Robservations: Masked man Bill Kurtis ‘goes wild’ in promoting cover-up

Bill Kurtis

Robservations on the media beat:

When Bill Kurtis talks, people listen. Now the legendary Chicago anchorman wants to have a word with you about wearing a mask. Strictly on a lark, Kurtis has recorded a marvelous series of over-the-top public service announcements from his north suburban Mettawa home to promote wearing masks during the pandemic. Each of the seven spots features Kurtis narrating a mock-dramatic vignette (mostly in film noir style), backed by music from David Huizenga, former composer for Kurtis Productions. “When you’re in shelter for six months, one’s creativity goes wild,” said Kurtis, who turns 80 later this month. “I think I was channeling Ken Nordine, Chicago radio of the 1930s, ‘The Lone Ranger,’ etc. . . . Call them mini-radio shows or whatever. It’s certainly fun doing the voices and writing.” So far they’ve aired only on Bob Sirott’s morning show on Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM. (Here is the link.) Kurtis also just began posting them on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. “It’s my first experience with social media and it’s amazing,” he told me. “Lightning fast reaction.”

Drew Barrymore

When “The Drew Barrymore Show” premieres Monday, it will get double exposure in Chicago. The actress and producer’s new syndicated talk show will air at 2 p.m. weekdays on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and again at 5 p.m. weekdays on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26. The shared agreement is unusual but not unprecedented: In 2013 “The Queen Latifah Show” also aired on both stations. Barrymore’s opening week guest list includes a “Charlie’s Angels” reunion with Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, as well as Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Eichner, Jane Fonda, Charlize Theron, Tyra Banks and Billy Porter.


Confirming a report here in July, Midway Broadcasting news/talk WVON 1690-AM has signed on with BIN: Black Information Network, the 24/7 national audio news service launched by iHeartMedia. The syndication deal with Premiere Networks provides newscasts at the top and bottom of the hour along with breaking news. “WVON’s 24-hour Black talk format is an important and impactful voice in the Chicago market, and BIN is the perfect complement to keep our vibrant local community aware of what’s happening across the country,” said Melody Spann Cooper, CEO of Midway Broadcasting. “What happens in Black America matters. Telling our story matters.”

“Consider This”

Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM is one of 12 public radio stations nationwide to launch a localized daily news podcast with NPR. “Consider This” now includes local segments with WBEZ midday news anchor Lisa Labuz in addition to national stories from NPR’s Kelly McEvers and the hosts of “All Things Considered.” (Here is the link.) The national/local on-demand arrangement is considered a first for the podcast industry. “With this new digital experience, we aim to attract a new generation of public media listeners here in Chicago who turn to podcast platforms for their news and information,” said Steve Edwards, chief content officer and interim CEO of Chicago Public Media.

Brandis Friedman and Hugo Balta

This weekend marks the debut of two new local talk shows on Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11. Hugo Balta, news director of WTTW, will host “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” at 6 p.m. Saturdays. And Brandis Friedman, co-anchor of “Chicago Tonight,” will host “Chicago Tonight: Black Voices,” at 6 p.m. Sundays. The two new half-hour programs will offer “a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts and life, entrepreneurship and innovation, and equity and justice across the sectors of our society and in the Black and Latino communities in Chicago,” according to the station.

Dick Biondi

Radio Hall of Famer Dick Biondi will be honored on his 88th birthday Sunday with a virtual celebration featuring music performances by legendary artists from the Chicago area and guest appearances by celebrities and fellow radio personalities. It’s a fundraiser to complete post-production of “The Voice That Rocked America: The Dick Biondi Story,” an authorized documentary produced and directed by Pamela Enzweiler-Pulice. The event, which starts at 2 p.m., will stream live on The Dick Biondi Film Facebook page. Suggested donation is $10. (Here is the link.) Regarded by many as the greatest disc jockey in rock and roll history, Biondi has been off the air since 2017 when he parted company with Cumulus Media classic hits WLS 94.7-FM.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Mary Wisniewski O’Malley: The talent drain at the Chicago Tribune continues. Ally Marotti is a wonderful reporter, who now works for the Tribune’s competition [Crain’s Chicago Business], because the Tribune refuses to invest in its newsroom and make any efforts to retain valued staff.