Robservations: Marcus Betts to chair expanded Public Narrative board

Marcus Betts

Robservations on the media beat:

Marcus Betts, assistant vice chancellor for external engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been named chair of a newly expanded board of directors at Public Narrative. He’ll lead board members Catherine Rabenstine, Ryan Schermerhorn, Anita Banerji, Katie O’Malley, Paul O’Connor and Katanya Raby in advancing the Chicago-based nonprofit group’s mission to provide media literacy services through projects, partnerships and training series under president and executive director Jhmira Alexander. “It is evident that our collective efforts are needed, now more than ever, to defend our democracy at the intersections threatened most,” Betts said. Founded in 1989 as Community Media Workshop, the group also presents the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards.

Brian Haddad

It might be time for Brian Haddad to consider dropping “Whose Karen Is It?” from his morning show on Cumulus Media alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM. Wednesday’s installment of the weekly bit (purportedly based on a woman charging her friends and family $80 per person for Thanksgiving dinner) took a bizarre turn when a caller unleashed some unmistakably anti-Semitic tropes about “those people” in Skokie. Haddad apologized for the lapse, which he attributed to technical problems with “KQX Morning Crew” co-hosts Ali Mattacola and Justin Nettlebeck. “We are all in three different locations because of COVID,” Haddad wrote to listeners. “So there is a big delay of what we all hear between all three of us and the phone calls. . . . We were in a fast-moving contest so honestly didn’t grab his horrid point til it was too late. So sorry on that. It’s been challenging broadcasting this way since COVID.”

Tim Franklin

Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, has been named inaugural holder of the John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Medill. Endowed with a $2 million gift from Mutz, former lieutenant governor of Indiana and president of Lilly Endowment, the chair will focus on local news sustainability. It also will advance Medill’s Local News Initiative, which Franklin has led since its founding in 2018. "With John’s generous gift, Medill will continue to be a national leader for years to come in developing partnerships, programs and new tools to help local news organizations and the communities they serve,” he said. Franklin, who began his career as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune, also served as editor of the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Indianapolis Star.

Charlie Meyerson

Chicago Public Square, the indispensable daily newsletter published by Chicago media innovator Charlie Meyerson, has been cited by tech and media industry analyst Simon Owens as one of nine "thriving local news operations" at a time of industrywide declines. (Here is the link.) “I recommend any person or team looking to launch a news organization for any place or subject begin with an email newsletter, and build out content from there," he told Owens. Meyerson, who pioneered the format with the Chicago Tribune's former Daywatch roundup in 1998, launched Chicago Public Square in 2017.

Cassidy Skafish

Happy to discover the weekly music podcast "Handcrafted Once More," hosted by Cassidy Skafish, daughter of Chicago rock radio legend Bobby Skafish. The show, billed as "your best source for old music on the air," streams at 11 p.m. Saturdays on the podcast platform Spreaker. (Here is the link.) "She may be 17, but don’t expect today’s Top 40 — it’s anything but," said her proud father. "Her tastes are surprising and wide ranging. She’s a natural."

Joe Reilly

Joe Reilly, the widely admired and respected Chicago newsman who rose to metropolitan editor of the Sun-Times before becoming general manager and editor of Chicago's City News Bureau, died Monday at a senior residence in Westmont. He was 81. An Elmwood Park native and U.S. Air Force veteran, Reilly joined the Sun-Times as a reporter in 1961. Maureen O'Donnell's excellent obituary recounted how Reilly broke the news in 1969 that "bullet holes" identified in police photos of the West Side apartment of slain Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were actually nail heads. (Here is the link.) Reilly left the Sun-Times when Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 1984.

Tuesday’s comment of the day: Burt Levy: I am from the media sector that believes that editorial professionals should not hold a publisher title. Using the same thinking, professionals on the business side of media should not hold editorial positions. Two different skill sets. Combining the role of editor and publisher creates a very slippery slope and at times a conflict of interest. A publisher’s main role and responsibility is to drive revenue. Period. Most on the editorial side lack those revenue generating relationships and knowledge. I have great respect and admiration for Tracy Baim and can’t imagine anyone within the Reader infrastructure to have better relationships than Tracy. Not understanding the benefit to the Reader of an additional title at the top.