Robservations: P.F. Chang’s wraps up ABC 7’s Olympics snafu

Mark Rivera (ABC 7, February 10, 2018)

Robservations on the media beat:

An embarrassing blunder for WLS-Channel 7 has turned into a golden marketing opportunity for P.F. Chang’s. It began Saturday when the ABC-owned station mistakenly ran a graphic over news anchor Mark Rivera’s shoulder that referred to the Olympics in PyeongChang as “P.F Chang 2018.” The graphic had been designed for a satirical piece by sports anchor Mark Giangreco that aired the night before. Now the restaurant chain has seized on the snafu by offering free PyeongChang Lettuce Wraps with any entree purchase Thursday. (Here’s the link to the required barcode.) “If you haven’t heard, there was a graphics mix up at a Chicago TV station that alluded to P.F. Chang’s as hosts of a certain winter sporting event,” the company said on its website. “Though it’s not true, we thought it would be appropriate to give the people what they want.” Continue reading

Play ball! WGN Radio picks up White Sox

WGN Radio

Just in time for spring training, WGN AM 720 has finalized an agreement to broadcast Chicago White Sox baseball, the Tribune Broadcasting news/talk station and the team announced today.

The three-year deal, which includes all 162 White Sox regular season and postseason games as well as select spring training games, begins February 23 with the opening of the 2018 Cactus League season. Announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson return to the radio booth. Continue reading

Robservations: Tronc to funnel all production through Chicago

Tribune Tower

Robservations on the media beat:

Tronc unveiled plans Tuesday to centralize production of all of its newspapers from a new Design and Production Studio in Chicago. The news was contained in a memo from tronc president Tim Knight announcing a companywide reorganization “to reimagine how our newsrooms deliver on our journalistic mission and accelerate our transformation to a truly digital-focused company.” In addition to the Chicago Tribune and suburban publications, tronc papers in New York, Baltimore, Orlando, South Florida, and elsewhere would be produced here. The Design and Production Studio will be led by Cristi Kempf, associate managing editor for editing and presentation at the Tribune, and report to associate editor Colin McMahon. “In collaboration with the editorial managers within each business unit, the DPS team will compile the best content our newsrooms and partners offer into daily print newspapers that serve our most loyal subscribers and advertisers,” Knight told staffers. “Decisions about what stories go on Page One and local coverage choices will remain in each local newsroom.” Good luck with that. Continue reading

It’s official: WGN hires news anchor Joe Donlon

Joe Donlon

Joe Donlon, a leading news anchor in Portland, Oregon, for 21 years, has been hired for the top anchor job at “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9.

Confirming a report here Monday, the Tribune Broadcasting station announced today that Donlon would start in mid-April, succeeding Mark Suppelsa, who retired in December. He’ll join evening and late-news anchors Micah Materre, Ben Bradley and Lourdes Duarte. Continue reading

Sun-Times hires wife of CEO as executive producer

Chicago Sun-Times

Jennifer Schulze, a former Chicago television news director and producer, has been hired to develop new video content for the Sun-Times, the company announced today.

Schulze is married to Edwin Eisendrath, CEO of Sun-Times Media and leader of the investor group that bought the financially ailing newspaper in July. Her hiring, effective immediately, was approved by the company’s board. Continue reading

Robservations: WGN finds Suppelsa’s replacement in Portland

WGN News (Photo: WGN)

Robservations on the media beat:

Joe Donlon

A longtime news anchor from Portland, Oregon, is close to signing on for the top job at “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9, sources said Sunday. The post has been vacant since Mark Suppelsa retired from the Tribune Broadcasting station in December. Expected to replace him alongside Micah Materre at 5, 6, 9 and 10 p.m. weekdays is Joe Donlon, a 21-year veteran of KGW, the NBC affiliate in Portland. If all goes as planned, he’ll start sometime this spring. WGN officials declined to comment. Donlon, a St. Louis native and graduate of Marquette University, previously worked for stations in Tucson, Arizona, and Corpus Christi, Texas. Ratings have held steady since Suppelsa's departure, with a variety of insiders filling his role in the interim. Continue reading

That’s show biz: Sun-Times cuts columnist Bill Zwecker

Bill Zwecker (Photo: Fox 32)

Bill Zwecker, one of Chicago’s premier celebrity columnists and entertainment reporters for decades, is the latest marquee personality to be forced out at the Sun-Times, sources confirmed Thursday.

The elimination of Zwecker’s position after 26 years at the Sun-Times follows the ouster last week of longtime theater critic Hedy Weiss, as the paper’s new owners struggle to cut costs and redefine their coverage of arts and entertainment. Continue reading

Robservations: WGN Radio revises weekend sports roster

WGN Radio

Robservations on the media beat:

Joe Brand

While WGN AM 720 continues to negotiate for Chicago White Sox radio rights, the Tribune Broadcasting news/talk station is adjusting its weekend sports lineup. Joe Brand will anchor sports on Saturday mornings as part of Lou Manfredini’s “Mr. Fixit Show” and “The John Williams Show.” Brand, who graduated from Marist High School and Illinois State University, has been the play-by-play voice of the Kane County Cougars since 2014. Also at WGN, Andy Masur will join “The Dean Richards Show” as Sunday morning sports anchor. As for the White Sox, they’re losing their current radio home on news/talk WLS AM 890 as owner Cumulus Media reorganizes from bankruptcy. Announcement of a new station is expected any day. Continue reading

Tronc’s Michael Ferro bids L.A. goodbye

Michael Ferro (Photo: Christopher Michel)

When Michael Ferro took control of Tribune Publishing in 2016, he saw the Los Angeles Times as the crown jewel of the company and the key to his grand ambitions to create a “global entertainment brand.”

Ferro envisioned opening new bureaus in such media capitals as Hong Kong, Seoul, Rio de Janiero, Lagos and Moscow, and leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to revolutionize journalism. As part of his digital transformation strategy, he changed the name of the company to tronc — short for Tribune Online Content. Continue reading