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An assortment of news items (updated and annotated) from my Chicago Sun-Times columns of 18 years ago this week:
- “Howard Stern got off to a roaring start in Chicago Thursday, predicting he would become No. 1 in the ratings ‘within a year.’ As WLUP-AM (1000) signed on as the ninth outlet for Stern’s New York-based syndicated morning show, the self-proclaimed ‘king of all media’ declared: ‘I am still obnoxiously confident that Chicagoans will take me into their homes and their hearts. I believe it will not be much of a challenge in the Chicago market.’ ” [Chicago didn’t embrace Stern quite as quickly as he’d hoped. His first run ended after only 10 months, with Stern filing a $45 million breach-of-contract suit against WLUP’s parent company. His subsequent move to WCKG-FM lasted seven months. Then he languished on WJJD-AM for another seven months. But the fourth time proved the charm: In 1996, he returned to WCKG, where Stern finally became a bona fide hit. His departure at the end of 2005 — coinciding with his move from syndication to satellite radio — was a major factor in the collapse of the station.]
- “WLS-Channel 7 reporter Russ Ewing brought in his 100th murder suspect on Friday. A 19-year-old suspect in a gang-related shooting on the West Side asked Ewing to accompany him before he surrendered to police. Why have so many murder suspects called Ewing in the last 23 years? ‘They do it because they feel a great deal of trust in Russ,’ said Rob Allman, Channel 7 acting news director.” [In 2000, Ewing came out of retirement to deliver his 116th and 117th fugitives to police. When I last spoke to him, Ewing, 86, was living in southwest Michigan.]
- “WGCI-FM (107.5) afternoon ‘fly jock’ Tom Joyner today begins his eighth year of commuting between Chicago and his morning radio job in Dallas. ‘One more year to go, and then it’s gonna be quits for this flying back and forth stuff,’ he said.” [The Hall of Fame broadcaster known as “The Hardest Working Man in Radio” finally did quit the commute, but he’s still a potent force in syndication. His morning show airs here on Crawford Broadcasting’s WSRB-FM/WYRB-FM (106.3) and WPWX-FM (92.3).]
- “Cheryl Burton, news anchor and talk show host at KWCH-TV in Wichita, Kansas, has been hired as weekend anchor and general assignment reporter at WLS-Channel 7. Burton, 29, a native of the South Side and graduate of the University of Illinois, is married to Channel 7 sports anchor Jim Rose. She began her television career as the host of ‘Simply Elegant,’ a weekly talk show on TCI Cable in Skokie, and was a reporter for WMBD-TV in Peoria.” [Burton was promoted in 2002 to 5 p.m. co-anchor with Ron Magers and 10 p.m. contributing anchor with Magers and Kathy Brock. Her marriage to Rose, who also still works at Channel 7, ended in divorce.]
- “No one is supposed to know it yet, but WFMT-FM (98.7) is about to reinstate its ban on recorded commercials. Dan Schmidt, senior vice president and general manager of the classical music outlet, has called a press conference today to announce the station’s return to ads read live by announcers. WFMT dropped its 39-year ban on airing taped commercials in February 1990 — months after it raised $375,000 from listeners by promising that no significant program or policy changes would be made.” [WFMT restored its unique sound as of Jan. 1, 1993. Schmidt was promoted to president and CEO of parent company Window to the World Communications in 1998.]
- “In an embarrassing setback on the eve of the November sweeps, WLS-Channel 7’s new news director abruptly quit before he ever got started. David Friend, assistant news director of WABC-TV in New York, had agreed to replace Channel 7 news director Tom Dolan, who was fired Aug. 31 over ‘philosophical differences.’ … On Friday, Friend suddenly backed out. After ducking press calls since his appointment was first announced, Friend picked up the phone in his Chicago hotel room Friday. But he refused to say anything. ‘I’ve never seen any value in dealing with the press,’ said Friend, 36, who has worked in broadcast journalism for almost 15 years.” [After producing the syndicated show “Extra” and working at CNBC, Friend became news director of WCBS-TV in New York. Earlier this year, he was named senior vice president of news for CBS Television Stations. He was in on moving WCBS’ Kate Sullivan, Steve Bartelstein and Megan Glaros to WBBM-Channel 2.]