Robservations: WTTW’s Phil Ponce cutting back on ‘Chicago Tonight’

Phil Ponce (Photo: WTTW)

Robservations on the media beat:

Chicago public television viewers will be seeing less of Phil Ponce in the new year. The longtime host of “Chicago Tonight” confirmed that he’ll reduce his workload at WTTW-Channel 11 to three days a week in 2018 and two days a week in 2019. “The station is graciously letting me transition away from full-time status,” Ponce, 68, said in an email Wednesday. “Tempus fugit and we’ve got a great bench that deserves more time in the saddle (am I mixing metaphors?) I don’t know what will happen after year two and will play that by ear. In any case, I do not want to stay on the air so long that I start scaring the horses.” Except for a four-year break, Ponce has hosted the flagship nightly news program for the Window to the World Communications station since 1999. Continue reading

Robservations: Bruce DuMont retiring from broadcast museum

Bruce DuMont

Robservations on the media beat:

It’s official: Bruce DuMont is stepping down as president of Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications when his term expires at the end of the year. DuMont, 73, notified the museum board Tuesday that he will relinquish the leadership position he has held since he founded the nonprofit institution in 1983. “It’s time to bring in some new blood to meet the day-to-day challenges of the museum and plan for its future,” he said. No decision has been made on a successor, according to interim board chairman Larry Wert. In addition to exhibits on the history of television and radio in America, the museum at 360 North State Street is currently drawing record crowds to its multimedia attraction Saturday Night Live: The Experience. Continue reading

Exit interview: Mark Suppelsa ready to bow out — with no second thoughts

Mark Suppelsa

After 25 years as one of Chicago’s most admired and respected news anchors, Mark Suppelsa is about to sign off for good. And by all accounts, he couldn’t be happier to ride off into the Montana sunset.

December 8 is circled on his calendar as Suppelsa’s last night on the air at WGN-Channel 9, where he anchors the 5, 9 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts with Micah Materre. In a fitting coda to his career, the Tribune Broadcasting station posted double-digit increases in late-news ratings for the just-ended November sweep.

Although Suppelsa, 55, announced his retirement more than three months ago, his bosses have yet to designate a successor. The decision may be complicated by the timing of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which awaits government approval. Continue reading

Robservations: ‘Reader’s gonna grow,’ says CEO Eisendrath

Chicago Reader

Robservations on the media beat:

Edwin Eisendrath

The Chicago Reader is in no danger of folding — or getting folded into the Chicago Sun-Times. That’s the word from Sun-Times Media CEO Edwin Eisendrath, who seems as bullish on the alternative weekly as he is on the daily tabloid. “Like everything else here, the Reader’s gonna grow,” Eisendrath said in response to rumors of downsizing the unprofitable brand. “It’s gonna have to think about its mission. It’s not the same thing as the Sun-Times. If somebody says it’s the Sunday magazine for the Sun-Times, that’s fantasyland. We’ve never thought about that.” But he acknowledged he’s still looking for ways both publications can share resources. Reader editorial employees recently ratified their first contract via the Chicago News Guild. “The truth is, they were underpaid,” Eisendrath said of the staff he inherited. “I approved the contract not because it made economic sense, but because it was inhumane what they were being paid.” Continue reading

Robservations: Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire accepts buyout

Dann Gire

Robservations on the media beat:

The great Dann Gire, award-winning film critic of the Daily Herald, is stepping down today after 42 years as a full-time employee of the newspaper. Gire, 64, was among a reported 17 staffers to accept voluntary buyouts from parent company Paddock Publications. But wait, there’s a sequel: Gire is expected to continue reviewing movies and contributing other features on a freelance basis. Until his new deal is official, Gire declined to comment. He joined the Daily Herald in 1975 as a reporter covering government, crime and courts, and was named film critic in 1978. A graduate of Eastern Illinois University and eight-time winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for arts criticism, Gire also serves as president and founding director of the Chicago Film Critics Association. Continue reading

Robservations: Charlie Rose hosted ‘A.M. Chicago’ in the ’70s

Charlie Rose

Robservations on the media beat:

Before he became nationally famous, Charlie Rose enjoyed a brief run in Chicago in the late ’70s as co-host of “A.M. Chicago” on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. (That’s the show Oprah Winfrey would take over a few years later and transform into syndication gold.) “In terms of professional experience, it was important to what I learned, not how well I did,” he once recalled. “I didn't do very well.” Now Rose is the latest public figure to be scrutinized for sexual misconduct. Following a Washington Post report with the accusations of eight women, CBS News suspended Rose as host of "CBS This Morning" with Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell and a contributor to ’60 Minutes,” and PBS halted distribution of his nightly interview show. At the start of Tuesday’s show, King said: “I really am reeling. I got one hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night. Both my son and my daughter called me; Oprah called me and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I am not okay. . . . I’m really struggling. . . . What do you say, when someone that you deeply care about has done something that’s so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that?” None of the allegations published Monday included Rose's time at ABC 7. Continue reading

Robservations: Darlene Hill out, Anita Padilla in at ‘Good Day Chicago’

Darlene Hill

Robservations on the media beat:

Anita Padilla

It’s official: “Good Day Chicago” news anchor Darlene Hill and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 have parted company. Hill has been off the morning show since the end of September when her contract expired. On Friday, both sides publicly acknowledged the split. "I want to thank all of the viewers in Chicago, the people who allowed me to tell their stories every day from the city to the suburbs,” Hill said in a statement released by Fox 32. “The past 23 years have been magical and I've been fortunate to be a part of an award-winning news team at Fox 32 News. I'm not sure what the future holds but I'm excited about the next steps on this new journey.” Said general manager Dennis Welsh: “We want to thank her for her many years of service to Chicagoans and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.” Succeeding Hill alongside Scott Schneider on “Good Day Chicago” is Anita Padilla. A Chicago area native, Padilla joined Fox 32 as a reporter in 2007 after 10 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. Continue reading

Entercom flips K-Hits to hip-hop ‘104.3 JAMS’

104.3 JAMS

On its first day as owner of CBS Radio, Entercom Communications has blown up classic hits WJMK FM 104.3, replacing the six-year-old K-Hits brand with a new format of classic hip-hop and R&B.

At 11 a.m. Friday the company launched “The New 104.3 JAMS – Chicago’s #1 for Throwbacks,” geared to an ethnically diverse audience of millennials with rhythmic music of the ’90s and early ’00s. Core artists include Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G., TLC, 2pac, Nelly, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, Eminem, Aaliyah, Fugees, and Kanye West. Continue reading

Robservations: Entercom takes over CBS Radio today

Jimmy deCastro

Robservations on the media beat:


Look for Jimmy deCastro to hit the ground running as the new senior vice president and Chicago market manager of Entercom, which officially takes over CBS Radio today. The veteran Chicago radio impresario has an ambitious agenda to boost ratings and revenues at the company’s seven stations here. Staffers bid farewell Thursday to Tim Pohlman, who held the job since January 2016. The $1.7 billion merger with Entercom effectively ends the CBS Radio brand, which dates back to 1927 when Chicago native William S. Paley and his family bought a struggling network of 16 stations called the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System. Now it’s history. Continue reading