WGN bosses prefer to keep their stars in the dark

June 9, 2010

Robservations on the media beat:

  • So what if John Williams has done everything his bosses ever asked of him during his 13 years at news/talk WGN-AM (720)? In today's topsy-turvy Tribune Co., even that doesn't entitle the guy to be treated with an ounce of respect. For almost a week --  ever since rumors started leaking out of Cincinnati that his replacement could be on his way -- Williams has been kept in the dark about his future. A hastily written press release (issued at the ridiculous hour of 10:30 on Monday night) finally confirmed the hiring of Mike McConnell from WLW-AM, but WGN management still refused to tell Williams whether the new guy would be replacing him or Steve Cochran or someone else. Late Tuesday, however, McConnell himself spilled the beans to the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Kiesewetter that he'd be taking over the 9 a.m. weekday slot Williams now occupies, starting Aug. 9. Johnny, we hardly knew ye . . .
  • While Bonneville International hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9) and classic hits WDRV-FM (97.1) continue to dominate adult demos in the ratings, the company is giving a big boost to its third Chicago outlet, adult-contemporary gold WILV-FM (100.3). On Monday, the station was re-launched as "Chicago's Rewind 100.3." Greg Solk, senior vice president of programming, said the rebranding will give it "a more distinct, stickier and appropriate name that fully supports our product and describes who we are and the type of music we play." In a memo to his staff, Solk added:
'Rewind' will continue to play 'Feel Good Favorites of the '80s and More' and is Chicago's only station that specializes in '80s feel good music from artists like Prince, Madonna, Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson, Journey, Bee Gees and Bon Jovi. The rebranding of the station as 'Rewind' will help the market, audience and advertisers remember our unique musical position and help differentiate ourselves in an ever evolving marketplace."
  • A Cook County judge is suing WFLD-Channel 32 for defamation after the Fox-owned station falsely reported that he was home on a weekday afternoon instead of doing his job. It turned out that the story, which aired May 24, showed the wrong car parked in the driveway of the wrong house. Fox Chicago admitted the mistake on the air the next day. Judge James Ryan is seeking $7 million in damages.
  • Mike Murphy, the former host at sports/talk WSCR-AM (670), has filed a class action suit against parent company CBS Radio, claiming that the non-compete restrictions in his post-employment deal violate Illinois law. Murphy's agreement banned him from working in the market for six months after leaving CBS. In 2001, the state legislature passed a bill, championed by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, outlawing non-compete clauses in broadcasters' contracts.
  • Dan Bindert, local news anchor of "Weekend Edition" on Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5), has resigned after 10 years as a host and producer at the station to become program director of Lakeshore Public Broadcasting WLPR-FM (89.1) in northwest Indiana. Chicago Public Media also is the parent of blogs.vocalo.org.
  • Jon Lafayette, the respected media writer and veteran of Television Week, Cable World, Advertising Age and Multichannel News, has been named business editor of Broadcasting & Cable magazine. "Jon's reputation all the way up to the CEO suite is virtually unrivaled in our business," said B&C editor-in-chief Ben Grossman. Lafayette will continue to be based in Chicago.
  • Burt Levy, the last publisher of North Shore magazine and a 22-year veteran of the Chicago Sun-Times' parent company, was kicked to the curb last April when Sun-Times Media announced the sale of the magazine to MakeItBetter.net. For most of that time, he was a top sales executive with the newspaper. Now Levy has landed as vice president of advertising for Paragon Marketing Group, owner of CSLinsider.com, a website covering Central Suburban League Athletics.
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