Robservations on the media beat:
For the second time in five years, Chicago-based Newsweb Corp. has shut down a suburban radio station and given its license back to the FCC. WAIT 850-AM has been off the air since August 2019 when Newsweb sold the transmitter site in Crystal Lake to McHenry County College. Last week Newsweb notified the FCC that the station has "permanently ceased operations" and the company was surrendering its license. Newsweb acquired the 2,500-watt daytime station for $8.25 million in 2003. In 2015 Newsweb shut down and returned the license of WCFJ 1470-AM in south suburban Chicago Heights. "We have learned these fringe AMs with limited coverage cannot produce enough revenue to cover out-of-pocket operating costs of the most efficient operators," Mark Pinski, general manager of Newsweb Radio, said in a company statement. "Our remaining stations have very competitive signals. We expect there will be other failures in suburban radio particularly given the abysmal advertising climate." Owned by media magnate and Democratic megadonor Fred Eychaner, Newsweb operates progressive talk WCPT 820-AM and time-brokered WCPY 92.7-FM, WSBC 1240-AM and WNDZ 750-AM.
Online voting begins July 27 in two categories for this year's Radio Hall of Fame class. Listeners will be invited to cast ballots for the previously announced nominees in the music format personality category and spoken word personality category through August 9. (Here is the link.) Four other categories (including one for which Chicago's Bob Stroud is nominated) will be decided by a panel of industry professionals. Winners will be announced August 17. The Museum of Broadcast Communications will host the induction ceremony in a live radio broadcast from multiple locations in October.
Speaking of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, look for the Chicago shrine to reopen its doors at 360 North State Street this week on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, with free admission through August 2. Visitors will need to reserve free tickets online at museum.tv. Also reopening is "Stay Tuned: Rock on TV," the exhibit curated by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which has been extended through November 30. "Our top priority is to create a safe environment for all, while allowing our visitors to reconnect with the exhibits they know and love," said David Plier, board chairman of the museum. "We are also excited to offer free admission for the first two weeks of our reopening, enabling us to engage new visitors and reintroduce our museum to television and radio fans everywhere."
Paddock Publications, employee-owned parent company of Daily Herald Media Group, just announced another buyout offer as a precursor to possible layoffs. "Advertising is running at half of what it was a year ago, as the ongoing structural decline in newspaper advertising has been accelerated dramatically by the pandemic," said a memo to staff. "The outlook for next year is unclear at best, but what we know is that tens of thousands of dollars in revenues are being lost every month." Salary reductions of 15 percent for all employees will remain in effect through the end of the year. (Disclosure: I am employed by Daily Herald Media Group.)
Sara McMurray, general sales manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago, is jumping to Entercom Chicago as vice president and director of sales. Starting in early August, she will replace Chad Feldman, who'll shift to director of sports and gaming sales for the seven-station group. "Sara is a strong people-first manager with high integrity," said Rachel Williamson, senior vice president and market manager of Entercom Chicago. "Her network and knowledge of the market, combined with her experience in cluster strategies and audience-based selling, will be a great complement to the current strengths of our sales leadership team." McMurray, a University of Wisconsin graduate and 19-year veteran of the Hubbard stations, is married to longtime Chicago radio personality Pete McMurray.
In another radio sales leadership change, Nexstar Media Group has promoted Steve Tarpley to general sales manager of news/talk WGN 720-AM. Tarpley, who joined the station in 2010, most recently has been local sales manager. He replaces John Gallagher, who'd held the top sales job since 2018. Gallagher previously was vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago, and president and general manager of news/talk WLS 890-AM. “We had our choice of top candidates and Steve proved to be the best person for the job," said Mary Sandberg Boyle, general manager of WGN. "Steve knows how to drive results for our advertisers and lead a team of sellers successfully.”
Friday’s comment of the day: Dean Richards: “First at Four?" Do they [Fox 32] NOT know that WGN, WLS and WMAQ all have been doing news at 4 p.m. for years? Is it too late for them to rename it "Fourth at Four"?