Robservations: Michael Ferro exits tronc ahead of sexual misconduct claims

Michael Ferro (Photo: Christopher Michel)

Robservations on the media beat:

#MeToo, Michael? Now we know the real reason Michael Ferro retired Monday as chairman of tronc, parent company of the Chicago Tribune. Hours after his announcement, Fortune published allegations by two female entrepreneurs that Ferro had made inappropriate sexual advances toward them. (Here is the link.) Fortune also quoted former Sun-Times staffers who recalled Ferro making “sexual comments about women’s clothing and appearance” during the time he owned the paper. For a man who had done so much to undermine two Chicago news organizations (including the elimination of more than 1,125 newspaper jobs companywide in the last two years), it seemed fitting that Ferro would be brought down by the power of journalism.

Ferro’s spokesman first tried to peddle the story that his boss had quit simply because he was “burned out” and wanted to “go out on a win.” But once the Fortune bombshell hit, tronc issued this statement: “Michael Ferro has had no claims filed against him while leading tronc as chairman. Further, we are aware of no claims filed against Mr. Ferro throughout his career. As Mr. Ferro has retired after leading a financial turnaround of tronc, we wish him well in his private life and will have no further comment.” P.S. Ferro is expected to remain an investor in tronc, with a consulting deal that pays him $5 million a year through 2020.

Brian Thomas

Cumulus Media played musical chairs with its program directors Monday. Brian Thomas, who had been program director of classic hits WLS FM 94.7 since 2015, moved to WKHX, the company’s country station in Atlanta. Replacing him at WLS FM is Wade Linder, who’d been program director of classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 since 2014. (The Loop signed off forever March 9.) Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, called it a “smooth transition,” adding: “Very happy to be keeping Wade as part of the Cumulus Chicago family and Brian with Cumulus in Atlanta.” In Nielsen Audio figures released Monday, WLS FM ranked seventh overall with a 3.4 percent audience share.

Echo Robinson

Echo Robinson, a 23-year veteran of iHeartMedia Chicago and its predecessor, has been promoted to director of marketing and promotions for the six-station group. The Southern Illinois University graduate began as an intern in 1995 and advanced to senior promotions coordinator and promotions director. “Echo’s wealth of experience and expertise makes her the perfect choice for this position,” Matt Scarano, president of iHeartMedia’s Chicago region, said in a statement.

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano, former senior editor of DNAinfo Chicago, has joined the Sun-Times as director of news planning and strategy. She most recently was managing editor of Yakkety Yak, a Chicago-based digital marketing company. A Chicago area native and graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Tufano perviously worked for the Huffington Post, The Chicago Reporter and Chicago Public Radio’s “Eight Forty-Eight.”

Monday’s comment of the day: Michael Buckley: Rick [O’Dell] and Bill [Cochran] are two of the absolute best - great pipes, great production, great music selection and great personalities. Me-TV FM deserves a full time real slot on the dial - especially considering the crap from Entercom, Cumulus, and iHeart. My only regret is that these two excellent talents still aren't at 'NUA, which was one of the best stations in the city before it was blown up.