Robservations: ‘Painful’ layoffs hit Entercom Chicago radio stations

Diana Steele

Robservations on the media beat:

Connor McKnight

At least eight on-air personalities and one program director were among dozens of staffers cut at Entercom Chicago radio stations Thursday. They included Elk Grove Village native Diana Steele, midday host at classic hip-hop WBMX 104.3-FM; Mike Kasper, afternoon host at country WUSN 99.5-FM; and Eric Tyler, afternoon host at Top 40 WBBM 96.3-FM. Sports/talk WSCR 670-AM took the biggest hit, losing midday co-host Connor McKnight, evening and weekend host Julie DiCaro, reporter David Schuster, producer and podcast host Rick Camp and freelance weekend host Maggie Hendricks. Also laid off was Kenny Jay, program director of US99. Many more positions in sales, promotions, digital and other areas also were eliminated or furloughed, sources said. Employees making more than $50,000 were given pay cuts of 10 to 20 percent. Entercom CEO David Field, who had his own salary reduced 30 percent, cited the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on advertising revenues. “We must take hard but necessary actions to ensure that we endure the crisis and emerge as a strong, healthy and competitive company,” Field said. “I am deeply saddened that we need to make these painful moves at this time, but they are necessary under the circumstances.”

Chicago Tribune Guild

The union representing editorial employees at the Chicago Tribune is calling on the company to allow journalists covering the pandemic not to use their own sick time if they contract COVID-19. “This stance by the company is particularly unfair to any hourly employees with finite sick time,” the Chicago Tribune Guild said in a statement. “They shouldn’t have to burn their days off because they did their jobs in service of our readers. We’re proud of the work all our newsrooms have done, and there is more to come. We would simply ask for fair, responsible treatment as we work to keep readers informed of this life-or-death event.”

WFMT

WFMT 98.7-FM, the Window to the World Communications classical music station, is partnering with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a six-week radio series, “From the CSO’s Archives: Maestro’s Choice — For All Music Lovers in These Difficult Times,” hosted by Kerry Frumkin. Curated by CSO music director Riccardo Muti, the two-hour concert broadcasts will air at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, starting next week. “During these times of uncertainty, and with the absence of live music in our concert halls, I hope that people everywhere will remain connected to the wonderful artistry of the Chicago Symphony through these special programs,” Muti said. The series also will stream live at wfmt.com and the WFMT app and on demand at csosoundsandstories.org.

Steve Darnall

Steve Darnall, host and producer of “Those Were the Days,” just posted the 100th edition of his Nostalgia Digest podcast. (Here is the link.) It features interviews with two of the guests scheduled to headline the 50th anniversary celebration of the weekly old-time radio showcase, which has been postponed from May 2. Joining Darnall on the two-hour podcast are Chicago TV legend Rich “Svengoolie” Koz and actress Patty McCormack. “We’re hoping they’ll join us once that [50th anniversary] event has been rescheduled,” Darnall said. “In the meantime, we’re grateful to both Patty and Rich for sharing their time and their memories about their careers and the entertainment that influenced each of them.”

Ana Belaval

“Reporting Live: I’m Ana Belaval,” the eagerly awaited one-woman show written and performed by WGN-Channel 9 “Around Town” reporter Ana Belaval, has been canceled. Performances had been scheduled for a week-long run at The Den Theatre, starting April 23. The theater will refund all ticket purchases. “We are hoping to restage our labor of love sometime in the fall of 2020, and we hope we can count on you guys when this national and international nightmare is over that you will come see ‘Reporting Live: I’m Ana Belaval,’” she told fans in a Facebook video.

Ed Farmer

Tributes poured in from the sports and media worlds Thursday to Ed Farmer, radio voice of the Chicago White Sox for nearly 30 years. Farmer, who also was a former all-star relief pitcher for the White Sox, died Wednesday in Los Angeles at 70. He long had suffered from polycystic kidney disease. “Ed grew up a Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago and his allegiance showed every single night on the radio as he welcomed his ‘friends’ to the broadcast,” said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. “I am truly devastated by the loss of my friend.” Recommended reading: Daily Herald sports columnist Barry Rozner’s thoughtful reflections on a brilliant and complicated man. (Here is the link.)

Thursday’s comment of the day: Kevin Matthews: Radio is not dead, it was murdered.