Robservations on the media beat:
When Radio Hall of Famer John Records Landecker fills in next week for morning host Bob Sirott on WGN 720-AM, there may be a lot riding on it for both Landecker and the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station. If all goes well, insiders said, Landecker could be in line to host Monday through Friday evenings and serve as Sirott’s regular substitute in mornings, starting this fall. The two Chicago radio legends have been friends since they worked together at WLS 890-AM during its Top 40 heyday in the 1970s. “Listeners are going to discover that John’s middle name truly is ‘talk,’” Sirott joked. Meanwhile, one familiar voice we won’t be hearing on WGN is Garry Meier. Management sources confirmed there were talks with Meier about replacing afternoon host Roe Conn (whose contract is up at year’s end). But serious negotiations never got off the ground, and WGN bosses quietly dropped the idea.
With just two days to go, a monthlong Kickstarter campaign to launch a nonprofit digital newsroom on the North Shore reached its goal of $50,000 Wednesday. Joe Coughlin, Megan Bernard and Martin Carlino, three former editors of 22nd Century Media, are poised to start up The Record North Shore, initially serving Wilmette, Winnetka, Northfield, Kenilworth and Glencoe. “We have a news company, and it’s launching in September,” Coughlin tweeted. “Not sure what to say but thank you, thank you and let’s gooooo.” The hyperlocal news site will feature a mix of free, public-service journalism and subscriber content including news, sports and enterprise stories. 22nd Century Media, which published 14 community newspapers and websites in the area, ceased operations in March after 15 years.
On top of everything else they’re dealing with, now staffers at the Chicago Tribune are bracing for a sweeping reorganization of their editorial operation. In an email to employees Wednesday, editor-in-chief Colin McMahon and managing editor Chrissy Taylor announced plans for a “reinvention of the newsroom aimed at adapting our structure to better serve audience needs and deliver on mission.” They’re expected to shed more light on the plan August 12. “To be successful, we must continue to refine and rethink our jobs,” McMahon and Taylor wrote. “Today’s news consumer is looking for credible information delivered in dynamic and engaging ways. We have embraced change, but we need to continue to respond with greater creativity and decisiveness to flourish in today’s competitive news environment.”
As of today, Thursday print editions of the Sun-Times no longer will carry the WeekendPlus entertainment section. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, executive editor Chris Fusco wrote in a message to readers: “There simply aren’t enough live music, theater, dance and other cultural happenings to keep the section as robust as we’d like, so we’re taking the pages that had been devoted to WeekendPlus and shifting them to other days of the week for now.” Richard Roeper’s movie reviews and columns will continue to appear in the paper, as will the advice and horoscope columns of Dear Abby and Georgia Nicols. “From the Ebert Archive,” classic reviews by the late film critic Roger Ebert, will be cut after four years as a weekly feature. “We intend to continue showcasing Roger Ebert’s timeless writings when they can shed light on the cultural events of the moment,” Fusco added.
In lieu of Chicago’s annual Bud Billiken Parade (which has been canceled), ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will air “Bud Billiken: Celebrating 91 Years,” a one-hour special at 1 p.m. Saturday. Cheryl Burton, Jim Rose and Hosea Sanders will host the look back at past parades, with contributions from Terrell Brown and Karen Jordan. The special was taped at Burton’s alma mater, Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Englewood. “The rich legacy of the Bud Billiken Parade is a story that needs to be passed on even when faced with the challenges of a pandemic,” said John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7. It will be rebroadcast at 4 p.m. August 16.
Wednesday’s comment of the day: Bob Jordan: With no fear and no question out of bounds, Fran Spielman could get under the skin of every Chicago mayor she has covered. I used to love to cover city Hall press conferences just to watch her work. By asking appropriate, tough questions and being unrelenting in her follow-up probes, Fran does not stop until she has extracted an answer she can use in the paper. Fran knows her City Hall beat inside and out. She is highly respected for her unbiased reporting and feared by those breaking the law or bending ethical mores. Fran, like Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” or Carol Marin from WTTW, has a reputation for toughness that precedes her. If you look through the peephole of your door and see Fran, you’d better ask yourself, “Oh S*%t, what have I done?” But, by then it’s too late. She’s got you.