For Bruce St. James it’s only about a block’s walk from his Streeterville apartment to the studios of Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM at NBC Tower.
But when he takes the predawn stroll there today he’ll be making the biggest move of his career.
Airing from 5:30 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on the once-glorious 50,000-watt powerhouse, “The Bruce St. James Show” will mark the pinnacle of a radio odyssey that began on an overnight shift in Tucson, where St. James attended the University of Arizona.
The Washington, D.C., native succeeds Chicago radio veteran Erich Mancow Muller, who took his leave after two years at WLS, declaring: “Much of the enjoyment I had left doing radio has been sucked out of it.”
That’s hardly the case for St. James, who told me Sunday he was eager to get started.
“I’ve spent the last 10 years doing talk radio differently, and I’m bringing that style with me,” he said. “I approach each show as a conversation, not a lecture. By talking with the team, guests and the audience, we all learn something, hear varying viewpoints and hopefully have a little fun along the way.
“We plan each show by looking at the news, issues and stories that Chicago is talking about, and care about. You’ll hear more conversations about the things that bring us together than about the things that divide us. I come with a heavy dose of skepticism, a finely tuned B.S. meter and more than enough snark for all of us.”
St. James inherits a morning show in 14th place overall with a 2.4 percent share and a cumulative weekly audience of 133,200, according to the latest Nielsen Audio survey.
Knowing it can take newcomers years if not decades to gain acceptance on the air here, St. James will have the benefit of an all-local supporting cast. Nick Gale will continue as morning news anchor, and Midge Ripoli, Muller’s aide-de-camp for decades, will continue as executive producer. Announcement of a female contributor — also expected from Chicago — should come any day now.
“We don’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t have fun at each other’s expense,” St. James said. “And in the short time I’ve been here I can already tell it will usually be at my expense. The price of being the ‘new guy.’”
Friday’s comment of the day: Mark Rosenblum: I’m glad to hear that Dean is recovering well and I especially appreciate his message that one cannot be too careful with regard to this devastating pandemic. I hope that his example will encourage some of those anti-mask wearing listeners out there to do the right thing by complying with the no-brainer CDC guidelines for the safety of us all.