Robservations: Chicago’s changing channels after spectrum auction


Robservations on the media beat:

Back in November 2015 I first urged City Colleges of Chicago to put up for bid the over-the-air license of its little-watched noncommercial television station WYCC-Channel 20. Mayor Rahm Emanuel initially nixed the proposal before the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune and others pointed out that it wasn’t such a bad idea. Last week WYCC fetched $15.9 million in the FCC spectrum auction. Among five other Chicago area stations in the auction were Fox-owned WPWR-Channel 50 ($160.7 million) and Telemundo Chicago WSNS-Channel 44 ($141.6 million). The nation’s top bid was $304.2 million for Trinity Broadcasting Network’s WWTO-Channel 35 licensed to LaSalle, Illinois. Most are expected to continue operating on other stations' frequencies or digital subchannels. Over the next 39 months, some TV stations will transition to new channel assignments. (For more on the impact in Chicago, see TDogMedia’s report here.)


No comment from our friends at DNAinfo Chicago on an ominous published report that owner Joe Ricketts may pull the plug on the digital news venture if staffers unionize. Last week their counterparts in New York voted to join the Writers Guild of America despite the veiled threat from management. “DNAinfo has lost money since it began operations in 2009. Every single month has been a money-loser. It’s never been profitable,” read an internal email published by the New York Daily News. “Mr. Ricketts has never taken a dime out of the business. . . . At some point, the business needs to be profitable or the investor calls it quits.” Ricketts, patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, founded DNAinfo in New York in 2009 and expanded to Chicago in 2012.

Hugh Dellios

Hugh Dellios has resigned after seven years as Chicago news editor of Associated Press to become deputy national editor for NPR, based in Los Angeles. Dellios previously worked as foreign editor and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He began his career at the Tribune as a metro desk intern. While AP seeks a new chief for Illinois, Michigan and Indiana, Detroit-based news editor Roger Schneider will oversee coverage of the three-state region.

Craig Wall

If Craig Wall knows where he’s headed next, he’s not letting on. Friday marked his last day at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, where he’s been a top-notch general assignment reporter for 19 years. By all accounts, his departure was entirely voluntary. “I decided not to renew my contract and will be pursuing other options in and outside the news business,” he told Facebook friends. The University of Wisconsin graduate worked in Salisbury, Maryland; Lexington, Kentucky, and Salt Lake City before joining Fox 32 in 1998.

E. Jason Wambsgans

Congratulations to E. Jason Wambsgans of the Chicago Tribune on winning the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography. Wambsgans, who’s been a staff photographer since 2002, was cited for images accompanying Mary Schmich’s series on Tayvon Tanner, a 10-year-old boy who survived a shooting in Chicago. (Does anyone else appreciate the irony that Michael Ferro, the man who approved the firing of the entire photo department at the Sun-Times in 2013, now heads Tribune parent company tronc?)

Mike James

A tip of the hat to two outstanding colleagues on the media beat: Mike James is calling it quits after 19 years as editor of, the daily newsletter he founded to keep tabs on the local television news business. “The Surly Editor,” as he calls himself, is shutting down June 16. But James says he’s leaving the door open to launch “something brighter and newer and more modern.” Also bowing out is Kevin Eck, editor of TV Spy, the Adweek Network news site covering the inner workings of the local TV news industry. After five years on the job, Eck says he’s quitting to join a high tech company.

Sharp-eyed viewers caught an early glimpse of Fox 32’s new news set the other night. Midway through the 9 p.m. newscast a director mistakenly revealed the new digs still under wraps (below). While a makeshift set has been in use for months, Fox 32 bosses hope to debut the new set officially by the end of April.

Fox 32