Robservations: Time’s up for Dean Reynolds as ‘NewsNation’ correspondent

Dean Reynolds

Robservations on the media beat:

Still reeling from the sudden departure of its news director, “NewsNation” just lost its best known and most experienced reporter. Dean Reynolds signed off Friday after six months as national political correspondent for the Chicago-based newscast on Nexstar Media Group’s WGN America. Over a distinguished 50-year career, Reynolds was a correspondent for CBS News and ABC News and covered the White House for CNN and United Press International. Reynolds, 72, told me he agreed to a six-month contract in August because he intended to work only through the presidential election and inauguration. “It just ran out. I’m totally fine with that. I have nothing but gratitude for them,” he said, adding: “But I get why the timing looks kind of funny.” Others say Reynolds is getting out just in time. His exit follows the resignation of Sandy Pudar as news director of NewsNation. Pudar declined to comment, but sources said she quit over interference by Bill Shine, the former Fox News senior executive and former White House communications director under President Donald Trump. Unbeknownst to the staff (until Pudar quit), Shine was working as a consultant to WGN America boss Sean Compton since June. NewsNation launched September 1 with a promise to be “100 percent absent of bias,” in the words of Nexstar chairman and CEO Perry Sook. Continue reading

The Score signs multiyear extension of Cubs radio rights agreement

670 The Score

WSCR 670-AM, the Entercom sports/talk station known as The Score, will remain the radio home of Chicago Cubs baseball for years to come.

Entercom and the Cubs announced a multiyear extension Friday of their broadcast rights agreement covering all regular season and postseason play. Games also will be heard for free on the website and mobile app as well as home smart speakers. Terms were not disclosed. Continue reading

WTTW news chief Hugo Balta under scrutiny for social media posts

Hugo Balta

Hugo Balta, news director of WTTW-Channel 11 and executive producer of the nightly newscast “Chicago Tonight,” has been sidelined by his bosses for apparently sharing too much on social media.

Officials of parent company Window to the World Communications confirmed Thursday that Balta was placed on administrative leave but offered no further comment. Sources said he was under review for tweeting what were described as overtly political opinions and posting some odd Instagram videos of himself.

Balta, 50, is about to mark his first year as news chief of the public television station, where he also hosts the weekly show “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices.” Continue reading

‘Compassionate’ Chicago Tribune takes aim at police mug shots

Al Capone (1931 mug shot)

Police booking photos of people who’ve been arrested — commonly known as mug shots — have been a staple of Chicago newspapers since before the days of “Scarface” Al Capone. But now they’re headed for the morgue.

On Wednesday the Chicago Tribune announced new guidelines “aimed at the restrained and consistent use of mug shots with news stories.” They’re part of an industrywide reassessment of whether newspapers should continue to publish the photos in an era of clickbait exploitation and eternal life online. Continue reading

Robservations: Radio legend Kevin Matthews turns music mogul

Kevin Matthews (Photo: Bob Neumann)

Robservations on the media beat:

Steve Cochran and Kevin Matthews

Kevin Matthews, one of Chicago radio’s all-time greats, is one of the principals behind a new multimedia platform for music and performance artists. Now living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Matthews teamed up with Big Event Studios and partners Bob Neumann and Bob VanProyen to form Elevator a GoGo, a recording studio designed to “elevate the way the world discovers music.” (Videos are produced in an empty freight elevator inside an old Grand Rapids warehouse.) Matthews will host a Valentine’s Day Watch Party from Valentine, Texas, featuring live performances from six Texas-born musicians. The free event on Facebook starts at 4:45 p.m. Sunday. (Here is the link.) Matthews, 64, who enjoyed an 18-year run on Chicago radio (with alter ego Jim Shorts), was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008. Since then he’s hosted a podcast and written a book about his triumphs and challenges, Broken Mary: A Journey of Hope. Matthews talks about his new venture and a whole lot more in a wide-ranging interview with Steve Cochran today on Live From My Office, Cochran’s twice-weekly podcast series. (Here is the link.) “He’s had a career that spans from middle school with Madonna to becoming a legend,” Cochran said of Matthews. “And now he’s making freight elevators cool.” Continue reading

