Ten for '10: Gazing into Chicago media crystal ball

January 4, 2010

The headline on Tom Taylor's end-of-the-year piece for Radio-Info.com said it all: "2010 has to be better, right?" All in all, it would be hard to imagine a year worse than the one of firings, frauds, flameouts and funerals we've just endured.

Personally, I'd consider the next 12 months a success if I came away feeling less insulted by the irrelevant drivel of television news and less assaulted by the angry ranting of talk radio. But even that might be too much to ask for. Here are 10 previews and predictions of Chicago media stories to watch for in the coming year:

eddie-jobo-final

Eddie and Jobo

  • Look for Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon to make yet another Chicago radio comeback (though for decidedly less than the combined $3 million a year they'd been earning). Until they were bounced in November 2008, Eddie & Jobo hosted mornings on CBS Radio rhythmic Top 40 WBBM-FM (96.3) during two stints over a 20-year run. My prediction: They'll go back to CBS -- this time to host mornings on WJMK-FM (104.3). The "Jack FM" classic hits station has been without a morning show since it bid aloha to Steve Dahl.
  • CBS will finally get around to filling the longstanding vacancy for morning news anchor alongside Felicia Middlebrooks on all-news WBBM-AM (780). Anchor emeritus John Hultman has been subbing since Pat Cassidy left for Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) way back in July 2008. My prediction: The longer it takes, the more likely it appears Newsradio 780 is maneuvering to bring Cassidy back into the fold.
  • Continued upheaval on the programming side of WGN-AM (720) will make it another traumatic year for the Tribune Co. news/talk station. Further adjustments could result in more prominent roles for Bob Sirott, Bill Leff and David Kaplan. My prediction: Kaplan will be offered the afternoon slot currently occupied by Steve Cochran, but he may not be willing to give up hosting "Chicago Tribune Live" for Comcast SportsNet.
  • "Oprah Fatigue" will become a widespread malady as all but Oprah Winfrey's most fanatical followers grow weary of the buildup to her swan song 21 months from now. Don't say you weren't warned: "Until that day in 2011 when it ends, I intend to soak up every meaningful, joy-filled moment with you," The Great One vowed.‚  My prediction: O Magazine, which marks its 10th‚ year of publication in 2010, will feature BFF Gayle King on the cover with Oprah.
  • Walter Jacobson's long-awaited memoir, appropriately titled Walter's Perspective, will be published by Southern Illinois University Press. My prediction: Earning well-deserved plaudits for his honesty, passion and political insight, Chicago's beloved Skippy will become a hot media property again.
  • Mike North and Dan Jiggetts will breathe new life into morning television as hosts of "Monsters and Money in the Morning" on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. Joined by money mavens Terry Savage and Mike Hegedus, they'll debut Feb. 1. My prediction: Light on news but heavy on sports and business, the new show will be an improvement for Channel 2, but it won't come close to challenging the top dogs at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 and Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9.
  • Despite an inauspicious debut at WFLD-Channel 32, Anna Davlantes will emerge as the brightest star of the Fox-owned station. Look for her to be named anchor of a new 5 p.m. weekday newscast expected to be launched in the coming weeks. My prediction: It's only a matter of time before Davlantes takes over for 23-year veteran Robin Robinson on the flagship 9 p.m. newscast alongside Jeff Goldblatt.
  • Chicago-based Tribune Co. should emerge from bankruptcy by the end of May. But keep an eye on a dissident bondholder group that's investigating the $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that gave Sam Zell control of the company. My prediction: Before the dust settles, Zell will be gone from Tribune Tower. We can only hope his hand-picked CEO, Randy Michaels, follows him out the door.
  • Under new owner Jim Tyree, the Chicago Sun-Times will continue to stabilize its editorial operations and shift resources from its print product to online. Still, the long-term outlook for circulation and advertising remains extremely daunting. My prediction: Ongoing newspaper "star wars" will see additional defections from the Tribune to the Sun-Times --  and vice versa.
  • The Chicago News Cooperative, the foundation-seeded print, broadcast and online news operation launched last October by Jim O'Shea and Peter Osnos (mostly with expatriates from the Tribune), will kick off Chicago Scoop, a website combining news programming and social networking. My prediction: Users will not flock to pay for content in sufficient numbers to make the site self-sustaining.
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