Robservations: Julie Mann to rep Kane County; iHeartMedia continues Lurie Children’s Radiothon; Izzi Smith steps down from WBEZ

WBBM Newsradio

Robservations on the media beat:

Julie Mann

Julie Mann, the beloved newsroom leader and managing editor who just signed off after 25 years at Audacy all-news WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, is on to her new adventure. Without missing a beat, Mann started this week heading up the public information office for west suburban Kane County. It’s a newly created department she’ll be building from the ground up. “The Kane County Board was looking for someone who could help them communicate to the public what they do and are doing for their citizens,” Mann told me. “I saw it as an opportunity to continue working in the field of communications but in a whole new way.” Mann grew up in Kane County and graduated from St. Charles High School and Drake University. She joined WBBM Newsradio as a reporter in 1997 and worked out of the offices of the Daily Herald as suburban bureau chief.

Matt Scarano

Once upon a time Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart were known for their annual radiothon to benefit the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. For 18 years the duo raised millions on Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX 101.9-FM. But they’re both gone and Hubbard Radio dropped the ball anyway. Thanks to iHeartMedia Chicago, however, the cause hasn’t been lost. For the second straight year, adult contemporary WLIT 93.9-FM and rock WCHI 95.5-FM hosted a 13-hour Lurie Children’s Radiothon. The live event last Thursday, led by Melissa Forman, Jim Gronemann, Robin Rock, Mick Lee, Delilah Rene, Angi Taylor, Abe Kanan, Walt Flakus, Josh Klinger and Maria Palmer, raised more than $675,000. “The iHeartMedia Chicago team, listeners, advertisers and the Chicagoland community continue to come through in support of Lurie Children’s,” Matt Scarano, president of iHeartMedia Chicago, said in a statement. “The 93.9 Lite FM and Rock 95.5 annual radiothon donations make an immeasurable impact in lives of Lurie Children’s patients and families both locally and nationally.”

Izzi Smith

Izzi Smith is stepping down after four years as managing director of programming and audience development at Chicago Public Media to become a strategic advisor to news/talk WBEZ 91.5-FM. Prompted by what he called “family health issues,” his move comes on the eve of the station’s planned merger with the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ll take what we’ve learned about audience and habit building on radio, and collaborate across the organization to apply and expand that work to all the places Chicago Public Media journalism serves audiences – the new mobile app, newsletters, smart speakers, podcasts, etc.,” Smith said of his new role. “This will allow me to continue to be of service to CPM, while providing focused support to my family.” Smith, who previously worked as director of programming and senior director of promotion at NPR in Washington, said he’s also looking to take on a small number of consulting clients. His email contact for that is: listenagaintomorrow@gmail.com.

Publicity Club of Chicago

Publicity Club of Chicago wraps up the year with its first in-person event today since the COVID-19 shutdown. Starting at noon, the luncheon at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 North State Street, will feature a review of the top stories of 2021. (Here is the link.) Panelists will include: Kelly Bauer, breaking news editor of Block Club Chicago; Lisa Fielding, afternoon news anchor at Audacy all-news WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM; and Amanda Vinicky, correspondent and segment host for “Chicago Tonight” at WTTW-Channel 11.

Don Mellema

Don Mellema, who retired in 1996 after 27 years as a reporter at all-news WBBM 780-AM, died of complications from cancer December 3 at a nursing home in Glenview. The longtime resident of Park Ridge was 84. A Chicago native and graduate of Taft High School and Beloit College, Mellema worked as a news writer at WGN before joining WBBM Newsradio in 1969. Bob Goldsborough’s obituary in the Chicago Tribune recalled Mellema also served as news anchor for Bob and Betty Sanders’s popular midday show on the station. “Don was a very integral part of the show because — and it’s more so today than it was in our day — the news was always the star of the show,” Betty Sanders was quoted as saying. “Bob and I used to liken our portion to the features part of the programming and Don was the news portion.”

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Gary Vanicek: Hey, Good Karma Brands, all of the personalities on your newly acquired station [WMVP 1000-AM] (from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) have been on the air somewhere in Chicago for 15+ years. It’s time for some new voices.