Robservations on the media beat:
You won’t find a more solid and reliable newsman in all of Chicago radio than John Dempsey. Now he’s voluntarily stepping down as news director and afternoon news anchor at WLS 890-AM. Dempsey, 60, announced Monday he’s retiring after 38 years in broadcast journalism, including the last 13 at the Cumulus Media news/talk station. His final day on the air with afternoon host Big John Howell will be December 23. “My career in news has been one of the highlights of my life, one that has allowed me to cover thousands of stories and meet people from every walk of life,” Dempsey wrote in an email to colleagues. “The entire experience has made me a better person and enriched my life beyond anything I could have imagined, but now I want to step aside to give myself more time to think about my next chapter.” A Chicago native and Southern Illinois University graduate, Dempsey joined WLS in 2007 after stints at WBEZ 91.5-FM, WBBM 780-AM and the former WMAQ as well as WFLD-Channel 32. “John brought his love for journalism to work every day and we are all more informed because of it,” said Stephanie Tichenor, program director of WLS. “We will miss his news judgment, knowledge and most importantly, we will miss him.”
Brittney Payton, a co-host of “Good Day Chicago” on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 since 2018, is leaving to move with her family to Arizona. “It is bittersweet to announce that this will be my last week with Fox 32 Chicago,” she wrote on Facebook Monday. “It has been an honor working with such a talented crew, and to have been able to interview so many special Chicagoans. I am so grateful to my Fox family, I will miss you all SO much!” The daughter of Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton grew up in South Barrington and graduated from DePaul University. She previously co-hosted “Chicago’s Best,” the weekly food show on WGN-Channel 9. No word yet on plans to replace her at Fox 32.
Three years after Kathy Hart went splitsville, another co-star of Eric Ferguson’s morning show may be taking her leave from WTMX 101.9-FM. Melissa McGurren has been away for much of the past two months from “Eric in the Morning with Melissa and Whip” on the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station. It’s not known whether McGurren will return to the show where she has been a popular contributor for more than 20 years. (I’ve reached out to McGurren and Ferguson for comment but haven’t heard back yet.) McGurren, a native of Portage, Indiana, was officially promoted from traffic reporter to co-host after Hart left The Mix in 2017.
Radio Hall of Famer Orion Samuelson, who’s retiring at the end of the year after six decades as the voice of agriculture and business at Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM, has one more big show to go. On December 12 Samuelson will host “Christmas Reflections: Hope, Comfort, and Joy,” a holiday concert for Shepherd of the Prairie Lutheran Church in northwest suburban Huntley. Starting at 7 p.m. the free concert will stream live on the church’s website. (Here is the link.) Among performers will be Metropolitan Opera soprano Maria Kanyova, members of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, tenor Christopher Jackson, and organist and pianist Erik Boehmke.
WGN America, the Chicago-based cable network owned by Nexstar Media Group, has reached its first carriage agreement with YouTube TV. Under the multiyear deal, the network and its “News Nation” primetime newscast will be available to more than 3 million subscribers via the cloud-based streaming service, starting January 19. “We expect to continue the strategic expansion of WGN America to even more viewers in the months ahead,” Sean Compton, president of Nexstar’s networks division, said in a statement.
It was another decisive victory at 4, 5, 6 and 10 p.m. for ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in the just-completed November ratings sweep. Nielsen figures showed ABC 7 ahead of its rivals in overall households as well as among viewers between 25 and 54 — the key advertising demographic. Nexstar Media Group WGN-Channel 9 continued to dominate mornings, extending the 10-year winning streak for “WGN Morning News” among adult demos from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays.
Monday’s comment of the day: John K. Wilson: Sure, this special is probably self-serving (and it launches on Giving Tuesday, in case you miss the suggestion for a donation). But they’re not the first news station to promote their own work. And why shouldn’t they? I’d rather see WTTW pat themselves on the back for a job well done than watch much of the garbage that passes for news on broadcast and cable nowadays.