Citadel Broadcasting's bankruptcy filing claimed its first Chicago casualty Monday: Ron Magers, No. 1 news anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, has been dropped as a daily contributor to Roe Conn's afternoon show on news/talk WLS-AM (890).
Today will be Magers' last day after almost 12 years as a commentator and raconteur on Conn's program. Magers' in-studio presence (heard from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday) consistently was a highlight of the show -- and often was the best half-hour of conversation in all of Chicago radio. Yes, he really was that good.
When Magers started, both Channel 7 and WLS-AM were owned by Walt Disney Co., which provided a perfect opportunity for synergy. Disney spun off its ABC Radio stations to Citadel in 2006. The decision not to renew his radio deal was presented as a fait accompli with no opportunity for negotiation, according to insiders. Contacted for comment Monday, Magers said:
"Spending a few minutes on Roe's show every day was a great delight for me. I'm really sorry it has come to an end. When the free coffee machine disappeared from the kitchen, I had a feeling my contract wouldn't be renewed. Times are tough in radio."
The move comes just days after Citadel agreed to renew Conn for two more years at WLS and hired a new co-host for the show in the person of Cisco Cotto, formerly of Salem Communications news/talk WIND-AM (560). Despite that vote of confidence by his bosses, Conn found the dismissal of Magers especially hard to take. Said Conn:
"This is very difficult for me. Ron's one of my closest friends in the world, and he's certainly my closest friend in the business.‚ He may be the most talented all-around broadcaster who's ever worked in Chicago. He's an excellent anchor, a great reporter, a fabulous writer, and he's great on the radio. I don't know what the guy can't do. He's totally irreplaceable."
Mike Fowler, president and general manager of WLS, did leave the door open. Calling Magers "the best news anchor in the business," Fowler added: "I will miss Ron and would love to bring him back at some point."
Magers, 65, a 28-year veteran of Chicago television news, continues to anchor Channel 7's top-rated newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. weekdays.
Elsewhere on the media beat:
- Monday also brought news of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of NextMedia Group, owner of 36 radio stations, including 11 in the Chicago suburban area. Waukegan's news/talk WKRS-AM (1220) and hot adult-contemporary WXLC-FM (102.3) are among its holdings. The company said its debt restructuring would have no impact on day-to-day operations.
- Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper just landed his second six-figure deal as a special correspondent for a national cable network. He's signed on as a contributor to basic cable's ReelzChannel, which boasts 45 million households. Starting this week, Roeper will appear on the channel's "Hollywood Dailies" show with reviews of new DVD releases every Tuesday and pop culture segments every Friday. He's also hosting specials for ReelzChannel, starting with a Jan. 1 review of the year in movies. Late last month, Roeper signed a separate deal to review movies for the Starz subscription movie channel and his website at RichardRoeper.com.
- Chicago media critic Steve Rhodes announced Monday that he has severed his ties to NBCChicago.com as a blogger. It's a long story, which he recounts on his Beachwood Reporter blog. The link to Web editor Justin Kaufmann's interview with him is here.
- Thanks to Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-Info.com, who provided this trenchant year-end quote from Connecticut station owner Dennis Jackson: "The fruits of deregulation are now clear -- Everyone loses. That's the listening public, investors, lenders, advertisers, and thousands of broadcasters who once made radio great and were fired from jobs to which they were dedicated. For the most part, corporate radio is a hollow, bloodless shell replacing a medium that listeners once cared deeply about. Perhaps 2010 will be the year when real broadcasters are let back into their stations and we can begin to turn our medium around before it's too late."
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