Robservations: Cokie Roberts named posthumously to Radio Hall of Fame

Cokie Roberts

Robservations on the media beat:

Glenn Beck

Cokie Roberts, the trailblazing political reporter and analyst for National Public Radio and ABC News, will be inducted posthumously in the Radio Hall of Fame. Roberts, who died of breast cancer last year, was among the winners announced today by the Chicago-based shrine to radio’s legends. For the second straight year no one from Chicago made the cut. (This year’s hometown nominees were Bob “Rock ’n Roll Roots” Stroud and “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!,” the NPR comedy-quiz show produced by Chicago Public Media.) Joining Roberts in the class of 2020 are: Glenn Beck of Premiere Networks; Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps of KLOS in Los Angeles; Angie Martinez of WWPR in New York; Sway Calloway of Sirius XM; Donnie Simpson of WMMJ in Washington, D.C.; and “The Breakfast Club” (Charlamagne Tha God, Angela Yee, DJ Envy) of WWPR and Premiere Networks. Inductees will be honored October 29 in a virtual ceremony to air as a live radio broadcast. Continue reading

ABC 7 to hire ‘passionate storyteller’ to cover race and culture beat

ABC 7 Chicago

In the latest sign of the times, Chicago’s top-rated broadcast news operation soon will hire a reporter to cover race and culture as a full-time beat.

WLS-Channel 7 is one of eight ABC-owned stations to post job openings for the new position.

“Each journalist must be a passionate storyteller, brilliant multi-platform content creator, effective communicator and proven collaborator,” according to the listing. “The journalists will be part of the editorial decision-making process as it relates to story assignments, sourcing subjects featured in stories and developing community relationships to expand the diversity of voices included in our storytelling.” Continue reading

Robservations: Four full-time jobs cut in layoffs at ABC 7

ABC 7 Chicago

Robservations on the media beat:

Four full-time employees and at least one part-timer were terminated Wednesday in cutbacks at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, according to insiders at Chicago’s top-rated station. The layoffs followed similar actions in recent weeks by four other local TV stations in response to revenue declines attributed to COVID-19. John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, did not respond to requests for comment. But sources said none of the positions affected were in news. Most were believed to be among staffers from “Windy City Live” who’ve been on furlough since April. The daily talk show has scaled back production significantly since the pandemic shutdown. Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC Owned Television Stations. Continue reading

Robservations: Me-TV scoops up promotional deal with Pebbles cereals

Fruity Pebbles

Robservations on the media beat:

It’s another masterstroke of marketing for Me-TV, the Chicago-based network for classic television. As a tie-in to its daily broadcasts of “The Flintstones,” Me-TV has landed a promotional deal with Post Cereals to appear on the back panel of boxes of Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. Starting in September, more than 21 million boxes of Pebbles will carry the network’s logo along with a picture game and a call to watch “The Flintstones.” In exchange, Me-TV has begun airing commercials for the cereals. (Introduced in 1971, they’re the oldest cereal brand based on any TV character or series, according to Breakfast: A History.) Credit Will Givens, vice president of network marketing at Weigel Broadcasting, with the coup. As Fred Flintstone would say: “Yabba Dabba Doo!” Continue reading

David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood to co-host mornings on ESPN 1000

David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood

David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood, two longtime Chicago sports/talk personalities, are teaming up to co-host a new local morning show on WMVP 1000-AM, the ESPN Radio station managed by Good Karma Brands.

Starting Monday, Kaplan and Hood will be heard together from 7 to 10 a.m. as part of a new Monday-through-Friday programming lineup announced today. Continue reading

Former Tribune publisher Tony Hunter to head McClatchy newspaper chain

Tony Hunter


In a stunning announcement Friday, former Chicago Tribune publisher Tony Hunter was named CEO of McClatchy Co., the bankrupt newspaper chain acquired in a court-approved sale last week by New Jersey hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. Since 2019 Hunter has been chairman of Revolution Enterprises, a multi-state cannabis firm based in west suburban Elmhurst.

Hunter, 59, remains widely admired in Chicago media circles for his fabled 22-year run with the Tribune, where he rose from circulation manager to publisher of the newspaper and CEO of parent company Tribune Publishing. He left in 2016 after leading the company through a record four-year bankruptcy and reinventing its business model. Continue reading

Robservations: Will next Chicago Tribune newsroom be virtual?

Chicago Tribune

Robservations on the media beat:

Could a virtual newsroom be in the offing for the Chicago Tribune? Speculation turned serious Thursday with news that Tribune Publishing was negotiating to break its lease at One Prudential Plaza just two years after moving from Tribune Tower, which had been the newspaper’s home for 93 years. The company hasn’t paid rent on the 137,000-square-foot space overlooking Millennium Park since March, citing losses attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s unclear where the Chicago Tribune’s newsroom and offices, as well as the corporate parent’s headquarters, would relocate,” according to the Tribune’s Ryan Ori, bolstering the idea that Alden Global Capital, the profit-squeezing hedge fund calling the shots these days, might do away with an actual newsroom altogether. After all, they’ve been putting out the paper virtually for more than four months. “In order to sustain ourselves for the long term, we’ve positioned the company as a smaller, more agile operation,” Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez told industry analysts this week. “To do so, we have and are taking steps to reduce our primary expense drivers by focusing on our fixed cost infrastructure, reducing our real estate footprint, and reducing compensation expense.” Continue reading

Robservations: WGN Radio checking out Landecker as new evening star

Bob Sirott and John Records Landecker

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. Continue reading

Layoffs hit NBC stations to meet ‘changing economic environment’

NBC Tower

On a day that Comcast-owned NBCUniversal reportedly cut up to 10 percent of its workforce nationwide, layoffs hit all three NBC broadcast properties in Chicago.

The company would not confirm the number of employees affected, but sources said seven jobs were cut today at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Telemundo WSNS-Channel 44, mostly in technical areas. More than a dozen were believed to have been fired from numerous departments at NBC Sports Chicago, which is in a separate division of the company. Continue reading