and climate change for five years, resigned to join ProPublica Illinois as an investigative reporter. And George Papajohn, associate managing editor for investigations, resigned after 38 years to accept a job he has not yet announced. Papajohn directed the Tribune’s “Hidden Hazards” project, which won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Siera Santos

No word yet on whether Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 plans to replace Siera Santos, who’s been a freelance sports reporter since 2018. She left this week to join KSAZ, the Fox station in her hometown of Phoenix. “Thank you for being the most passionate, knowledgeable sports fans I’ve ever covered in my career,” she said in a farewell video. “I have learned so much about myself here. I have grown personally and professionally.” Earlier Santos spent three years at NBC Sports Chicago.

Carol McGowan

It’s no more “Roy & Carol in the Morning.” In a followup to last week’s companywide layoffs at Alpha Media, Carol McGowan is out after 19 years as morning co-host at southwest suburban country WCCQ 98.3-FM. The Columbia College graduate previously worked at Shadow Broadcast Services/Metro Networks in Chicago doing news, traffic and weather. Roy Gregory continues as solo morning host at WCCQ.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Bob Roberts: 22nd Century Media and its papers are going to be missed. The coronavirus was merely the final straw; 22nd Century’s papers were already underdogs on the North Shore because of the decades of presence that the Pioneer Press chain and its Hollister predecessors had. Credit should be given to the editors and writers who sought out hyperlocal stories that often were far different from the decreasing amount of local coverage my Wilmette Life, Glenview Announcements and Northbrook Star provided in recent years. I’d like to personally thank Joe Coughlin for the obits he ran in the Wilmette Beacon for my parents (Dad was a long-time Wilmette business owner) in 2012 and 2013 and the Valentine’s Day feature a few years back on how I met my wife. But that’s a story for another time.