Robservations: Medill at 100 marks ‘monumental milestone’

Medill School of Journalism

Robservations on the media beat:

Joseph Medill

Happy 100th birthday to my alma mater, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston. Founded with backing from the Chicago Tribune and publisher Robert R. McCormick, it was named for Joseph Medill, a former editor of the Tribune and former mayor of Chicago. The school lists more than 30 Pulitzer Prize winners among its graduates. Calling it a “monumental milestone,” Medill Dean Charles Whitaker wrote in an open letter Monday: “Since its founding on this day in in 1921, Medill has been a beacon of practice, innovation and thought leadership in the fields of journalism, advertising and integrated marketing communications.” A centennial website features an interactive timeline of the school’s history, a calendar of special events and personal memories of those who passed through Fisk Hall. (Here is the link.) In 2011 the institution was renamed Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Continue reading

Matt Spiegel rejoins Danny Parkins to co-host afternoons on The Score

Danny Parkins and Matt Spiegel

Five months after Dan McNeil was cut as afternoon co-host on Entercom sports/talk WSCR 670-AM, Matt Spiegel is back together with Danny Parkins and The Score is back up to full staffing on weekdays.

The long-awaited reunion of Parkins and Spiegel from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday coincides with a multiyear contract extension for Parkins. Both moves were announced today. Continue reading

‘Consultant’ Bill Shine casts Fox shadow over ‘NewsNation’

Bill Shine

After two decades as a senior executive at Fox News and a protégé of chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Bill Shine was fired in 2017 for his role in enabling the sexual harassment scandals that toppled Ailes and top-rated host Bill O’Reilly.

Shine went on to become White House deputy chief of staff for communications under President Donald Trump. After nine months in that job, he left to join Trump’s reelection campaign as a senior adviser.

These days Shine, 57, is being paid by Nexstar Media Group to serve as a consultant on “NewsNation,” the Chicago-based cable news operation that launched September 1 with a promise to be “100 percent absent of bias,” in the words of Nexstar chairman and CEO Perry Sook. Continue reading

‘Roe & Roeper’ reunite to launch podcast on pop culture, current events

Richard Roeper and Roe Conn

Chicago media mainstays Roe Conn and Richard Roeper, who’ve been radio partners — on and off — since they first teamed up at WLS 890-AM in 2010, are back together again.

Starting today, they’ll co-host “Roe and Roeper,” a twice-weekly podcast focusing on pop culture and current events.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to get behind the microphone again to re-team with Roe,” said Roeper, longtime film critic for the Sun-Times and contributor to “Windy City Live” on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Continue reading

Robservations: News director Sandy Pudar bails out of ‘NewsNation’

Sandy Pudar

Robservations on the media beat:


Just weeks before the planned expansion of “NewsNation,” the Chicago-based cable news operation on WGN America suddenly finds itself without a news director. Sandy Pudar, who oversaw the launch of the three-hour primetime newscast in September, resigned Tuesday, multiple sources confirmed. It’s not yet known why she quit. Pudar and officials of parent company Nexstar Media Group declined to comment. Despite chronically low ratings for its first five months on the air, NewsNation plans to add two more hours of news and a nightly talk show hosted by Ashleigh Banfield on March 1. That’s also when WGN America will be renamed NewsNation, pointing to further expansion of the news operation that’s promoted as free of bias and opinion. Pudar worked closely with Jennifer Lyons, the former WGN news director of WGN-Channel 9 who moved up to vice president of news for WGN America. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Pudar joined WGN in 1999 and worked as a news writer and producer before becoming executive producer of “WGN Morning News” in 2009 and assistant news director in 2014.  She began as an intern for “Larry King Live” at CNN. Continue reading