Robservations: Ex-anchor recalls earlier era when WGN made news at 10 o’clock

Jack Taylor, Harry Volkman, Rick Talley and Len O’Connor

Robservations on the media beat:

A note here the other day about the ratings success of WGN-Channel 9’s 10 p.m. newscast prompted a gentle correction from Jack Taylor, the legendary Chicago broadcaster who anchored “Chicago’s Very Own” throughout the 1970s. It seems this isn’t the first time the station finished second at that hour. Taylor, 91, recalled: “In the early ’70s, [WGN station boss] Sheldon Cooper called me to congratulate me. He said: ‘Our 10 o’clock news has beaten Channel 2 and Channel 5 in the ratings. This is the first time an independent station has topped stations owned and operated by CBS and NBC. We went head to head with them and beat them in the ratings.’ We were, however, unable to get a larger audience than Fahey Flynn and his ‘Happy Talk’ gang at Channel 7. Harry Volkman, Rick Talley and Len O’Connor joined me each night in our effort to present a telecast that had wide appeal and integrity. They are gone now, as is Jack Brickhouse and the other sports people who were on the air when Rick Talley was not available. It is only fair to recognize that WGN News was outstanding in attracting a large audience in the past as well as the present.” Continue reading

Robservations: Mary Mitchell returns to Sun-Times as full-time columnist

Mary Mitchell

Robservations on the media beat:

One year after Mary Mitchell semiretired, the Chicago Journalism Hall of Famer is returning to the Sun-Times as a full-time columnist. Starting in August she’ll write two columns a week and take on a new position as director of newsroom culture and community engagement. In the new role, Mitchell said she will use her “institutional knowledge of the city and of the newsroom to help ensure that we are practicing what we preach when it comes to racial inclusion and equity.” In July 2019 Mitchell stepped down after 29 years at the paper and shifted to writing occasional columns and serving as consultant to the editorial board. Announcing Mitchell’s return to the staff, Sun-Times executive editor Chris Fusco said: “She’s long given a voice to the voiceless, and her voice is needed now, more than ever.” Continue reading

Block Club Chicago teams with Austin Weekly on free West Side newsletter

Michael Romain and Pascal Sabino

The underserved communities of Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side are the focus of a free twice-weekly newsletter to be launched jointly today by two local newsrooms.

Neighborhood news website Block Club Chicago and the Austin Weekly News are collaborating on the newsletter, which will be delivered to subscribers by email on Wednesdays and Fridays. (Here is the link to subscribe.) Continue reading

Robservations: Opening Day to reveal new NBC Sports Chicago studio

NBC Sports Chicago

Robservations on the media beat:

Just in time for coverage of White Sox Opening Day Friday, NBC Sports Chicago will unveil its fancy new studio. The 4,100 square-foot space will serve as the main set for White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls pre/postgame shows as well as “SportsTalk Live” and additional programming. Among its many bells and whistles is an LED floor equipped to break down plays for all sports. “Our incredible new studio will allow our expert talent roster to showcase our robust multi-platform content like never before,” said Kevin Cross, senior vice president/general manager of NBC Sports Chicago. “The state-of-the-art design will lend itself to our ongoing innovation on how we deliver content to the entire Chicago sports fan base. We’re very excited and looking forward to Friday night’s inaugural broadcast from this world-class studio facility.” Continue reading

Robservations: Newsweb hands back WAIT’s license to FCC

Newsweb Corporation

Robservations on the media beat:

Fred Eychaner

For the second time in five years, Chicago-based Newsweb Corp. has shut down a suburban radio station and given its license back to the FCC. WAIT 850-AM has been off the air since August 2019 when Newsweb sold the transmitter site in Crystal Lake to McHenry County College. Last week Newsweb notified the FCC that the station has “permanently ceased operations” and the company was surrendering its license. Newsweb acquired the 2,500-watt daytime station for $8.25 million in 2003. In 2015 Newsweb shut down and returned the license of WCFJ 1470-AM in south suburban Chicago Heights. “We have learned these fringe AMs with limited coverage cannot produce enough revenue to cover out-of-pocket operating costs of the most efficient operators,” Mark Pinski, general manager of Newsweb Radio, said in a company statement. “Our remaining stations have very competitive signals. We expect there will be other failures in suburban radio particularly given the abysmal advertising climate.” Owned by media magnate and Democratic megadonor Fred Eychaner, Newsweb operates progressive talk WCPT 820-AM and time-brokered WCPY 92.7-FM, WSBC 1240-AM and WNDZ 750-AM. Continue reading

Robservations: WVON to add ‘enhanced news’ with Black Information Network

Roland S. Martin

Robservations on the media beat:

Details are still being finalized, but look for Midway Broadcasting news/talk WVON 1690-AM to supplement its lineup with news reports from BIN: Black Information Network, the 24/7 national audio news service recently launched by iHeartMedia. “It’s a perfect complement to our Black talk format,” said Melody Spann Cooper, chair and CEO of Midway Broadcasting. “WVON is hyperlocal, but what impacts Black America impacts us here in Chicago, where we represent one-third of the city’s population. Enhanced news is needed and iHeart’s timing is perfect.” Since June 30, the network also has been carried in Chicago on the HD-2 subchannel of WVAZ 102.7-FM, the iHeartMedia RB station.

Black Information Network

The first major hire for BIN: Black Information Network, announced this week, is prominent political pundit Roland S. Martin, who’ll deliver daily commentaries for the network. “We are living in a time where we need more coverage about the issues facing African Americans,” Martin said. His deal also calls for his daily digital program, “Roland Martin Unfiltered,” to be carried by the iHeartPodcast Network. Now based in Washington, D.C., Martin previously was executive editor and general manager of the Chicago Defender and hosted mornings and middays on WVON. Continue reading

WBBM Newsradio cuts ‘valued members’ George Ofman, Kris Habermehl

WBBM Newsradio

Even the No. 1 radio station in town isn’t exempt from cutbacks sweeping the media industry.

WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the top-rated and top-billing Entercom all-news powerhouse, just laid off two station stalwarts known for their dedication and consistently excellent work — longtime sports anchor George Ofman and “Mobile 780” radio traffic and spot news helicopter reporter Kris Habermehl. Continue reading

Robservations: Me-TV FM license owner isn’t losing sleep over FCC deadline

Me-TV FM

Robservations on the media beat:

Don’t worry, Me-TV FM fans. Your favorite soft-rock oldies station won’t be going away. At least that’s the word from Venture Technologies Group, which owns the license for WRME 87.7-FM, the low-power analog station on VHF Channel 6 leased by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting as the home of Me-TV FM. On Monday the FCC reaffirmed July 13, 2021, as the deadline for all low-power Channel 6 TV stations operating as radio stations on 87.7 FM to cease broadcasting. (Here is the link.) “We have a solution and [are] moving forward,” Paul Koplin, CEO of Venture Technologies Group, told me. The company is in the process of converting its Channel 6 stations (including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and elsewhere) to digital with an analog audio carrier imbedded in the signal. “We have submitted technical studies to the FCC to demonstrate how this works, and stations in several markets are converting right now,” Koplin said. Neal Sabin, vice chair of Weigel Broadcasting and creator of Me-TV FM, said simply: “Please stand by.” In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, Me-TV FM posted an impressive 3.0 percent audience share, ranking 12th overall. Continue reading