Robservations: Cumulus buys WKQX from Merlin

101 WKQX

Robservations on the media beat:

Cumulus Media has agreed to buy WKQX FM 101.1 from Merlin Media, securing the station’s future as an alternative rocker. The deal, announced late Tuesday, also includes the call letters of WLUP and that station’s intellectual property. Reported price was $18 million. Last month Merlin sold WLUP FM 97.9 to Educational Media Foundation, ending The Loop’s run operated by Cumulus under a local marketing agreement. “I am truly pleased that we have reached an agreement to bring WKQX into the Cumulus family and fully focus on driving growth in the Chicago market,” Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, said in a statement. “We have lots of great programming planned for WKQX and our other stations in the Chicago market, and we look forward to growing these legendary stations and providing great content to our listeners and effective marketing strategies for our advertisers in and around Chicago.” Cumulus also owns news/talk WLS AM 890 and classic hits WLS FM 94.7. Insiders speculate that WLS FM morphs into "94.7 The Loop" (but management denies that). With the end of Merlin in Chicago, it’s so long to CEO Randy Michaels.

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad

Chicago Public Media continues to expand the news staff of WBEZ FM 91.5 with the addition of two more full-time education reporters. Adriana Cardona-Maguigad, a former Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ, returns to cover elementary and secondary education in Chicago. She most recently was an investigative reporter for Univision Chicago and a reporting fellow at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Kate McGee signs on from WAMU in Washington, D.C., to cover higher education. “We are expanding our newsroom by attracting top journalists who want to serve the public with quality, local journalism that is essential to our community’s civic life,” Goli Sheikholeslami, CEO of WBEZ Chicago, said in a statement. “Adriana and Kate are terrific additions.”

Tom Skilling

For the first time in 38 years, Tom Skilling won’t be the star attraction at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. The chief meteorologist at Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 has been hosting his annual Tornado and Severe Weather Seminar before sell-out crowds at Fermilab since he created the event in 1981. Speakers each year include a roster of severe weather scientists and forecasters. But not this year. “Tom's current heavy workload and schedule prevent him from being able to host the seminar, so the event will not take place this year,” reads the notice on the Fermilab website. Earlier this week Skilling was in Champaign delivering a talk on “media weather coverage” to students at the University of Illinois.

Karen Rariden

Karen Rariden, who’s been assistant news director at WBBM-Channel 2 since 2011, will be running the show — at least until a permanent replacement is named for Jeff Kiernan, outgoing vice president and news director at the CBS-owned station. Rariden, a graduate of Indiana University, earlier had been executive producer of the “WGN Morning News” at WGN-Channel 9. Filling the top news job will be a priority for Derek Dalton, who starts later this month as president and general manager. Dalton was named Tuesday to succeed Marty Wilke at CBS 2.

Charlie Meyerson

A tip of the hat to Charlie Meyerson, the veteran Chicago journalist and digital news pioneer who keeps finding new ways to do great work. Meyerson just launched a Chicago Public Square Newscast series. Still in the pilot phase, it’s an extension of his Public Square brand, which includes an excellent daily newsletter and onstage interview podcast series. Listeners can access Chicago Public Square Newscast on Alexa, iTunes, podcast players and online. “It’s been fun — surprisingly easy, even free — to get back to the medium in which I launched my career and to grant the wishes of people who’ve said they miss the kind of award-winning newscasts I used to deliver at WXRT and WNUA,” Meyerson says. “Part of the inspiration for this new project has been the incredibly gratifying and continuing turnout of support for Square from what I’ve dubbed The Legion of Chicago Public Squarians.”

Bruce DuMont

Bruce DuMont, the longtime Chicago broadcaster, political analyst and founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, will receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago. He’ll be honored at the group’s 59th annual Golden Trumpet Awards banquet May 22 at the Palmer House Hilton. Calling DuMont “a true innovator in the broadcast community,” Dominic Calabrese, board president of the Publicity Club, said in a statement: “His influence and journalistic leadership have provided PR professionals with outlets that celebrate freedom of speech and storytelling, bringing awareness to Chicago and beyond.” DuMont, who retired late last year as president of the museum, continues to host “Beyond the Beltway,” his weekly syndicated radio show now in its 38th year.

Rob Elgas, Cheryl Burton and Judy Hsu

Three weekday news anchors from ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 grace the cover of the University of Illinois alumni magazine spring issue. Illini grads Rob Elgas (’94), Cheryl Burton (’84) and Judy Hsu (’93) are profiled inside along with ABC 7 reporter Eric Horng (’04) and weekend news anchor Mark Rivera (’11). With so many alums working at 190 North State Street, notes writer Jonathan Black, “you’d think there was a direct pipeline between Urbana-Champaign and the Loop.” Burton reminisces about her time as an Illinette in the Marching Illini, which led to a spot as a Honey Bear cheerleader for the Chicago Bears. During her senior year, Burton commuted from Urbana to Soldier Field, she recalls.

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Ron Magers: We’re skipping a step here. Before the anchors were ordered to read it, dozens of General Managers signed off on it. Did not one say, “This doesn’t work in my market for my station!” Forget their political agenda and remember that Sinclair is making a mockery of serving a local community. For me, that’s evidence enough for the FCC to say no to this deal.
But we all know it won’t happen that way.
And can we guess that the orders to muzzle WGN employees came from up top where any number of executives stand to reap a financial windfall when the Sinclair deal closes?