A midday bonus of Robservations on the media beat:
- Eric Ferguson, top-rated morning personality at Bonneville International hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), surprised listeners Wednesday with news that he was taking off to undergo his second urgent heart surgery in three weeks. (He spent three days in the hospital last month for treatment of an irregular heart rhythm.) While Ferguson is out, filling in alongside “Eric & Kathy” partner Kathy Hart will be Kevin “Koz” Koske, afternoon host on the Mix. An upbeat Ferguson emailed me: “We’re going to get all of it this time!” [Update at 3 p.m. from Ferguson: “In recovery … feeling great.“] [Update at 6:30 p.m. from Ferguson: “Up and moving around … will be checking in to the show tomorrow, and back full strength Friday!“]
- Also on the medical beat, Jeanne Sparrow temporarily turned over hosting duties for “You & Me This Morning” on Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-Channel 26 to Melissa Forman while Sparrow recovers from upcoming surgery. “I’m taking a little time off to take care of some medical things, whatever,” Sparrow said on the air Wednesday. “I’ll be fine.” Forman, who previously hosted mornings on Clear Channel Radio adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9), told Sparrow: “I will try not to burn anything down and leave it in one piece. But I can’t guarantee the candy will still be here when you get back.”
- Talkers Magazine is out with its annual list of the “Heavy Hundred” — the top 100 talk show hosts in America. Topping the roster is the holy trinity of Premiere Radio Networks’ Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. The only Chicagoans to make the cut this year were Mancow Muller (at No. 14) and Roe Conn (at No. 72). Does the Talkers’ list really matter? Notes Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-Info.com:
“The annual rankings do have‚ real resonance in the talk radio community, where they may well help personalities get station clearances, or improve their existing clearances. Also, talk personalities may be — shall we say‚ it? — a bit insecure and looking for a sense of their place in the firmament.‚ It’s probably much the same‚ way with actors, who watch the opening week grosses and salaries and “credit placement” in‚ the‚ movie ads. When you’re talking for three, four, five hours on the radio every day and knowing that your words just go off into the ether toward Mars, it’s nice to see some acknowledgement on paper, and see yourself in the rankings. And, being human, we all want to be higher on the ladder next time, right?”
- Bill Zwecker reports in his Sun-Times column that Oprah Winfrey will tape an interview Friday with movie critic and Chicago treasure Roger Ebert for airing “sometime next week.” Ebert is the subject of an absolutely must-read profile in the current issue of Esquire.
- Friday marks Harvey Wells’ last day as vice president and group station manager of Newsweb Radio, parent of progressive talk WCPT-AM (820), WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7) and WCPQ-FM (99.9), among others. Serving as interim general manager, effective Monday, will be general sales manager Jeff Chardell. “We are continuing our search for a permanent general manager,” Charlie Gross, Newsweb Radio president, told staffers in a memo. “We wish Harvey the best of luck as he enters the next phase of his career.”