Robservations: Radio steps up on busy news day

WBBM Newsradio

Robservations on the media beat:

Chicago radio stations responded forcefully to Monday’s two biggest stories. Starting before 6 a.m. CBS Radio all-news WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 went wall to wall with coverage of the Las Vegas concert shooting. For more than two hours, WBBM Newsradio dropped virtually all commercials and other programming elements to report exclusively on the deadly attack. Traffic updates were relegated to tweets. Later in the day, reports of rock legend Tom Petty’s passing prompted Hubbard Radio classic rock WDRV FM 97.1 to play Petty’s music exclusively from about 2:45 to 6 p.m. (Although initial reports of his death turned out to be premature.) Said Rob Cressman, program director of The Drive: “It speaks to the power and intimacy that is the institution of radio.”

Michelle McMahon

Michelle McMahon, a reporter for Big Ten Network’s “BTN Live,” will cover Chicago Blackhawks hockey over multiple platforms this season for NBC Sports Chicago (the new name for Comcast SportsNet Chicago). As a freelancer, McMahon will report on every home game (including those that aren’t carried on NBC Sports Chicago) and contribute to the network’s Blackhawks podcast. Before joining Big Ten Network, the University of Michigan graduate was a host and reporter for the NHL Network, and a sideline reporter for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes on Fox SportsNet South.

John Valenta

WDCB FM 90.9, the public radio station based in Glen Ellyn, has closed the book on a scandal former engineer John Valenta said “placed an unthinkable blight on the College of DuPage.” Valenta, who’d been employed as engineer for three decades, was sentenced to eight years in prison for defrauding the school of more than $443,000 in a billing scheme involving transmitter parts and other equipment he never bought. He also was ordered to repay $399,000 in restitution. Valenta pleaded guilty in February to felony theft charges. “I’m pleased that this chapter in the station’s history is in the past,” Dan Bindert, station manager of WDCB, said at the time. “I’m happy that justice has been served.”


Pollack Broadcasting, the Memphis-based owner of WRMN AM 1410 in Elgin and WBIG AM 1280 in Aurora, closed Monday on the purchase of WCGO AM 1590 in Evanston. The $3 million deal with Kovas Communications ends a 42-year run for Kovas of the news/talk and foreign-language station. New owner William Pollack is expected to retain the format and add his “Radio Shopping Show” concept that's in place at his other stations. “This is truly an exciting day,” he said. “As they say in radio . . . stand by.”

Natasha Korecki

A tip of the hat to political reporter Natasha Korecki, who’s celebrating the second anniversary of Politico Illinois Playbook, the indispensible daily newsletter she aggregates and edits. “What’s so amazing (at least to this former newspaper gal) is our audience keeps growing,” she wrote. “Since day one, we’ve seen a steady rise in readership, week after week, month after month.” Before joining Korecki reported for the Sun-Times and the Daily Herald.

Kenny McReynolds

Beloved Chicago sportscaster Kenny McReynolds missed his own induction Monday in the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. Chicago Cubs great Andre Dawson accepted for McReynolds, who was in the hospital for treatment of pneumonia following surgery last week. The longtime sports director at Weigel Broadcasting and voice of high school sports on Chicago television, McReynolds began on the former WBMX and SportsVision in 1982 and also worked as sports anchor and reporter for Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. He joined nine other 2017 inductees in the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.