Oprah headed for Illinois Broadcasters' Hall of Fame

June 21, 2010

Robservations on the media beat:

  • As Oprah Winfrey takes her victory lap in the final year of her Chicago-based talk show, she'll stop to pick up the highest honor of the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Outgoing IBA board chairman Emily Barr, president and general manager of Winfrey's flagship station, ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, announced last week that Winfrey will be inducted into the group's Hall of Fame. She'll join a pantheon that includes Jack Benny, Orson Welles, Paul Harvey, Mike Wallace, Siskel & Ebert, Bill Kurtis and Dick Biondi. John Gehron, who most recently was general manager of Winfrey's Harpo Radio, succeeds Barr as IBA chairman. No date has been announced for the induction ceremony. Said Dennis Lyle, president and CEO of the IBA:
"We're thrilled‚ Ms. Winfrey has accepted our invitation for induction into the Illinois Broadcasters Association's Hall of Fame.‚ Her‚ induction‚ provides‚ us a forum to extend our sincere appreciation‚ for her brilliant contribution to the broadcast industry, as well as the opportunity to‚ publicly thank her for the‚ many years of remarkable broadcast television she so masterfully crafted right here in Illinois."
  • Also at the group's convention last week, the IBA awarded its 2010 Broadcast Pioneer Award posthumously to Jan Gabriel, the nationally syndicated motorsports host and commercial announcer who made the words "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" famous. Gabriel died on a Sunday --  last Jan. 10 --  at age 69.
  • Southtown Star's Kristen McQueary has a solid followup to the $7 million lawsuit against Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 filed by a Cook County judge. James Ryan claims he was defamed May 24 when Fox Chicago falsely reported that he was home on a weekday afternoon instead of doing his job. It turned out they showed the wrong car parked in the driveway of the wrong house. Despite the station's apology, pursuing the lawsuit won't be easy: "Because Ryan is a public figure, he will have to prove that the station maliciously and knowingly made false statements concerning him," McQueary notes.
  • Chicago broadcast legend Roy Leonard, 79, who's been writing a lively and provocative blog since April, turned personal over the weekend with a post on the health challenges faced by his wife, Sheila. In an essay titled "Anguish in the Leonard Family," he wrote: "On May 2nd, my wife,‚ Sheila, suffered a severe skull fracture and some internal bleeding in the brain, after a bad fall down the stairs that lead from our back door to a brick patio. . . . In the last few weeks I have learned more about the brain than I really wanted to, but it was necessary for all of us to understand just what was going on." ‚ (Here is the link.)
  • Another casualty of the awful cutbacks at Window to the World Communications is the early retirement of Gordon Carter, the internationally respected chief engineer of classical WFMT-FM (98.7). He's accepted a buyout package after 41 years at the station. "It is hard, if not impossible, to walk away from that kind of history without some feelings of sadness," Carter told colleagues. He said he hopes to continue to be involved in broadcasting and do contract engineering.
  • Cris Ohr, former vice president and general manager of Bonneville Chicago Radio Group and classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9), has resigned as vice president and market manager of Entercom Radio in Madison, Wis. She's returning to Chicago to become chief operating officer of Bear Necessities, the non-profit pediatric cancer organization. Ohr has been on the group's board for eight years.
  • Amy Simons, digital news editor at the Chicago Tribune and former executive producer at Tribune Co.-owned CLTV, has been hired as assistant professor of convergence journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. She starts there Aug. 9. We'll miss her tweets.
  • Gina Loizzo, who's been Bruce DuMont's administrative assistant and right hand for most of her nine years at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, has resigned to join Blackman Kallick, a Chicago-based accounting firm. Her departure comes days after the museum finally secured state funding to complete construction of its new facility at State and Kinzie.
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