When Steve Cochran opens the mic on WLS 890-AM at the crack of dawn today, he’ll become the fifth morning host in 10 years at the Cumulus Media news/talk station. And he’ll have nowhere to go but up.
"It's no secret that this morning show has a huge hole to climb out of, and I believe we will," Cochran, 61, said Tuesday. "I'm not getting up at 3 a.m. to lose."
In the just-released Nielsen Audio survey for May, WLS tied for 27th place in mornings with a 1.0 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 92,900. Overall the station tied for 27th with a 1.0 share and 201,600 weekly cume.
Closing in on his 30th year on Chicago radio, the native of Ithaca, New York, began here on the former WCKG (where he hosted mornings for one day) and later worked at WLUP, WMVP and WPNT. In 2000 Cochran joined WGN 720-AM as weekend and fill-in host, moving up to midday host in the talent shuffle that followed the death of morning star Bob Collins.
Following a three-year detour at Salem Media news/talk WIND 560-AM and KTRS in St. Louis, Cochran returned to WGN under new management in 2013, where he hosted mornings until 2019. Now he'll be competing against the Nexstar Media news/talk station, where Cochran's successor, broadcast legend Bob Sirott, currently ranks ninth in mornings.
Initially at WLS Cochran will be joined by another former WGN personality, Andrea Darlas, who'll fill-in as a contributor while a search is under way for a permanent teammate.
"I'm a lucky guy," Cochran said. "I've sat in the same chair as Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, Spike O'Dell, Jonathon Brandmeier and now Larry Lujack and Don and Roma [Wade]. I don't take that lightly."
On the eve of his launch at WLS — where he'll be heard from 5:30 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday — Cochran shared a few thoughts:
Q. How would you describe your new show?
A. If you liked me in the past you will still . . . and if you hated my show you should listen and see if you were right. This show will be local first and inform, entertain, inspire and be funny every day [with] great guests, great interviews and more politics. It's kind of my greatest hits plus a bunch of new stuff.
Q. What are you looking for in a supporting cast?
A. Way too much of talk radio and TV is dudes talking to dudes. We will add a great female voice to bring balance and perspective every morning.
Q. What's wrong with talk radio?
A. I don't believe people wake up and want to listen to a fist fight. It's not just politicians. Everyone wants to be right, but not enough want to do the right thing. Everybody has picked teams, but in this country there will always be just as many on the other side. So you don't compromise? To what end? When nothing gets done nobody wins.
Q. Apply that to Chicago.
A. As bad as many things are, this is still the greatest country in the world and Chicago is the best city in America. Everything doesn't suck, but you wouldn't know that from the majority of the news you hear and see. I'll talk about what's right about Chicago — not just do a daily report of everything that's wrong.
Q. How do you fit in politically at WLS?
A. The far left and the far right are the problem — not the solution. One-party rule doesn't work . . . in Chicago, Illinois, or D.C. I'll call out any politician gaming the system. The ones who want the power but aren't so interested in actually serving the people. I intend to inspire real participation. The extremes always show up and call in, but the question is: will the independents?
Q. Remind me again why people should listen?
A. There are a million choices and distractions everyday, and I prefer you to be distracted by me. I'm lucky to still be able to do this — and it's going to be fun.
Tuesday’s comment of the day: Ralph Sherman Sr.: Another year and another passed nomination for Art Hellyer. Probably none of the selection committee was even born when Art ruled the airwaves in Chicago. So sorry that his great talent hasn't been recognized.