WBEZ | Richard Roeper http://www.wbez.org/tags/richard-roeper Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en ‘Pig Virus’ quarantined: Metheny, Laski driven out from WGN http://www.wbez.org/blog/robert-feder/%E2%80%98pig-virus%E2%80%99-quarantined-metheny-laski-driven-out-wgn <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Kevin Metheny and Jim Laski.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If Kevin Metheny wasn&rsquo;t the worst program director in the history of Chicago radio, I don&rsquo;t know who was.&nbsp;</p><div style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-November/2010-11-11/Kevin Metheny and Jim Laski.jpg" style="width: 486px; height: 300px;" alt="" title="Kevin Metheny and Jim Laski in a farewell embrace" /></div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<sup><strong><em>Kevin Metheny and Jim Laski in a fond embrace</em></strong></sup></div><div style="text-align: left;">Arrogant, aloof, stubborn and contemptuous of the legacy he&rsquo;d inherited, the man known as &ldquo;Pig Virus&rdquo; nearly destroyed one of the greatest brands in American broadcasting by alienating hundreds of thousands of loyal listeners and breaking bonds of trust that had endured for more than 80 years.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Never has a station fallen so far, so fast in public esteem &mdash; all because of one man who took pride in dealing dishonestly with his employees and audience alike. &ldquo;Truthfulness is only an added benefit when it happens to drop into your lap,&rdquo; he famously told his staff in a memo that turned up on this blog one year ago last week.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">On Thursday afternoon &mdash; three weeks after his mentor and protector, Randy Michaels, was ousted in scandal as CEO of Tribune Co. &mdash; Metheny was fired as program director of news/talk WGN-AM (720). Flushed out with him was the worst of Metheny&rsquo;s unfathomably awful hires, convicted felon and radio rookie Jim Laski, who&rsquo;d been hosting evenings since last spring.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">At Metheny&rsquo;s behest over the past two years, WGN fired, lost or demoted some of Chicago&rsquo;s most talented and popular personalities, including Steve Cochran, Kathy O&rsquo;Malley, Judy Markey, Bob Sirott and David Kaplan. Poor John Williams was shuffled around so many times listeners never knew where on the schedule he&rsquo;d show up. Others who could have made a difference, such as Jonathon Brandmeier and Richard Roeper, wisely sized up the situation and walked away.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Worse yet were Metheny&rsquo;s hiring moves. Laski was a joke. Others he brought on had no affinity for Chicago whatsoever, with morning host Greg Jarrett from San Francisco and midday host Mike McConnell from Cincinnati topping the list. Their edgy, aggressive posture seemed utterly at odds with the civility and honesty that the station had always represented. (Only by a quirk of luck was WGN spared a right-wing wacko named Bill Cunningham, whom Metheny also tried to hire from Cincinnati.)</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">When WGN&rsquo;s audience rejected his new hires, Metheny blamed the listeners for failing to &ldquo;figure out how to interact with someone with an opinion.&rdquo; His solution was to air fake calls. &nbsp;&ldquo;Our legacy listeners seem to leave our new talent hanging out to dry. . . . I&rsquo;d like to prime the pump with a few more clued-in callers,&rdquo; Metheny wrote in a memo in which he secretly solicited Tribune Co. executives to deceive the audience by pretending to be ordinary listeners.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Even the marketing slogan Metheny inflicted on the talk station &mdash; &ldquo;News 720&rdquo; &mdash; was an outright lie.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">King of All Media Howard Stern had the guy nailed more than 25 years ago when Metheny was his program director at WNBC-AM in New York. It was Stern who coined the nickname &ldquo;Pig Virus&rdquo; for Metheny (which later morphed into &ldquo;Pig Vomit&rdquo; for the movie &ldquo;Private Parts&rdquo;). Metheny &ldquo;would memo me all these idiotic rules and ideas he had, [and] he came up with this complicated terminology to make it sound as if he knew something, but it was all mystification,&rdquo; Stern wrote in his best-selling memoir.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">It&rsquo;s true that Tom Langmyer, vice president and general manager of WGN, was responsible for firing Metheny and Laski. But I&rsquo;m not quite ready to declare Langmyer a hero either. Whatever private misgivings he may have had while everything was going on, Langmyer played the consummate company man throughout, publicly supporting all that Michaels and Metheny did to WGN and its employees.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Even in his announcement of the shakeup Thursday, Langmyer declared his support of Jarrett and McConnell &mdash; both of whom reportedly were hired with little input from him. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve solidified our daytime lineup, which now features Greg Jarrett, Mike McConnell, John Williams, and Garry Meier, and we&rsquo;ve improved our news coverage as a result of our growing partnership with the Chicago Tribune,&rdquo; Langmyer said in a statement. Not exactly the grand declaration of a new day for WGN.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Then again, given all the damage that&rsquo;s been done, whoever leads WGN in the future will face a difficult if not impossible challenge. &ldquo;At some point, this will be a case study of how to dismantle a radio station,&rdquo; respected veteran media buyer Paula Hambrick told Jim Kirk of the Chicago News Cooperative last summer.</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Of all the prophesies made in the last year, none resonates more than one from Metheny himself, who told WGN free-lancer Margaret Larkin on her &ldquo;Radio Girl&rdquo; podcast: &ldquo;You attempt to create improved ratings at a place like WGN circa 2010 at some peril, because it&rsquo;s possible to screw things up and do damage as you attempt to take preemptive, decisive action.