Robservations on the media beat:
With the world of sports at a standstill, this may seem like an inopportune time to hire a sportscaster. But Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has its eyes on the future with the addition of Kaitlin Sharkey. Just in from WITI, the Fox station in Milwaukee, Sharkey replaces Shae Peppler, who departed in January after two years as a sports reporter and weekend sports anchor. A Milwaukee native and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Sharkey worked for two stations in Green Bay before joining WITI in 2017. “Milwaukee is home, will always be home, but my time here is done,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m excited about a new opportunity.” Sharkey starts on the air at Fox 32 next week.
Another media casualty of the coronavirus shutdown is around-the-clock traffic reports on WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Entercom all-news station. At least for the time being, you'll no longer hear "traffic and weather on the eights" between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily. Evening and overnight traffic reporters Abby Ryan and Neil Fiorito remain on staff to do weekend and fill-in work for WBBM Newsradio. A third, John “Shaky” Siuntres, was among dozens of employees cut in Entercom Chicago's mass layoffs last week.
While many Chicago radio personalities appear to be adjusting to working from home, at least one has opted to return to the studio. Eric Ferguson, top-rated morning host at WTMX 101.9-FM, this week went back to broadcasting from his Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station in the Prudential Building, saying it was “virtually impossible” to interact with his audience from home. “I understand if things reach the point of no other options, [but] I don’t view it as a risk,” Ferguson told me. “We are the only ones in our studio. It’s cleaned twice a day. We all have separate broadcast areas. Virtually no one is working in our building. . . . And I feel a responsibility to be on the air, provide updated information and be a source of comfort and distraction during difficult times. I think some broadcasters forget the very basis of what they do is to serve the public good — and that means through good and bad times. I think a lot of radio people aren’t willing to accept that part.” Along with “Eric in the Morning” are co-hosts Melissa McGurren and Brian “Whip” Paruch and traffic reporter Violeta Podrumedic.
It’s a little more complicated to keep things safe at WGN 720-AM where morning star Bob Sirott and most other hosts at the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station are still working out of the skyline studios on East Wacker Drive. Between each shift, the studio is cleaned and disinfected. The tightest transition is between Sirott’s morning show and John Williams’s midday show. “The precautions are amazing,” Sirott said. “It’s probably safer than my house!” WGN hosts Roe Conn, Anna Davlantes and Lou Manfredini, sports anchor Dave Eanet, news anchor Kim Gordon and traffic reporters Mary VanDeVelde and Lauren Lapka are among those working from home.
Tom Marker hoped to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his “Bluesday Tuesday” concert series tonight at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. But with live performances on hold, College of DuPage's WDCB 90.9-FM will mark the milestone in a different way. Starting at 7 p.m. tonight, WDCB will rebroadcast a performance by guitarist Lurrie Bell, recorded in August. “The series has been a blast for all of us to be involved with since the beginning, and the live broadcasts have been so much fun to produce,” said station manager Dan Bindert. “And Tom Marker is the perfect friendly host.” Marker continues to host “Blues Time with Tom Marker” from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturdays on WDCB.
Monday’s comment of the day: Chuck Schaden: Rest in peace, Miller Peters. He was a knowledgable and friendly voice on the air and behind the scenes at WNIB. For many years, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, he urged listeners to "stay tuned for 'Those Were the Days' with Chuck Schaden." He was a real gentleman and a good friend.