Why radio still seduces the man behind 'The Drive'

March 5, 2010

Robservations on the media beat:

Greg Solk

  • If he did nothing else in his career but invent "The Drive" -- the most successful new radio format of the last 10 years -- Greg Solk would be a local legend. But that's just one in his impressive list of credits. So it seemed perfectly fitting that in conjunction with a multiyear contract extension, Solk, 48, was promoted this week to senior vice president of programming for Bonneville International. In addition to the blue chip trio of WDRV-FM (97.1), WTMX-FM (101.9) and WILV-FM (100.3) here, he oversees programming in a variety of formats nationwide for the Salt Lake City-based company. In announcing the promotion, Bonneville president and CEO Bruce Reese cited Solk's "hard, smart work, which has earned the respect and appreciation of all his colleagues." Solk began his career as a producer for Steve Dahl's morning show when he was a 15-year wunderkind at Niles North High School in Skokie. What makes the dedicated radio veteran still believe in the business? Said Solk:
"There's been a lot said about the demise of the radio business . . . blah, blah, blah. I have been seduced by this business since I was 15 years old. I still am today. I grew up with radio in the best time in radio's history -- the magical time of the Top 40 radio wars between WLS and WCFL, the movement of 'album rock' to the FM band -- and I've listened to and worked side by side with the biggest air personalities the city's ever seen. I've been fortunate to hang on long enough to see all the ebbs and flows of this industry, and I will not let all the naysayers distract or disrupt my passion for the business. Formats will come and go, so will big-name personalities. That's the reality of the biz. But radio still remains vibrant and an important,‚ vital part of millions of Chicagoans' lives every day. I intend to do my best to keep the magic of radio alive and well -- and I thank Bonneville for giving me that opportunity."
  • The Winter Olympics may have aired here on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, but the gold medal for news in February still went to ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. At 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, Channel 7 won with a 9.8 rating, followed by Channel 5 with a 7.0 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 with a 5.2. On the nine weeknights when the Olympics weren't on, Channel 7 had an even more commanding lead with an 11.0 rating, followed by Channel 2's 6.1 and Channel 5's 5.6. (One Nielsen ratings point represents about 35000 households.)
  • Staffers at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 and WPWR-Channel 50 are bracing for massive layoffs -- mainly among technical and other off-air personnel -- to take effect between now and July. Insiders said as many as 25 positions may be cut. Stayed tuned.
  • Richard Roeper, the Sun-Times columnist and multimedia movie critic whose reviews appear on richardroeper.com, Starz, YouTube, hulu.com and elsewhere, turns up with Jay Leno on NBC's new "Tonight Show" Monday to recap the Academy Awards. (Roeper's Best Picture Oscar prediction: "The Hurt Locker.") He'll also talk about his new book, Bet the House: How I Gambled over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance, published by Chicago Review Press.
  • To hear them tell it, Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon have a lot at stake when they substitute for afternoon host Roe Conn Thursday on Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890). It'll be their first show together as Eddie & Jobo since they left CBS Radio rhythmic Top 40 WBBM-FM (96.3) in November 2008. "We hope it turns out to be an on-air audition for somebody around town," Volkman said of the fill-in gig. "We're taking our comeback appearance kind of seriously." Added Bohannon: "Seriously, this is gonna be a big step for us to see if we can make that transition." The duo appeared in a morning show interview Thursday on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9.
  • Mark Bieganski, former Web editor and Oprah Winfrey blogger at the Sun-Times, this week launched his new Oprah blog for Time Out Chicago, where he's senior online producer. And it's a beauty. Titled "The end of O: Last days of talk-show queen Oprah's reign," it includes tips on how to score tickets to the show and links to all things Oprah on the Web. But the real draw is Bieganski's authoritative (and unabashedly pro-Oprah) prose.
  • Adriene Hill has resigned as business and economy reporter for Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM (91.5) to join American Public Media. She'll be involved in a multi-platform project on sustainability, working with "Marketplace" and the American RadioWorks documentary unit.
  • Steve Darnall, who was spotlighted here Monday as the new host of "Those Were the Days," is launching an Internet-only showcase for old-time radio on yesterdayusa.com. "Radio's Golden Age" will air online from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays, starting this weekend.
  • Laura Washington, Sun-Times columnist and longtime Chicago media contributor, has been named president of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a foundation focused on increasing opportunities for the disadvantaged. Washington has been a Woods Fund board member for eight years, including three as chair.
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