Robservations: Remembering radio's 'great talent' Larry Lujack

Larry Lujack

Robservations on the media beat:

On the fifth anniversary of his passing, Larry Lujack continues to be revered as one of America’s greatest radio personalities and Chicago’s preeminent disc jockey for the ages. The Radio Hall of Famer and self-proclaimed "Superjock" died at 73 of esophageal cancer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on December 18, 2013. From the time he landed in Chicago as late-night personality at WCFL in 1967 through the two decades he dominated Top 40 powerhouse WLS 890-AM, he was without peer. More on Lujack's extraordinary life and career will be revealed in the soon-to-be-published autobiography of Tommy Edwards, the radio legend long known as Lujack's "Animal Stories" sidekick Lil’ Tommy. "Remembering Uncle Lar’. What a great talent!" Edwards wrote on Facebook Monday. "There was another side of Larry Lujack you may not know. You will soon. Stay tuned." Continue reading

Robservations: Jennifer White to host 'Morning Shift' on WBEZ

Jennifer White

Robservations on the media beat:

Tony Sarabia

Jennifer White has been named host of "The Morning Shift," the locally produced news and talk show airing at 9 a.m. weekdays on WBEZ 91.5-FM. Starting January 7, she will succeed Tony Sarabia, who is signing off December 21 after 28 years at the Chicago Public Media news/talk station. In addition to hosting the station's critically acclaimed podcasts "Making Oprah" and "Making Obama," among others, White has been serving as Friday host of "The Morning Shift." A Detroit native and University of Michigan graduate, White joined WBEZ in 2016 from Michigan Public Media, where she'd worked since 1999. "I have learned a lot from Tony and my other newsroom colleagues over the past three years," White said. "I look forward to taking 'The Morning Shift' into its next iteration by building on the strong foundation Tony is leaving for us.” Continue reading

Robservations: NPR reports Tribune payment over Ferro’s slur

Michael Ferro (Photo: Christopher Michel)

Robservations on the media beat:

As if it were possible to think any less of Michael Ferro, a bombshell report Wednesday claimed the former chairman of Tribune Publishing was heard making an anti-Semitic slur to a gathering of company executives. NPR reported that Ferro was caught on tape referring to California billionaire Eli Broad as part of a “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles. NPR’s David Folkenflik reported that Tribune Publishing made secret payments of more than $2.5 million to keep a former publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Times from disclosing Ferro’s comments. Recent financial reports show Ferro's infamous $15 million “consulting fee” on his way out was reduced by $2.5 million to $12.5 million in the second quarter this year, according to NPR. Ferro resigned as chairman in March, hours before sexual harassment accusations against him were published. But he remains the largest shareholder of the Chicago Tribune’s parent company (which he’d earlier stuck with the hideous name tronc). A spokesman for Ferro denied he made the slur. Tribune Publishing declined to comment. Continue reading

Robservations: There may be hope for Me-TV FM returning to Comcast


Robservations on the media beat:

Neal Sabin

Fans are up in arms about the sudden disappearance of Me-TV FM — Weigel Broadcasting’s soft-rock oldies and classic hits WRME 87.7-FM — from Chicago's Comcast/Xfinity Channel 877. But there may be hope: "We're always evaluating the content and channels we offer customers, so [Me-TV FM] may be available in the future," Xfinity posted in a response to complaints Monday. (Here is the link.Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting, said he was sorry Comcast elected to remove the station in a channel realignment December 1. "We have a very good relationship with Comcast, and while disappointed, we respect their right to carry programming they feel their audience desires," Sabin said. "We have received well over 100 calls and emails about the loss of the TV carriage, which included weather radar and forecasts along with our music and song information. We are thankful for our loyal audience reaching out to us." Stayed tuned. Continue reading

Robservations: WLS owner talks up interest in buying WGN Radio

WGN Radio

Robservations on the media beat:

Cumulus Media, parent company of news/talk WLS 890-AM and two other radio stations in Chicago, could be first in line to make a bid for news/talk WGN 720-AM if the station's incoming owners put it up for sale next year. Nexstar Media Group has agreed to acquire Tribune Media, which includes 42 television stations, WGN America cable network and the standalone radio station. It's willing to sell WGN Radio, according to Crain's Chicago Business, which reported that Nexstar has no plans to build out a radio portfolio. Mary Berner, president and CEO of Cumulus Media, told staffers in Chicago last week that the company definitely was interested in WGN Radio. "It's on our radar," one insider said. Cumulus Media, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, also owns classic hits WLS 94.7-FM and alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM. Also reportedly considered potential buyers of WGN Radio are Hubbard Radio and Entercom Communications. Continue reading

Robservations: Sun-Times cuts Sneed column to Sundays only

Michael Sneed

Robservations on the media beat:

Michael Sneed, whose gossip column has been a staple of the Sun-Times for 32 years, is reducing her workload. Starting this weekend, her Page 4 column will appear only on Sundays. It most recently has been running three days a week. "The rest of the week, we’ll capitalize on Sneed’s strength — getting news first — whether it’s Mike Ditka being hospitalized or today’s item about a letter to a Chicagoan penned by late President George H.W. Bush. We won’t wait a minute to post those scoops, running them both online and in print," Sun-Times editor-in-chief Chris Fusco wrote in a letter to readers Friday. "Like the rest of us at the Sun-Times, Sneed is adapting to deliver you the news you need when you need it, and we're hoping you continue to enjoy her work." Sneed, 75, joined the Sun-Times in 1986 after 18 years at the Chicago Tribune and two years at City News Bureau. She also worked briefly at City Hall as press secretary under Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. Continue reading

Robservations: WBBM radiothon keeps 'Good Neighbor' spirit alive

Good Neighbor Radiothon

Robservations on the media beat:

Eddie “Chicago Ed” Schwartz

Here's to you, Eddie: “Chicago Ed” Schwartz, the legendary overnight radio host who died in 2009, was known for the annual “Good Neighbor Food Drive” he started in 1982. It eventually morphed into the “Good Neighbor Radiothon,” which continues to this day on Entercom all-news WBBM 780-AM and WCFS 105.9-FM. Starting at 5 a.m. Friday, WBBM Newsradio morning anchor Pat Cassidy will host the 18-hour fundraiser for The Salvation Army Bed & Bread Club live from Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. “Our journalists look forward to this event every year; it is a chance for WBBM’s entire news team to report on the positive work being done to provide food, clothing and shelter to neighbors in need within our own community,” Jimmy deCastro, senior vice president and market manager of Entercom Chicago, said in a statement. “Our listeners are among the most informed, caring and generous of Chicagoans, and their support each year speaks volumes.” Continue reading

Robservations: Fowler ousted, Fusco takes charge at Sun-Times

Chris Fusco

Robservations on the media beat:

Carol Fowler

A newsroom power struggle is over at the Chicago Sun-Times, where Carol Fowler is out after 14 months as senior vice president, digital news products. The action by the board of Sun-Times Media makes editor-in-chief Chris Fusco sole leader of the newsroom. "The board decided the newsroom structure didn’t work and the company is moving forward in a different direction," Sun-Times Media said in a statement Tuesday. "The SVP position was eliminated." Fowler's departure follows that of Edwin Eisendrath, who resigned in October as chief executive officer of the company. Eisendrath hired Fowler to oversee "innovative storytelling," including video production, podcasting and other digital media efforts. But her role — and Eisendrath's interference — clashed with Fusco's authority, according to insiders. Fowler previously served as news director of three Chicago stations (Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32) before she became an entrepreneur in social media management and strategy. Continue reading