Sinclair countersues Tribune Media over failed merger


Sinclair Broadcast Group fired back Wednesday against Tribune Media, countersuing the Chicago-based owner of WGN-Channel 9 and WGN 720-AM over the collapse of their proposed merger.

Sinclair’s response came three weeks after Tribune Media filed a $1 billion breach-of-contract lawsuit against Sinclair, alleging the Maryland-based broadcaster botched the original transaction through its “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations” with the Department of Justice and the FCC. Continue reading

Robservations: Dann Gire hands off leadership of film critics

Brian Tallerico and Dann Gire

Robservations on the media beat:

Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire is stepping down after 22 years as president of the Chicago Film Critics Association, the organization he co-founded and continues to serve as a director. "The time has come for me to hand it off to someone younger and more resilient," he said. Succeeding Gire as president is Brian Tallerico, editor of, and the group's current vice president. The association hosts an annual film festival and awards presentation. Gire also started this week in his new role as adjunct instructor at Loyola University's School of Communications, where he's teaching a course on business speaking. In November Gire took a buyout after 42 years as a full-time employee of the Daily Herald, but retained the title of film critic on a freelance basis. Continue reading

Robservations: L.A. Times owner reportedly eyeing tronc


Robservations on the media beat:

Patrick Soon-Shiong

Patrick Soon-Shiong, the biotech billionaire who paid $500 million to buy the Los Angeles Times from Chicago-based tronc, may have his sights on acquiring the rest of the Chicago Tribune’s parent company. Business Insider reports that Soon-Shiong is seeking to join an investor group that’s been in talks with tronc since early August. Soon-Shiong reportedly would team with Donerail Group, the private equity firm led by hedge fund manager Will Wyatt. With a nearly 25 percent stake in tronc, Soon-Shiong already is the company’s second-largest shareholder. (The largest shareholder, Michael Ferro, has a nearly 26 percent stake.) In addition to the Tribune, tronc owns the New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and papers in six other cities. Continue reading

Sun-Times newsroom staff approves one-year contract

Chicago Sun-Times

Editorial employees of the Chicago Sun-Times approved a new one-year contract this week that provides increased health insurance benefits but no raises in salaries.

By a 39-5 vote, newsroom staffers represented by the Chicago News Guild ratified the agreement, effective September 1. The previous contract expired in December 2017, although it remained in effect while negotiations proceeded with management. Continue reading

Robservations: Carly Henderson joins 'The Jam' as third co-host

Carly Henderson

Robservations on the media beat:

Carly Henderson, a Los Angeles entertainment journalist, TV host and video producer, has been named co-host of “The Jam,” the morning news, talk and entertainment show on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26. Starting in mid-September she’ll join co-hosts Felicia Lawrence and Jordan Cornette from 6 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. Henderson, 28, who's worked for E! News, MTV and Hollywire, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for her work on mtvU's "Half of Us" college suicide prevention campaign. Saying she was "beyond thrilled" to join "The Jam," Henderson said: "All my experiences — whether on the red carpet, reporting from music festivals, or co-hosting in the studio — have prepared me for this exciting opportunity. Six years ago, I connected with the love of my life while walking around the city. So for me, Chicago is where dreams come true.” Steve Bailey, head of local programming and creative for The U, said in a statement: "We are so happy to welcome Carly to 'The Jam' team. Her natural charm, warmth and enthusiasm for life are part of the many reasons why she is a great fit with the team." Henderson replaces Danielle Robay, who left the show in June. Continue reading

Robservations: 'Great response' for Lisa Allen's new podcast from The Mix

Lisa Allen and Jerry Nunn

Robservations on the media beat:

