Robservations: Board stalemate imperils Chicago Reader; Co-publisher Tracy Baim remains hopeful; John Chase returns to Chicago Tribune

Chicago Reader

Robservations on the media beat:

Leonard C. Goodman

A stalemate among board members of the Chicago Reader threatens to derail its move to a nonprofit business model and undermine the editorial independence of the alternative biweekly after more than 50 years. It can all be traced to the singularly bad decision to allow Leonard C. Goodman, a Chicago criminal defense attorney and co-owner of the Reader since 2018, to dabble as an opinion columnist. Goodman’s 21st column, Vaxxing our kids: Why I’m not rushing to get my six-year-old the COVID-19 vaccine, published on November 24, triggered calls for checking his facts — a move Goodman framed as a First Amendment issue and decried as censorship. Although his column still appears online as written, the push-back led Goodman and his allies to demand control of nonprofit Reader Institute for Community Journalism and dump co-publisher Tracy Baim as president and co-treasurer of the newly formed nonprofit. In a statement supporting the ownership transfer, the Chicago News Guild noted the jobs of 34 staffers were at stake. "The delay resulting from these dangerous demands jeopardizes the Reader’s ability to continue operations," the union said. "The time has come for the board and the owners to free the Reader." Ally Marotti of Crain’s Chicago Business first reported on the impasse.

Tracy Baim

What happens next? Insiders say the matter could be resolved this week when Goodman meets with co-owner Elzie Higginbottom to mediate the dispute. For Tracy Baim, the legendary journalist caught in the middle, that's reason for hope: “Our primary concerns right now are the true independence of the nonprofit board, and the editorial independence for our editors," Baim told me. "I am truly grateful for the support that both Elzie Higginbottom and Leonard C. Goodman have provided in saving the Reader these past three-plus years. We would not be here today without both of them. I am saddened this took a horrible detour just before the sale was to occur, but I am hopeful we can break this impasse soon. They saved the Reader once. I hope they can agree to terms that can save the Reader again.” Continue reading

ABC 7 documentary strings together 'classic whodunit' on stolen violin

Paul Becker (Photo: ABC 7 Chicago)

From his workshop in northwest suburban Prairie Grove fifth-generation master violin maker Paul Becker transforms wood, strings and glue into prized instruments that sell for $36,000.

The family business traces its origins to Becker’s great great grandfather, Herman Macklett, who started making violins in the mid-1800s in Chicago. Today Carl Becker & Son produces handmade violins, violas and cellos cherished by musicians around the world. Continue reading

Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke jumps to USA Today

Rex Huppke (Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak)

When scores of journalists bailed out of the Chicago Tribune last year, one of the few marquee names to stick around was Rex Huppke, the syndicated humor columnist.

"I’d love to say I have some grand vision for the future, or that I righteously chose to take a stand against Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that took over the Chicago Tribune and our sister papers and is known for turning journalists into unemployed journalists. But neither of those things is true," he told readers in June. Continue reading

Cynthia DeNicolo, Melissa McGurren press defamation cases against The Mix

Cynthia DeNicolo and Melissa McGurren

It’s been nearly four months since morning host Eric Ferguson resigned from WTMX 101.9-FM in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations by employees of the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station.

While The Mix may have hoped to move on since then, two of Ferguson's accusers are keeping up their legal fight over the company’s efforts to whitewash the whole sordid matter. Continue reading

Robservations: WLS adds Pete McMurray to weekends; Marion Brooks hosts Emmett Till doc; Tribune promotes Amanda Kaschube

Pete McMurray

Robservations on the media beat:

Look for longtime Chicago radio personality Pete McMurray to turn up this weekend with a new show on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS 890-AM.  It will air from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays. Last heard here on Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM, McMurray launched his latest venture in September, lining up stations in Peoria, Joliet, Bloomington, and Rockford, Illinois; Valparaiso, Indiana; and Benton Harbor, Michigan. The addition of ratings desert WLS will give McMurray a seventh outlet for the show. Since December, when Ramblin’ Ray Stevens and Wendy Snyder dropped their weekly gabfest on WLS, the two-hour slot has been listed as the best of morning host Bruce St. James and afternoon host John Howell. Stevens and Snyder continue as fill-in hosts. Continue reading

Robservations: Cubs may go after cord-cutters; Wes Ward to lead Moody Radio; Mariam Sobh launches podcast

Wrigley Field

Robservations on the media beat:

It took Josh Kosman, veteran business reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, to break the news about the latest deal being cooked up between the Chicago Cubs and Sinclair Broadcasting. Already partners in the Marquee Sports Network, the Ricketts Family gold mine and Sinclair are now looking to cash in on cord-cutters by launching “a streaming service for customers without a cable or satellite-TV subscription,” according to Kosman, who reported the plan faces opposition from Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. (Here is the link.) “We’re always exploring options,” Michael McCarthy, general manager of Marquee Sports Network, told Kosman. “There is nothing definite to announce.” Continue reading

Robservations: ESPN 1000 teams Peggy Kusinski and Dionne Miller; Sun-Times hires Maddie Lee for Cubs beat; Alejandra Cancino joins City Bureau

Peggy Kusinski and Dionne Miller

Robservations on the media beat:

Peggy Kusinski and Dionne Miller, two of the best sportscasters in town, are teaming up to co-host a new weekly show on WMVP 1000-AM, the Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk station. Starting this weekend they'll be heard on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It marks a return to the station after 19 years for Kusinski, who went on to a long run as sports anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. Miller, who's sports anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, co-hosted a weekly Chicago Bears pregame show with Jeff Meller last season on ESPN 1000 and has filled in as a weekday host over the past year. "We are really excited to have Peggy and Dionne on our team and know the fans will enjoy this duo," said Danny Zederman, director of content at ESPN 1000. "I think it's going to be great." Continue reading

MeTV signs licensing deals for Svengoolie, Toony the Tuna merchandise

Rich "Svengoolie" Koz and Toony the Tuna

Hey, kids! Soon you can be the first on your block to own a Svengoolie action figure or a Toony the Tuna plush toy.

MeTV, the red-hot digital network owned by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting, has signed San Francisco-based Firefly Brand Entertainment as North American licensing agent for "Svengoolie," the long-running horror movie series hosted by Rich Koz, and “Toon In With Me,” the live-action morning cartoon show hosted by Bill Leff. Continue reading

Robservations: Sun-Times, WBEZ search for new editors; Tom Weinberg launches ImageUnion.TV; Howard Reich's ballet previews

Steve Edwards

Robservations on the media beat:

Now that the Sun-Times has been acquired by the parent company of NPR news/talk WBEZ 91.5-FM and become a nonprofit subsidiary of Chicago Public Media, all eyes are on the search for new executive editors to lead the two newsrooms. The company has engaged Koya Partners, a Massachusetts-based executive recruiting firm, to conduct the search. Heading the effort is Steve Edwards, the former chief content officer of WBEZ who's now a managing director of Koya Partners. The Sun-Times has been without a permanent executive editor since Chris Fusco resigned in 2020. Since then Steve Warmbir has been serving as interim editor-in-chief. For WBEZ the position will be a new one, reporting to chief content officer Tracy Brown. Continue reading