Now hear this? WGN's 'crazy collision' of bloggers

November 12, 2009

chicagonow-final

Oh, great. Just what we needed: Four hours of radio consisting of bloggers no one knows about yapping about blogs no one cares about. OK, maybe that's too harsh. But I know I'm not the only one who reacted that way when Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM (720) announced a new weekly radio show based on the Tribune Co.-owned blog site ChicagoNow.com.

 

"They're apparently hell-bent on shoving their fledgling ChicagoNow.com down everyone's throats, even if it means driving listeners from the radio station Saturday mornings for the sake of promotion," one insider texted me when he heard the news.

Starting this weekend, "ChicagoNow Radio" will air from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays on WGN. (Actually, the first show will air only from 9 to 10:30 a.m. because of Northwestern football.) The move bumps weekend host Jerry Agar, an exile from Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890), whose abrasive style still seems out of place on WGN.

One bright spot in all this, as Tribune uber-blogger Eric Zorn noted, is that the new show will be hosted by funnyman Bill Leff, the Chicago radio veteran who's been without a full-time gig since he amicably parted with WLS afternoon host Roe Conn last May. At least this gets Leff's foot in the door for more than just fill-in work at WGN.

Lurking in the background of "ChicagoNow Radio" is Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny, the tyrannical program director who's been doing a bang-up job of ruining WGN in the past year."WGN wanted to create a boundary-free radio celebration of Chicago life," Metheny said in a statement. "ChicagoNow is a collection of fascinating people who can't stop themselves from constantly telling Chicago's story as they see it in a dynamic, refreshing, and sometimes disturbing way. This will be a‚ crazy collision of experiences and perspectives."

Yes, Mr. Virus, that's just what people tune in to WGN to hear -- a "crazy collision."

That's not to say there aren't some decent contributors to ChicagoNow.com among the crazy quilt of 126 bloggers who hold forth there. (Full disclosure: Early on, I was approached about writing for it, but respectfully declined.) The current lineup includes everything from Dennis Byrne's Barbershop and David Kaplan's Kap's Corner to Jen Weigel's I'm Spiritual, Dammit and Steve Dale's Pet World. The only one I read regularly is Bruce Wolf's insane Blogshakalaka, mainly to see if he mentions me. (By the grace of somebody up there, atheist Rob Sherman's blog, "Godless in Chicago," has already come and gone.)

But turning over four hours of peak radio time on a 50,000-watt powerhouse to this menagerie of free-lancers and hobbyists strikes me as a colossal waste of time.

If you really want to listen to great local radio on Saturday mornings, check out Jake Hartford (nom de air of the savvy Jim Edwards), whose Awake with Jake show airs from 7 to 11 a.m. on Newsweb Corp. progressive talk WCPT-AM (820). He always knows what's going on in Chicago. Now.

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