Robservations: B96 ‘Smackdown’ hits Showbiz Shelly at Kiss FM

Christopher "Fred" Frederick, Michelle "Showbiz Shelly" Menaker and Angi Taylor

Robservations on the media beat:

103.5 Kiss FM

First WBBM 96.3-FM fired Michelle “Showbiz Shelly” Menaker after 13 years as morning co-host at the Entercom Top 40 station. Now B96 is threatening to sue her new employer if she keeps calling her daily pop-culture quiz the “Showbiz Shelly Smackdown.” A cease-and-desist order prompted iHeartMedia Top 40 WKSC 103.5-FM to rename Menaker’s segment “Showbiz Showdown” on the morning show hosted by Christopher “Fred” Frederick and Angi Taylor. Todd Cavanah, program director of B96, called the move “standard and contractual. We own the name. . . . It's really simple.” Firing back, Frederick told Kiss FM listeners: “I think it’s a low blow. I think it’s a low, low blow. . . . So dumb. Get a life, guys. Focus on your issues over there, right?” For her part, Menaker took it in stride: “I’m trying to put a positive spin on it, right? Maybe this is a good opportunity. It’s a new chapter. Maybe it’s a good time for a new name for it.” For the record, Menaker does have a trademark on her “Showbiz Shelly” name.

Chicago Sun-Times

Reaction was mixed Monday to the stunt by the Sun-Times, which left its front page intentionally blank to promote the launch of its digital paywall in an "urgent appeal." "Everybody wants to save the paper, but the business is in dire straits. So Chicago has to step up and help us, and I believe Chicago will," Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath told Entercom all-news WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM. "The threat to the Sun-Times is still very real." Under the new plan, online readers will get 10 free articles a month, after which they’ll be required to pay $7.49 a month for digital access. Print subscribers will not pay an extra fee.


Monday marked the return of “MHz Worldview” programming to Chicago via Window to the World Communications, parent company of WTTW-Channel 11. Formerly seen on City Colleges of Chicago’s WYCC-Channel 20, the international news and entertainment service now airs on Channel 20.1 as well as on Comcast Channel 372 and RCN Channel 57. “In addition to WTTW’s multichannel television and digital offerings, we are excited that we can return 'MHz Worldview' programming to Chicago,” Reese Marcusson, chief operating officer of WTTW, said in a statement. “Public media content is more vital now than ever, and 'MHz Worldview' brings quality news, mystery, and drama programming from around the world literally into view here in our community.”

Elizabeth Vargas

Remember when Bill Kurtis was the living logo of A&E Network? Now another former Chicago television news anchor will be hosting programs under the A&E Investigates banner. Elizabeth Vargas, who’s leaving ABC News after 14 years as a news anchor and host of “20/20,” has signed a development and production deal with A&E that will make her the face of the network’s primetime nonfiction series and specials. "This is the exact challenge I was looking for in the next chapter of my career,” Vargas said in a statement. From 1989 to 1993 Vargas was a reporter and weekend anchor at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2.

Jim Carollo

Colleagues at WGN 720-AM are remembering Jim Carollo, former director of engineering at the Tribune Broadcasting news/talk station. The Chicago native and resident of Huntley died of lung cancer April 18 at 72. “His wide-ranging skills, true professionalism, and unwavering leadership maintained the WGN Radio tradition of a high standard of quality and technical innovation for decades,” the station said in a tribute. “He was integral in the design and construction of WGN Radio’s Tribune Tower facility, including the Showcase Studio.” Carollo, who retired in 2013 after 43 years, was inducted in the WGN Radio Walk of Fame in 2016.

Monday’s comment of the day: John Kroll: Speaking as a veteran news site moderator: It is that hard. Technology cannot cope with the many ways comments can go off track; humans are needed. A site like the Sun-Times can easily attract more than 10,000 comments per day.

The problem is not differing viewpoints. If anything, the Sun-Times would welcome those because they would give people who disagree with its editorial board's opinions a reason to visit anyway. The problems are personal attacks, deliberate trolling to stir up arguments, hate speech, etc. Finding those in a sea of comments before conversations go astray is draining and inevitably unsuccessful unless a site dedicates many resources to it.

It is difficult to persuade editors that spending money on policing comments is more important than spending it on reporting; that's ever more true as revenue shrinks. I'm a strong believer in the benefits of allowing comments, but I understand why some sites would bar them. It may be better to have none at all than to have them without adequate moderation.