&rdquo;</div><div style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: left;">Well, at least we can all agree on that.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 12 Nov 2010 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/robert-feder/%E2%80%98pig-virus%E2%80%99-quarantined-metheny-laski-driven-out-wgn NBC 5 turns staffers into Auto Show cheerleaders http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/nbc-5-turns-staffers-into-auto-show-cheerleaders/15173 <p><p>Robservations on the media beat:</p><ul> <li><a href="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//logo-autoshow.jpg"><img width="194" height="186" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//logo-autoshow.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 1px 5px;" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-15190" /></a>All but overshadowed by NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics' opening weekend was WMAQ-Channel 5's <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/station/as-seen-on/live-auto-show--84278022.html">annual genuflection</a> to the Chicago Auto Show. Though billed as a special (a &quot;multiple Emmy Award winning&quot; special, no less), it again was nothing more than a one-hour infomercial for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. Half a dozen Channel 5 staffers gushed unabashedly over new car models -- and, in the case of <strong>Ginger Zee,</strong> gushed over a couple of <em>human</em> models known as &quot;The Fiat Twins.&quot; Host <strong>Brant Miller</strong> landed some face time for his son, <strong>Joey,</strong> who fronted an unappealing segment on &quot;finding fun&quot; at the Auto Show. News anchor <strong>Allison Rosati</strong> turned up to raffle off a Chevy Equinox for charity. And, as always, there was the obligatory sound bite from Channel 5's big boss, <strong>Larry Wert.</strong> Recession? What recession?</li> <li>The March issue of Esquire features <a href="http://www.esquire.com/print-this/roger-ebert-0310">a must-read profile </a>of <strong>Roger Ebert</strong> and how America's greatest movie critic was transformed by the health problems that took away his ability to speak. It poignantly attests to Roger's amazing courage, resiliency and indomitable spirit. &quot;Today he is producing the best work of his life,&quot; writes Esquire's <strong>Chris Jones,</strong> who adds:<!--break--></li> </ul> <blockquote>&quot;It's almost impossible to sit beside Roger Ebert, lifting blue Post-it notes from his silk fingertips, and not feel as though he's become something more than he was. . . . &quot;ËœThere is no need to pity me,' he writes on a scrap of paper one afternoon after someone parting looks at him a little sadly. &quot;ËœLook how happy I am.' &quot;</blockquote> <ul> <li><a href="http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/towerticker/2010/02/richard-roepers-movie-reviews-come-to-hulucom.html">Good news</a> about Ebert's former television partner: Sun-Times columnist <strong>Richard Roeper</strong> has made his movie reviews for Starz subscription movie channel available on <a href="http://www.hulu.com/richard-roeper-and-the-movies">Hulu.com.</a> It's another piece of Roeper's expanding <a href="http://www.wbez.org/feder/2009/11/rich-gets-richer-roeper-to-review-movies-again/9405">multimedia presence.</a> Also this week, Roeper's upcoming book, <em>Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance,</em> scored&sbquo;&nbsp;a <a href="http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6718602.html?industryid=47159">favorable review</a> in Publishers Weekly.</li> <li>From what I've read, reviews of Second City's <a href="http://www.secondcity.com/Performances/Detail/125">&quot;Rush Limbaugh! The Musical&quot;</a> haven't been too kind. But none has been as vitriolic as <strong>Betty Mohr's </strong>over-the-top condemnation of the tuneful spoof in her <a href="http://www.southtownstar.com/entertainment/mohr/2038341,021110Limbaugh.article#Comments_Container">Southtown Star critique.</a> Calling it a &quot;screaming hate fest,&quot; she even found a way to invoke <strong>Adolf Hitler: </strong></li> </ul> <blockquote>&quot;It's a shame that Second City Theatricals spent so much time on this sound and fury signifying nothing. Every time someone attacks Limbaugh, they make him stronger, increase his audience and energize him and his listeners. Hitler once said, if you tell a lie big enough, everyone will believe it. No, they won't. Not anymore.&quot;</blockquote> <ul> <li>It didn't take long for <strong>Richard Greene</strong> to resurface on Chicago's progressive talk stations after the demise of Air America Radio. Under a new syndication deal, his &quot;Hollywood Clout&quot; talk show returned Monday to its 8 p.m. weeknight time slot on Newsweb Radio's WCPT-AM (820), WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7) and WCPQ-FM (99.9).</li> <li>As executive producer of MeTV Sports, <strong>Fred Weintraub</strong> has logged more than 32,000 air miles in the last six months. That's because the former station manager of Weigel Broadcasting now lives in London but continues to head high school sports production for the Weigel outlets here. Live coverage of the Chicago Public Schools' <a href="http://www.gameoftheweekcps.com/">boys basketball championship</a> will air at 7 p.m. Friday on WCIU-Channel 26 and online at <a href="http://wciu.com/">WCIU.com.</a></li> <li>Love him or hate him, <strong>Mancow Muller</strong> continues to inflame passions in the market. Posts here <a href="http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/out-in-wls-radio-shakeup/14628">Wednesday</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/will-cassidy-hop-along-back-to-newsradio-780/14724">Thursday</a> about his firing from Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) so far have generated a total of more than 270 comments from readers. That's far and away the most on any topic since this blog began Nov. 2.</li> </ul></p> Tue, 16 Feb 2010 00:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/nbc-5-turns-staffers-into-auto-show-cheerleaders/15173