Robservations on the media beat:
ProPublica Illinois, which launched in 2017 as the first local outpost of the award-winning investigative news organization, announced plans for a major expansion Thursday. Thanks to two “significant grants” from philanthropic entities, the operation will double its reporting staff. With the addition of four more reporters, ProPublica Illinois is expected to create a new Midwest regional hub, also covering Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri. “The need for local accountability journalism is more acute than ever, as newspapers across the country contract and in some cases collapse,” said Charles Ornstein, ProPublica managing editor for local. Louise Kiernan, Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, continues as editor-in-chief of ProPublica Illinois.
Matt Moog, the tech entrepreneur who was named interim CEO of Chicago Public Media Thursday, will have no editorial control over WBEZ 91.5-FM, according to newsroom insiders at the NPR news/talk station. But staffers are hoping the innovative executive will provide leadership and stability for an organization that’s been hit by budget cuts. “My background as a technology entrepreneur over the last 20 years has taught me the importance of starting with people to ensure their voices are heard,” Moog said in a statement. “Together we will evolve our strategy to take advantage of emerging digital platforms to reach larger and more diverse audiences. . . . I’m excited to work with the team to find new and innovative ways to engage more listeners and readers.”
Columnist Heidi Stevens, one of the Chicago Tribune’s brightest stars, disclosed Thursday she’s been diagnosed with COVID-19. “I’m isolating at home, away from my family (all of whom tested negative) and I haven’t had to go to the hospital. I’m breathing fine, just very achy, tired and dizzy,” she wrote on social media. “I’m sharing this in the hopes that, in the absence of a national testing strategy, maybe it inspires someone to go ahead and get tested.” Stevens, 45, a 23-year veteran of the newspaper, is married to Tribune film critic Michael Phillips. Said Phillips: “I can only add the reminder to tune out the callous dolts, near and far, who downplay the pandemic in the name of liberty.”
Shannon Brazier, the former Chicago radio personality known as “Trey The Choklit Jok,” has been promoted to director of content for Town Square Media’s three-station group in Kileen/Temple, Texas. Since 2015 he’s been brand manager of KOOC and KSSM as well as afternoon host on KOOC. Brazier, a Columbia College graduate who began at iHeartMedia hip-hop WGCI 107.5-FM, is best known for his 10 years at Crawford Broadcasting hip-hop WPWX 92.3-FM.
A tip of the hat to Kal Hassan on his retirement after 25 years as vice president of technology and director of engineering at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Before joining ABC 7 he spent 17 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. “When Kal walked through the doors at 190 North in October of 1995, he stepped into his role as the technical taskmaster of a completely analog station,” recalled John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7. “Fast forward 25 years and Kal has helped modernize ABC 7 to become one of the most technically advanced broadcast operations in the country. His guidance and expertise have proved invaluable over the years.”
Thursday’s comment of the day: Stefan Holt: Feels good to be back!