Robservations: Jim Williams takes command of fiery night for CBS 2

Jim Williams and Jeremy Ross (CBS 2 Chicago, May 30, 2020)

A special Sunday edition of Robservations on the media beat:

Coming off one of the worst weeks ever for WBBM-Channel 2 (including the most brutal round of layoffs in 12 years), the CBS-owned station redeemed itself Saturday night with its marathon coverage of protests, looting and fires in Chicago’s Loop. Credit veteran news anchor Jim Williams, who led more than three hours of nonstop coverage solo with solid professionalism and a wealth of insight. That’s what comes with a lifetime in Chicago and decades of experience as a local journalist and former City Hall press secretary. As chaos unfolded steps outside CBS 2’s studios at Washington Boulevard and Dearborn Street, news director Jeff Harris flooded the zone with crews. Notable moments included reporter Jeremy Ross’s eyewitness account of looting and arson at a Michigan Avenue sports store, and reporter Charlie De Mar’s heartbreaking interview with the owner of Central Camera, who watched his 121-year-old family business burn to the ground. Reporter Jermont Terry, who joined CBS 2 just last fall, provided some of the night’s most thoughtful observations. Continue reading

‘Excited to be back,’ Joe Walsh to launch national radio talk show Monday

Joe Walsh (Photo: Ashlee Rezin)

Joe Walsh, the former firebrand congressman and talk show host who declared “I’m done with talk radio” last summer, is getting back behind a microphone again.

Starting Monday, Walsh will host a two-hour Monday-through-Friday talk show to be distributed nationally by Global American Broadcasting Radio Network. It will originate live from 10 a.m. to noon, but air in the Chicago area on delay from 3 to 5 p.m. on north suburban Evanston Broadcasting news/talk WCGO 1590-AM/95.9-FM. Continue reading

Robservations: ‘I’m Back’ podcast reveals Michael Jordan’s secret workout

Michael Jordan (Photo illustration: NBC Sports Chicago)

Robservations on the media beat:

“I’m Back,” a one-hour podcast chronicling Michael Jordan’s return to the Chicago Bulls in 1995 — including the revelation that he secretly worked out with the Golden State Warriors before his comeback to the NBA — has just been produced by NBC Sports Chicago. It includes new interviews with players Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant, Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Rod Higgins, Dominique Wilkins, Robert Horry, Glen Rice and LeBron James, agent David Falk, trainer Tim Grover and former NBA exec Brian McIntyre. (Here is the link.) It’s the first in a six-episode series of “Sports Uncovered” podcast documentaries being produced by the various NBC Sports Regional Networks. Hosted by Mike Tirico, future episodes will be released on successive Thursdays through July 2. Continue reading

Robservations: Rich Warren retiring from WFMT’s ‘Midnight Special’

Rich Warren

Robservations on the media beat:

Marilyn Rea Beyer

Rich Warren is stepping down after 37 years as host of “The Midnight Special,” the venerable weekly showcase for folk music, show tunes and comedy on WFMT 98.7-FM. His final broadcast of the show on the Window to the World Communications classical station will air July 25, but he’ll continue to host WFMT’s “Folkstage” concert series at 8 p.m. Saturdays. “Working for WFMT embodied my youthful dreams, and it has been my privilege and pleasure to contribute to the station and our audiences for 46 years,” Warren said. “As of last Saturday, I have hosted 1,268 installments of ‘The Midnight Special,’ and have never missed a single program. After these many years and programs, it’s time to let someone with their own fresh ideas take the microphone.” Starting August 1, the show will be hosted by Marilyn Rea Beyer, former midday host and music director at WUMB in Boston. Beyer, who grew up in south suburban Lansing, said she’s been a fan of “The Midnight Special” since her teens. Founded by the late director (and onetime WFMT announcer) Mike Nichols in 1953, “The Midnight Special” airs at 9 p.m. Saturdays. Continue reading

Mass layoffs at CBS 2 hit Pam Zekman, other ‘valued members of our team’

CBS 2 Chicago

The legendary Pam Zekman, one of Chicago television’s premier investigative reporters, was among at least a dozen employees at WBBM-Channel 2 who lost their jobs today in sweeping companywide layoffs at CBS, sources said.

