Big John Howell acknowledged Monday that he was blindsided by the defection of his radio partner, and he promised listeners that he would not eliminate "true-blue, right-wing conservative thought" from his morning show on Salem Communications news/talk WIND-AM (560).
It marked Howell's first public comment since news broke here Dec. 18 that Cisco Cotto had quit after three years at the station to return to Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) and join Roe Conn's afternoon show as co-host.
Howell told listeners he learned of Cotto's move in a call from WIND program director Marcus Brown late Dec. 17. Although Salem believed it had reached agreement on a renewal with Cotto, the contract had not yet been signed, Howell said. That opened the door for WLS, which offered Cotto a more lucrative two-year deal. "I wish him the very, very best," Howell said of his former partner. "I have nothing but the best feelings for him. I think he's a great guy and a real talent, and I look forward to watching his career progress, and I'm going to miss him here."
Salem has begun lining up off-air auditions to replace Cotto, who was the more staunchly conservative of the duo. Howell said he has heard from "a variety of really interesting people" about filling the job and expects a new co-host to be named within "a couple of weeks," adding:
"Until that time, I would like to tell you true-blue conservatives out there -- and I know that you consider me to be a dirty moderate -- well, you are needed more than ever on this program to tell me where I'm wrong, what I should be thinking of, what I'm missing. I certainly do not intend on eliminating true-blue, right-wing conservative thought from this program. That would be extremely foolish of me. And I consider myself to be a conservative anyway. You might not. But I consider myself to be conservative. So with that in mind, I intend on being informative, interesting, hopefully entertaining, being funny without being vulgar, being funny without being juvenile. And I look forward to your participation and your continued help in building this show and rebuilding this show and moving it on down the line."
At least in terms of ratings, Howell and his new partner will have their work cut out for them. Arbitron figures for December show WIND ranked 29th‚ in mornings with a 1.0 percent share of all listeners. Among adults between the ages of 25 and 54, it's tied for 35th‚ with a 0.5 share.
Cotto had been expected to debut Monday on Conn's show, but a paperwork delay shifted his on-air start to sometime later in the week, according to Mike Fowler, president and general manager of WLS.‚ On his website Monday, Cotto wrote:
"Within a few days I'll be back at AM 890 WLS. I'll be on the radio from 2-6 weekday afternoons (right after Rush) with Roe Conn. I worked at WLS for six years previously and am very excited to be heading back there. For those folks who have allowed me to wake them up on my most recent radio home, please know I wrestled with this decision specifically because of you. Your loyalty and friendship mean more than I can express. I hope you'll follow me back to WLS."
Elsewhere on the media beat:
- In what may be a first for Chicago television, three members of the same family anchored newscasts on the same night for three different stations: Last Saturday saw Karen Jordan at 5 and 10 p.m. on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7; her husband, Christian Farr, (filling in for Lisa Parker) at 5 and 10 p.m. on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5; and Jordan's father, Robert Jordan, at 9 p.m. on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9. How's that for a triple play?
- The Sun-Times lagged hours behind the Tribune in reporting the death Sunday of legendary former Sun-Times sports columnist Bill Gleason. But the Bright One made up for it Monday with beautiful tributes by Rick Telander and Jim O'Donnell. Telander worked with Gleason on "The Sports Writers on TV," which began locally and later aired in national syndication. Gleason pioneered the concept of sports/talk on radio in 1975 with the original "Sportswriters" roundtable on Tribune-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720).
- The Tribune is raising its Monday-through-Saturday newsstand price to $1, effective Jan. 18. Think that'll help boost circulation? (The Sun-Times says its price will remain at 75 cents.)
- "Countdown Chicago 2010," the New Year's Eve special on Channel 7, pretty much was a train wreck from both a technical and a creative standpoint. As scores of astute comments to this blog attest, it's time to rethink the concept from top to bottom. Local television bosses have no excuses for next year.
- Hailed as Man of the Month in the new issue of Today's Chicago Woman is Erich Mancow Muller, who doubles as a nationally syndicated morning personality and midday talk host on WLS. "In this world of politically correct sheeple [sheep-people], where we're like lemmings running off a cliff and everyone must agree on everything, some consider me shocking," he says. "I'm not a shock jock; I tell it like it is. I never say things to be shocking."
- On a personal note, I'd like to welcome three new bloggers to the Vocalo.org family: Starting Monday, Lee Bey, an old pal and former Sun-Times colleague, will write about architecture, "Hungry Hound" Steve Dolinsky will write about food, and author Amy Krouse Rosenthal will write about creative inspiration. It'll be nice to have a little company around these parts.
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