Robservations: Dual debates keep GOP candidates for governor apart; Jane Pauley to present Silver Circle Award; ABC 7 hires reporter Christian Piekos

Illinois State Capitol

Robservations on the media beat:

In a conflict that should have been avoided, two Chicago TV stations have scheduled live in-studio debates among Republican candidates for Illinois governor on the same night — and neither station is backing down. So on May 24, Richard Irvin, Paul Schimpf and Max Solomon will appear on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, and Darren Bailey, Gary Rabine and Jesse Sullivan will appear on Nexstar Media WGN-Channel 9. The NBC 5 forum, moderated by Mary Ann Ahern, will start at 6 p.m. and also air on Telemundo WSNS-Channel 44 and TV stations in Peoria, Rockford, Decatur, Quincy, St. Louis and Paducah/Cape Girardeau/Harrisburg. Co-sponsors are the Chicago Urban League, the Latino Policy Forum and the Union League Club of Chicago. The WGN debate, anchored by Micah Materre and Tahman Bradley, will start at 7 p.m. and also air on Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM and TV stations in Champaign, Peoria/Bloomington, Rockford, Springfield/Decatur, Rock Island/Moline, Carterville, St. Louis and Terra Haute. There’s still a chance for the candidates to appear together when ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 hosts another live debate June 2, co-sponsored by Univision WGBO-Channel 66 and the League of Women Voters of Illinois. The primary election is June 28. Continue reading

Former CBS 2 reporter Mike Puccinelli joins Chicago Department of Buildings

Mike Puccinelli

Mike Puccinelli, former reporter and substitute news anchor at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, has been named director of public affairs for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings.

Puccinelli, who grew up in Oak Park and attended Oak Park River Forest High School, spent 17 years at CBS 2. He was among more than a dozen cut from the station as part of sweeping company-wide layoffs in May 2020.

“Mike is excited to join the Department of Buildings to try and highlight the amazing work being done by the men and women of the department,” the press office of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. Continue reading

Robservations: Chicago Tribune, BGA win Pulitzer Prize; Daily Herald hires climate change reporter; MediaTracks scales back after sale of shows

Chicago Tribune and Better Government Association

Robservations on the media beat:

The Chicago Tribune and the Better Government Association shared the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting Monday. Tribune reporter Cecilia Reyes and BGA reporter Madison Hopkins collaborated on “The Failures Before the Fires,” a two-year investigation called “a piercing examination of the city’s long history of failed building- and fire-safety code enforcement, which let scofflaw landlords commit serious violations that resulted in dozens of unnecessary deaths.” It was the first Pulitzer in the 99-year history of the BGA, the nonprofit newsroom and government watchdog agency. “There’s a lot left to be done,” David Greising, president and CEO of the BGA, said in a statement. “The city is little better off today than it was when dozens of people died in preventable fires. A ‘problem landlords’ list does not keep people safe.” It’s the Tribune’s 28th Pulitzer — and its first since 2017. With editing led by Kaarin Tisue at the Tribune and David Kidwell and John Chase at the BGA, “The Failures Before the Fires” also received four awards at the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Awards ceremony Friday. Continue reading

WBEZ wins Watchdog Award for Chicago lifeguard abuse investigation

Dan Mihalopoulos (Photo: Chicago Headline Club)

Esteemed reporter Dan Mihalopoulos and editors Alex Keefe and Angela Rozas O’Toole of Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM won the coveted 2021 Watchdog Award Friday from the Chicago Headline Club.

The three were cited for “Buried Secrets,” WBEZ’s blockbuster investigative series exposing widespread sexual abuse of Chicago lifeguards. Continue reading

Robservations: WLS 890 AM taps Steve Cochran for morning fill-in; Fox 32 shuffles morning anchor lineup; Marcus Gilmer joins Crain’s Chicago Business

Steve Cochran

Robservations on the media beat:

WLS 890 AM

Steve Cochran, the veteran Chicago radio personality who’s been off the air for two and half years, will be heard again in morning drive next week. From 5:30 to 9 a.m. next Monday through Friday, Cochran will guest host on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM. The morning slot has been open since early April when the station dropped Bruce St. James. A fixture on Chicago radio since 1993, Cochran previously hosted mornings on Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM. Bob Sirott replaced him when Cochran’s contract was not renewed in December 2019. Since he left WGN, Cochran has been hosting the twice-weekly podcast “Live From My Office.” In the latest Nielsen Audio survey WLS tied for 24th in mornings with a 1.1 percent share and a cumulative weekly audience of 88,400. Continue reading

