Robservations: WGN Radio names Steve Alexander to succeed Orion Samuelson

Steve Alexander (Photo: WGN Radio)

Robservations on the media beat:

Orion Samuelson

When the legendary Orion Samuelson retires at the end of the month after 60 years at WGN 720-AM, he’ll turn over the agribusiness beat to Steve Alexander, who’s been a news-and-business anchor and reporter at the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station since 2007. “Steve grew up on a farm and has the knowledge to know what is important to our audience of farmers, food producers and consumers,” Big O said of his successor. “I am delighted that he is available to continue the WGN tradition of serving this most important audience.” Alexander, who also co-wrote and published Samuleson’s 2012 autobiography, You Can’t Dream Big Enough, said: “When I’ve filled in for Orion over the past 12 years, I’ve often joked that he gave me the key to the tractor, and I was able to keep it out of the ditch until he returned. Come next month, I’ll try to keep the tractor upright and continue Orion’s efforts to explain how important agriculture is to all of us.”

Bob Sirott

Orion Samuelson’s farewell media tour culminates Friday when WGN morning host Bob Sirott interviews the Radio Hall of Famer on “News Nation,” the primetime national newscast on WGN America cable network. Airing during the 9:30 p.m. half-hour Friday, the “Hometown Heroes” segment will salute the Wisconsin farm boy who joined WGN Radio as farm director in 1960 and went on to become America’s signature voice of agriculture and business. Asked what he’d like the first sentence of his Wikipedia entry to read, Samuelson, 86, told Sirott: “That I could explain the strange business of agriculture and food production in a way that was understandable, and that I was a good guy and a good listener. I would like that a lot.”

Marion Brooks

Marion Brooks, longtime news anchor and investigative reporter at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, will host two half-hour specials on “Race in Chicago.” Airing at 6:30 p.m. tonight and Friday, the programs will recount the history of discriminatory policies, practices and cultural norms long plaguing the city’s communities of color. They’re an outgrowth of a weekly series Brooks and her NBC 5 colleagues have been presenting since August. “The pandemic magnified racial inequities that families have faced for decades, but for some Chicagoans, 2020 was the wake-up call,” Brooks said. “As we look to heal as a community, it’s important to understand how we got here and how race continues to shape our lives.”

Bruce DuMont

“Beyond the Beltway,” Bruce DuMont’s Chicago-based weekly political talk show, has signed a new satellite distribution deal with Salem Radio Network, effective January 3. Now in its 41st year, the show previously was carried on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. In Chicago, “Beyond the Beltway” continues to air from 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays on Evanston Broadcasting news/talk WCGO 1590-AM, and from 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays on Salem news/talk WIND 560-AM. DuMont, who recently recovered from COVID-19, has been hosting the show from his home via Zoom.

Cheryl Scott and Lola

Meteorologist Cheryl Scott and her beloved beagle Lola are among stars of a new celebrity pet campaign to promote public health research. The whimsical Save Da Hoomans effort is rolling out on billboards and transit signs and across social media. (Here is the link.) Its goal is to encourage people to learn more about health research opportunities for causes such as COVID-19, cancer, heart disease and mental illness. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the initiative is backed by the top hospitals in Chicago, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control. Lola appears with Scott during her nightly weather forecasts on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.

Chicago Tribune

Look for a year-end exodus of employees from the Chicago Tribune. On Wednesday parent company Tribune Publishing proposed another round of buyouts, offering staffers up to 26 weeks of severance pay if they apply by December 22. The Chicago Tribune Guild, now under the leadership of newly elected president Greg Pratt, said it’s studying the plan and negotiating with the company on additional terms of the offer. The notice came hours after Tribune Publishing announced the sale of its majority stake in BestReviews, a consumer-product rating website, to Nexstar Media Group for $160 million. “Proceeds from the sale will ensure Tribune has the operational and financial flexibility to navigate these uncertain times and to continue to invest in our digital transformation,” Terry Jimenez, CEO of Tribune Publishing, told employees in an email.

Dish Network

As negotiations with Dish Network dragged into a third week, Nexstar Media Group began running spots Wednesday on its local stations — including WGN-Channel 9 — urging viewers to take action. (Here is the link.) Nexstar’s 164 stations and WGN America have been blacked out by the satellite TV provider since December 2 in the dispute over a retransmission agreement. “Unfortunately, Dish has made a practice of dropping networks and local television stations from its programming lineup,” said Gary Weitman, chief communications officer of Nexstar. “There are currently more than 200 channels off its system. Our negotiations aren’t going as quickly as we would like, due largely to Dish’s inability to respond quickly to the multiple proposals we have made during the last two-plus weeks.” No response from Dish.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Julie DiCaro: Women are being undercut and underpaid across the industry. It’s a shame. Hoping someone will decide to write about what’s happening to women at a bunch of stations at Entercom.