Others cut reportedly included morning news anchor Erin Kennedy, sports anchor Megan Mawicke, meteorologist Megan Glaros, and reporters Mike Puccinelli and Mai Martinez, according to insiders. Additional staffers, including some outside of the news department, were expected to be notified before the end of the day. Continue reading

WGN to host statewide virtual town hall Thursday with Durbin, Duckworth

Illinois Town Hall

WGN-Channel 9 will originate a live virtual town on the coronavirus pandemic from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday — to be simulcast on news/talk WGN 720-AM and eight other Nexstar Media Group stations, covering all 102 counties in Illinois.

“Illinois Town Hall: Responding to COVID-19” will be hosted by WGN news anchors Tahman Bradley and Julie Unruh along with political analyst Paul Lisnek.

Guests will include the two U.S. senators from Illinois, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and mayors from towns across the state. Continue reading

Robservations: Community Trust funds hiring of two Sun-Times reporters

Elvia Malagón (Photo: Ashlee Rezin)

Robservations on the media beat:

Brett Chase

Two seasoned Chicago reporters will be joining the Sun-Times, thanks to a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. Elvia Malagón, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who previously worked for The Times of Northwest Indiana, will cover social justice and income inequality issues. Brett Chase, senior investigative reporter for the Better Government Association and a former reporter and editor for Bloomberg News and Crain’s Chicago Business, will cover the environment and public health. “Brett and Elvia are exactly the kind of journalists we envisioned taking on these roles when we began discussing the idea of these grant-funded positions with the Community Trust last year,” Sun-Times executive editor Chris Fusco said in a statement. “As our region emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, it will be more important than ever for our newspaper to continue shining a light on economic and health inequities, keep watch over education and immigration policies, and make sure our elected leaders are doing everything they can to safeguard the environment and stop widespread flooding.” The Community Trust will not supervise Malagón or Chase, whose stories will be available for free online. Continue reading

Sun-Times promotes top execs Nykia Wright, Chris Fusco

Chicago Sun-Times

The Chicago Sun-Times boosted two top bosses Friday with the promotion of interim CEO Nykia Wright to CEO and editor-in-chief Chris Fusco to executive editor.

“I am very happy for Nykia and Chris,” Jorge Ramirez, board chairman of the Sun-Times Media, said in a statement. “They have done a great job navigating a volatile business model in volatile times. The Sun-Times and all of our constituents are lucky to have them.” Continue reading

Stuck at home, viewers shift TV news habits in May

ABC 7 Chicago

Local news viewership is down in mornings but up significantly in afternoons, as Chicago area audiences adjust to life at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Results of Nielsen’s just-ended May sweep indicate morning viewership declined moderately, reversing the trend of audience increases during the early hours of the day. But news viewership between 4 and 6:30 p.m. was up more than 40 percent compared to last year, according to ratings analysts. Continue reading

Robservations: ‘Lucky guy’ Bob Stroud marks 40 years of ‘Rock ’n Roll Roots’

Bob Stroud

Robservations on the media beat:

A hearty high five to Bob Stroud, top-rated midday star at Hubbard Radio classic rock WDRV 97.1-FM, on celebrating 40 years as host of “Rock ’n Roll Roots.” This weekend he’ll feature songs from his 12 compilation CDs and intersperse air checks from shows on WMET, The Loop, AM 1000, CD 94.7 and WXRT. “In May of 1980 when ‘Rock ’n Roll Roots’ debuted on WMET, Dick Biondi was debuting his new Sunday morning show opposite me on The Loop,” Stroud told me. “I remember thinking: ‘What are the chances?’ I didn’t think ‘Roots’ would last four weeks let alone 40 years. I’m a lucky guy.” “Rock ’n Roll Roots” airs from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays (rebroadcast from 9 p.m. to midnight Sundays) on The Drive. Continue reading