Robservations: WGN Radio declares ‘Virus-Free Friday’

Bob Sirott

Robservations on the media beat:

Sean Compton

They’re calling it “Virus-Free Friday” at WGN 720-AM. Morning star Bob Sirott and every other host at the news/talk station have been ordered to avoid mentioning the coronavirus pandemic that day (except as part of regular newscasts). It’s the idea of Sean Compton, executive vice president of Nexstar Media Group overseeing WGN, who wrote in an email to staff: “If a caller, guest, or even you yourself accidentally brings it up, you get zapped [with a buzzer sound effect] like the opening scene of ‘Ghostbusters.’ . . . This is a great way for us to offer a break for all our listeners and potentially encourage new listeners. Since we are talk radio and rely on current events, this can be challenging, so do some off-the-wall topics.” Sirott said he thought the gimmick would be “interesting,” adding: “I’ve been doing other [non-virus] segments occasionally anyway.”

Northwestern University

TV news is the No. 1 source of information for Illinois residents on COVID-19, according to results of a poll released Monday by Northwestern University. (Here is the link.) National and local TV news topped the list, followed by news on social media sites, online-only websites, local newspapers (print or online) and national newspapers (print or online). Radio news, including live broadcasts and podcasts, finished last. “I think it speaks to the accessibility of television,” said Stephanie Edgerly, associate professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. “Even in a world where you have many different options, a lot of people find the video storytelling environment to be something that they were relying on.” The Qualtrics online survey of 1,845 respondents was conducted from March 30 to April 17.

Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will host a visit to Shedd Aquarium in the premiere of “Stay Home. Hit Play.” It’s a weekly video series presenting “virtual field trips” to local treasures, airing on Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11. It will launch Wednesday on HitPlayChicago.org and air at 5:30 p.m. Friday on WTTW and at 12:30 p.m. Monday on WTTW Prime. “WTTW is honored to partner with the city of Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot, Citadel, and our city’s museums and cultural institutions on an initiative that aligns with our purpose to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration,” said Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of WTTW. “As a public media organization, it’s our role to respond to the needs of our community with trusted, educational and immersive programming.”

Ben Meyerson

Ben Meyerson, who resigned last month as digital content editor at the Chicago Tribune, has joined the editorial team of Ipsos in North America, an independent market research firm. “Very excited to have him join our efforts as newsletter editor,” said Matt Carmichael, vice president of editorial strategy. “He’s already killing it as we pivot ‘What the Future’ to talk about the crisis and beyond.” Meyerson previously worked for the Tribune’s RedEye, Blue Sky Innovation and Pioneer Press units. He’s also former president of the Chicago Headline Club.

Monday’s comment of the day: Chuck Schaden: I doubt if the 1954 song “Little Things Mean a Lot” (sung by Kitty Kallen) is on Rick O’Dell’s playlist, but it could go either way. The first line is “Blow me a kiss from across the room…” but then she sings, “Touch my hair when you pass my chair.” This whole exercise shows that we all must have a lot of time on our carefully washed hands these days! However, a welcome diversion.