Robservations: Block Club Chicago enjoys a blockbuster week

Block Club Chicago

Robservations on the media beat:

It's been a week to celebrate for Block Club Chicago, the must-read neighborhood news site that just keeps getting better and better. First it was widely hailed for its stunning exclusive revealing Loretto Hospital's preferential treatment of Trump Tower employees, who received early access to coronavirus vaccines. It also reported that a top executive of the hospital owns a condo in Trump Tower. Then Block Club Chicago was named the city's best blog and best e-mail newsletter in the 2020 Best of Chicago awards chosen by Chicago Reader voters. Block Club was founded in 2018 by alumni of DNAinfo Chicago as a nonprofit digital news site. (Here is the link to subscribe.) Other media winners in the Best of Chicago issue include "WGN Morning News" as best TV broadcast news, Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM as best radio station, Lin Brehmer as best radio DJ, and Pat Hughes as best sports announcer. Continue reading

Bill Campbell 1950-2021

Bill Campbell

Bill Campbell, who served as director of editorials and community services over a 32-year career at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, was best known for his long run as host and producer of the weekly public affairs show “Chicagoing.”

The longtime Evanston resident died Wednesday at a Symphony Care Network nursing home in Evanston after a long illness, according to his family. He was 70. Continue reading

Conservative podcaster Dan Bongino to fill Rush Limbaugh’s slot on WLS

Dan Bongino

Dan Bongino, a conservative podcaster and staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, has been tapped to replace Rush Limbaugh on WLS 890-AM, the Cumulus Media news/talk station.

"Please join me as we welcome Dan Bongino to the team," Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Media Chicago, wrote in an email to staff Wednesday. "Dan is a patriot who has served as a NYPD officer and a Secret Service agent and has filled in for our evening host, Mark Levin." Continue reading

Robservations: Better Business Bureau to salute Pam Zekman, Bob Sirott

Pam Zekman and Bob Sirott

Robservations on the media beat:

Legendary Chicago broadcasters Pam Zekman and Bob Sirott are being honored by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois for their great careers. Zekman, former investigative reporter for CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times, will receive the 2021 James E. Baumhart Lifetime Achievement Award. Sirott, morning host at Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM, will receive the 2021 Diogenes Award for Excellence in Media. Both citations will be presented March 25 at the group's 94th annual meeting. Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, said the two exemplify the agency's goals and principles "to support and foster an ethical marketplace benefiting both consumers and businesses." This year's virtual event will be emceed by Allison Rosati and Rob Stafford, news anchors at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. Continue reading

Naperville's Laura Bannon headed home to morning weather job at CBS 2

Laura Bannon

Nearly a year after Megan Glaros was cut in sweeping companywide layoffs at WBBM-Channel 2, the CBS-owned station has hired her replacement as weekday morning meteorologist.

Laura Bannon, who grew up in Naperville and attended Neuqua Valley High School, will join CBS 2 in April, according to an announcement Tuesday by Jeff Harris, vice president and news director. Continue reading

The Drive revs up 20th anniversary with flashback to first day's music

The Drive 97.1 FM

Twenty years ago today all eyes (and ears) were on a radio station in Chicago that had been stunting for weeks by airing only one artist or group each day — from Barbra Streisand to Garth Brooks to The Rolling Stones. They even threw in entire days devoted to Broadway show tunes and TV theme songs.

Listeners were left to guess what the ultimate format would be.

One month earlier Bonneville International had paid a record $165 million for WNIB, a classical music station husband-and-wife owners Bill and Sonia Florian started for $8,000 in 1955. Continue reading

ABC 7 sacks Mark Giangreco after 'ditzy, combative' comment about Cheryl Burton

Mark Giangreco

Mark Giangreco officially ended his 27-year run as the top sports anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 Friday with a settlement on the remaining 18 months of his contract and a farewell memo from management.

His dismissal followed a complaint by ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Burton that Giangreco referred to her on the air as someone who could “play the ditzy, combative interior decorator” on a hypothetical do-it-yourself show. Continue reading

Robservations: Bill & Wendy ham it up on 'Toon In With Me' today

Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff (Photo: "Toon In With Me"/MeTV)

Robservations on the media beat:

Toony and Bill Leff

There’s an extra special treat for Chicago radio fans on today’s edition of “Toon In With Me,” the delightful morning cartoon and sketch-comedy show hosted by Bill Leff and his wise-cracking fish puppet Toony. (Since debuting in January it’s been doing gangbusters at 6 a.m. weekdays on MeTV, the Chicago-based network for nostalgic television.) Making her first cameo appearance on the show is Wendy Snyder, Leff's longtime radio partner. In today's bit, Snyder delivers her impression of Felicia Middlebrooks as a character called Leticia Donnybrook, and Leff reprises his parody of Mancow Muller as Simon Shock. It follows Thursday's introduction of two other new characters — dueling critics named Roger Shaddup and Jean Showacartoon. Modeled after Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, they're played by Kevin Fleming and Leila Gorstein, respectively. Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting and the genius behind MeTV, created them to poke fun at viewers who complained that Leff & Co. should just "shut up and show a cartoon." Said Sabin: "They did a great job creating these characters when I gave them direction on what we needed. It’s kinda fun being in that role with such talented writers and performers." Continue reading

Robservations: 20 years of up and downs for WBBM's 'Noon Business Hour'

Cisco Cotto

Robservations on the media beat:

Friday will be a red letter day at WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Entercom all-news powerhouse. It's the 20th anniversary of the "Noon Business Hour." First hosted by Kris Kridel and Sherman Kaplan with regular appearances by Len Walter and Bob Reed, it's now in the hands of midday news anchor Cisco Cotto and producer Andy Giersher. Kaplan and Reed will join Cotto for a brief retrospective Friday. "Through all the ups and downs, from 9/11 through COVID, from the stock market flash crash to record highs, and during the tenures of five governors, four presidents and three mayors, weekdays at noon has been a must listen for Chicagoans, as proven by the ratings," Ron Gleason, brand manager of WBBM Newsradio, told staffers in a memo. "In 2020, WBBM was number one at noon overall, plus averaged about 75 per cent more listeners at any given moment than the next closest non-music station." Continue reading

Nexstar CEO fiddles with morning show while NewsNation burns


NewsNation went from bad to worse this week after Jennifer Lyons followed her top two lieutenants out the door at the Chicago-based cable news network they built from scratch.

As vice president of news, Lyons hired scores of journalists who trusted they were joining a network without a political agenda, largely based on her well-earned reputation for integrity and track record of excellence at WGN-Channel 9. Continue reading