Lisa Allen, the popular midday personality on Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX 101.9-FM, is the latest to join the podcast parade. Since July Allen has been hosting “Non-Stop with Lisa and Jerry,” co-hosted by Jerry Nunn, a writer and photographer from Windy City Times. Together they interview celebrities, recap concerts and events, and share backstage stories about the Chicago and suburban hot spots they visit. (The latest episode recounts their exploits at Lollapalooza.) “We’ve had a great response so far and we’re just getting started,” Allen said. With new shows added every other week, "Non-Stop” can be accessed on The Mix website, The Mix app, iTunes and other podcast platforms. Hubbard Radio has an ownership stake in the PodcastOne podcasting network. Continue reading

Robservations: Mike North 'humbled and excited' about plans for biopic

Mike North

Robservations on the media beat:

A movie on the life of Mike North? That’s the word from the former Chicago radio sports talk personality whose “outrageous and unconventional road to the top of the Chicago media world” is being developed and scripted by Chicagoan Jeremy Morrison in conjunction with writer/director Adam Rifkin. “It is an absolute honor and privilege to be given this opportunity,” Morrison said in a statement announcing the biopic, planned for production in 2019. “Growing up I absolutely idolized Mike and now to work side by side with him on this project is a blessing. I am thankful for not only Adam’s mentorship, but his entrusting me with the task of bringing Mike’s incredible story to life on screen.” Said North: “Be-Be and I are humbled and excited to be working on this project with Adam and Jeremy.” Continue reading

Robservations: 'JBTV' host Jerry Bryant battling cancer

Jerry Bryant

Robservations on the media beat:


Friends and fans are pulling for Jerry Bryant, founder and producer of “JBTV,” the longest running music television show in the country. Bryant, 66, is being treated for Stage 4 colorectal cancer after undergoing two surgeries to remove tumors from his colon and lung, according to a statement released Sunday. "Jerry wants everyone to know that although these obstacles are difficult and there's a lot of trials to come, he's committed more than ever to helping artists and exposing new music," the statement said. Several fundraising events are being planned to help Bryant, who is recording his fight against cancer for an upcoming documentary on his life and love of music. "We continue to do our shows and Jerry, health permitting, will still be Jerry and doing all that Jerry does," said "JBTV" co-owner Michael Harnett. "He even edited another show yesterday — the man cannot be stopped even by cancer." The Emmy Award-winning Bryant was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2014. Continue reading

Robservations: Bill Kurtis gets personal with Chicago magazine

Bill Kurtis/Chicago magazine

Robservations on the media beat:

Donna La Pietra and Bill Kurtis

Bill Kurtis, one of Chicago's most public media personalities for more than 50 years, reveals his private side in the September issue of Chicago magazine. The 77-year-old legendary anchorman, documentary producer, public radio host and commercial voice artist speaks candidly with senior writer Bryan Smith about his heartaches and disappointments, including the loss of his first wife and his 38-year-old son, and his washout as a CBS network news anchor in the 1980s. Smith's illuminating cover story also explores the epic romance and marriage of Kurtis and Donna La Pietra, and tells what goes on at Mettawa Manor, their 65-acre estate and nature preserve in Lake County. And how about that extraordinary, unmistakable voice (a "distinctive blend of gravitas and mellifluousness," as Smith describes it)? “If you wake Bill up at 2 in the morning from a sound sleep, he will sound exactly the same,” La Pietra says. Continue reading

Robservations: Failed merger nets bonuses for Tribune Media execs


Robservations on the media beat:

Larry Wert

The collapse of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s merger cost executives of Tribune Media millions in bonuses they would have received. But they’re not totally out of the money. Despite the failure to complete the deal, the Chicago-based parent company of WGN-Channel 9 and WGN 720-AM will pay its top officials between $102,000 and $160,000, according to a Reuters report Tuesday. The bonuses “are being paid to the executives, like other recipients of unpaid retention bonuses, in recognition of the substantial efforts and time that each of them devoted to the company’s anticipated merger with Sinclair and their contributions to maintain and grow the company’s business,” the company said in a government filing. Among recipients is Tribune Broadcasting president Larry Wert, the former Chicago TV and radio station boss. Continue reading