After three years at Salem Communications news/talk WIND-AM (560), Cisco Cotto may be heading back to Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890). But here's the big surprise: He's expected to become Roe Conn's new afternoon partner.
Sources said Salem had hoped to renew Cotto's contract as Big John Howell's morning co-host at WIND. But an overture from WLS -- and an off-air audition with Conn at a location outside of the station -- resulted in a two-year offer to install Cotto as afternoon co-host. If Salem declines to match terms of the deal, Cotto could join Conn's show by Jan. 4, according to insiders.
While Salem bosses mull their response, Cotto is not expected to be on with Howell Friday morning. Cotto was seen removing some of his belongings from WIND late Thursday.
As reported here last week, WLS is expected to sign Conn to a two-year extension in exchange for a reduction in his seven-figure salary.‚ Despite speculation in the Sun-Times as recently as last Sunday that Conn "could be in jeopardy," the offer to Cotto would seem to represent an even stronger commitment to Conn as Citadel's afternoon franchise on WLS.
Ratings for Conn's show declined after Amy Jacobson replaced Bill Leff and Christina Filiaggi as contributors earlier this year. It's not known what role Jacobson would have at WLS if Cotto signs on. In any case, Jim Johnson is expected to continue as news anchor. While Leff served as a comedic sidekick, Conn has been without a full-fledged partner on the show since Garry Meier left in a contract renewal dispute in 2004.
Cotto, 34, a native of west suburban Aurora and graduate of Western Illinois University, joined the former all-news WMAQ in 1998 as an intern before moving up to reporter. In 2000, he moved to WLS, where he spent six years as a news anchor and reporter. Since 2006, he's been teamed with Howell at WIND.
While pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, Cotto was affectionately dubbed "The Reverend" by former WLS host Jay Marvin. The nickname stuck. "Listeners new to the show often wonder if I run a church or perform weddings," Cotto once joked to Chicago Radio Spotlight's Rick Kaempfer. "Not yet, but if radio ever kicks me out. . . ."
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