Robservations: Eddie Volkman, Hannah Brummer to host mornings on Star 96.7; Brandon Ison moves up at WBBM Newsradio; 101.1 WKQX restores Q101 branding

Eddie Volkman and Hannah Brummer

Robservations on the media beat:

Alpha Media made it official Wednesday: “Eddie Volkman in the Morning with Hannah B.” will debut Monday at southwest suburban adult-contemporary WSSR 96.7-FM. The Chicago radio legend has been filling in since former morning host Kevin “Kollins” Hedemark left to run for a seat on the Will County Board in the June 28 Democratic primary. Joining Volkman as Star 96.7 morning co-host is Hannah Brummer, a Mount Prospect resident and Elmhurst College graduate. She’ll continue as the afternoon voice of WXLC 102.3-FM, Alpha Media’s north suburban hot adult-contemporary station. “Hannah is what radio needs to survive and grow,” Volkman said. “She’s brilliant with social media, podcasting and engagement on multiple platforms that extend radio’s evolution and reach, such as TikTok. I guess I’ll have to learn to dance!” Volkman, who previously hosted afternoons at Star 96.7, continues as program director. Continue reading

Critic Aaron Barnhart delivers only streaming TV guide you’ll ever need

Aaron Barnhart

Aaron Barnhart first made a name for himself in the early ’90s as writer of the weekly fan newsletter Late Show News and the seminal website TV Barn, establishing his credentials as a discerning critic and a sharp writer.

From his home in Evanston, where the Montana native attended Northwestern University, Barnhart moved to Missouri in 1997, beginning a 15-year run as TV critic for the Kansas City Star and continuing to cover the expanding medium.

Now Barnhart and his wife are back living in Evanston — just in time to release The Primetimer Guide to Streaming TV, published this week by Quindaro Press. (Here is the link to order.) Continue reading

Robservations: CHGO Sports drops Olin Kreutz; Marquee to air Chicago Sky; Rob Stafford returns to NBC 5 true-crime series

Olin Kreutz (Photo: NBC Sports Chicago)

Robservations on the media beat:

CHGO Sports

Two months after he was on hand for the launch of CHGO Sports, former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Olin Kreutz has been dropped as a contributor to the digital media startup. According to the company, Kreutz physically attacked an unspecified employee Monday morning. “Effective immediately, Olin Kreutz is no longer with CHGO,” the company tweeted. “Although we were shocked by the incident, we are thankful that the employee is okay. The health and safety of our employees is of the utmost importance and we will not tolerate any action that puts that in jeopardy.” No other information was provided by the company, but the victim was subsequently identified as Adam Hoge. Kreutz later tweeted a photo of Mike Tyson with the following quote: “Social media made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.” Kreutz, who played for the Bears from 1998 to 2010 and was a six-time Pro Bowler, continues as a contributor to Audacy sports/talk WSCR 670-AM and NBC Sports Chicago. Continue reading

Robservations: Weekend anchor Stacey Baca leaving ABC 7; Nancy Turner retires from Moody Radio; Peter Oprisko, Leslie Keros to host new Saturday shows on WDCB

Stacey Baca

Robservations on the media beat:

Stacey Baca, weekend morning news anchor and reporter at WLS-Channel 7, surprised viewers Sunday by announcing her resignation after 20 years at the ABC-owned station. Her last day will be June 26. Calling it “the hardest career decision of my life,” Baca, 53, told viewers she was leaving to spend more time with her husband, retired naval aviator Todd Gilchrist. “We are not guaranteed tomorrow, my friends,” she said. “I realize my husband and I are incredibly fortunate to step back and take a breath right now. I’ve joked it’s our ‘gap year’ – maybe so, maybe not. Either way, we are shifting focus, making changes, because what’s important right now is clearer than ever. I will be forever grateful for my ABC 7 Chicago journey, but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.” Baca, who grew up in Brighton, Colorado, and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, worked for the Denver Post, CBS affiliate WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia, and NBC-owned KNSD in San Diego before joining ABC 7 in 2002. Continue reading