Robservations on the media beat:
A Monday-through-Friday anchor team has been hired, studios are under construction, and a September 1 target date has been announced for the launch of “News Nation,” the primetime national newscast from WGN America. The identity of the anchors and other on-air talent remains under wraps, but in an earnings call with analysts Wednesday Nexstar Media Group chairman and CEO Perry Sook said plans are proceeding despite business challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Airing from 7 to 10 p.m. seven nights a week, the newscast will originate from WGN America’s Chicago headquarters and reach a potential audience of more than 75 million homes. Jennifer Lyons, former news director of WGN-Channel 9, was named vice president of news for WGN America in January. Vowing that “News Nation” would be “100 percent absent of bias,” Sook said: “We’re so serious about that we’re hiring a panel of rhetoricians to review our broadcasts for unconscious bias that may creep into the words we use and the reporting that we do.”
In a final footnote to a sorry chapter in TV history, Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed Wednesday to pay a $48 million fine — the largest in Federal Communications Commission history — stemming from its aborted acquisition of Chicago-based Tribune Media in 2017. The civil penalty resolves three outstanding FCC investigations. “Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Today’s penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair/Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licensees seeking commission approval of a transaction in the future.” It could have been worse for Sinclair. “I disagree with those who, for transparently political reasons, demand that we revoke Sinclair’s licenses,” Pai added. “While they don’t like what they perceive to be the broadcaster’s viewpoints, the First Amendment still applies around here.” After Sinclair’s bid collapsed, the parent company of “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN was acquired by Nexstar Media Group in 2019.
Good news for fans of John Records Landecker: When the legendary Chicago radio personality is inducted in the National Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcasting Hall of Fame next week, we’ll all be able to watch it live. The ceremony had been set for April 20, but the coronavirus shutdown canceled the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas. So now it’s happening online at noon May 14 on NABShowExpress.com. Registration is free. (Here is the link.) Previous NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductees from Chicago include Larry Lujack, Dick Orkin, Tom Joyner, Wally Phillips, Harry Caray and Paul Harvey.
Michael Englehaupt has been hired as vice president, technology for public TV WTTW-Channel 11 and classical radio WFMT 98.7-FM. His appointment, effective next week, was announced Wednesday by Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of parent company Window to the World Communications. Englehaupt most recently was vice president and chief technology officer of Graham Media Group, where he worked for CEO Emily Barr, former president and general manager of ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Earlier he held senior level broadcast operations and engineering positions at ABC 7 and NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5/Telemundo WSNS-Channel 44, where he started his career.
Mark Schoofs, a former editor of Chicago’s LGBTQ weekly Windy City Times, has been named editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist previously worked for the news site as head of its investigative unit. He most recently has been a visiting professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He also worked for ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal and The Village Voice. At BuzzFeed News, Schoofs replaces founding editor Ben Smith, who left to become media columnist for The New York Times.
Two documentaries with roots in Chicago and a local news investigative series are among 60 nominees for this year’s Peabody Awards. Documentary nominees include “16 Shots,” Showtime’s account of the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police, and “Surviving R. Kelly,” Lifetime’s blockbuster series on women who survived alleged sexual abuse from R&B superstar R. Kelly. In the news category, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 was nominated for “Unwarranted,” Dave Savini’s investigation of Chicago police conducting raids on the wrong houses. Now in their 80th year, the Peabodys are presented by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
Wednesday’s comment of the day: Abdon M. Pallasch: Thanks, Jim, for not giving up on all those girls and their families who kept calling you over the years when the police could not help them. Congrats to both Jim DeRogatis and Clarence Waldron for the honor.