A little more than a year ago, in my grandiose farewell column for the Sun-Times, I decided to go out with a bang. So I gazed into the future and foretold what would happen on the local television and radio beat “in the coming months and beyond.”
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. Of the seven predictions I made in that column, only three turned out to be spot-on, two have yet to be determined, and two were dead wrong. Here’s how my crystal ball fared:
- I predicted that Bob Sirott would replace Warner Saunders as 10 p.m. news anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. “It’s no longer a question of if but when,” I wrote with supreme confidence. I was wrong.
Saunders did retire and Sirott was his heir apparent, having filled in admirably alongside Allison Rosati during Saunders’ lengthy absences for medical reasons. But when it came time to implement an agreement Sirott had signed only a few months earlier, his NBC bosses reneged and demanded to renegotiate the terms. Declining to accept less than he’d bargained for, Sirott chose to walk. The top job went to weekend anchor Rob Stafford instead.
“The last four years were very enjoyable,” Sirott said of his work at Channel 5. “And thanks to NBC’s generosity, I got to spend the summer traveling with my family, coaching my daughter’s softball team, and planting the seeds for new projects.‚ I’m a very lucky broadcaster and have absolutely nothing to complain about.”
Still being paid by NBC under the multiyear deal that was already in effect, Sirott continues to host the one-hour weekday “Noon Show” and “The Sunday Night Radio Special” on Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720).‚ Through Don’t Blink Inc., the production company he formed with his wife, Marianne Murciano, Sirott has other projects in the works, including a series of interviews with Cubs legends.
- I was right on the money in predicting that “Superjock” Larry Lujack would make a comeback as morning star of “Hit Parade Radio,” an oldies format developed by veteran radio programmer and consultant John Rook.‚ The 24/7 network, which also features former game show host and Los Angeles radio personality Wink Martindale in afternoons, is accessible on Wi-Fi Radio and the Internet.
- Although it hasn’t happened yet, I stand by my prediction that Richard Roeper will return to national television as host of a new movie-review show.‚ The veteran Sun-Times columnist and former host of the syndicated “Ebert & Roeper,” is close to announcing deals that will have him reviewing movies in a solo capacity before the year is out.
Meanwhile, two of the understudies who filled in for Roger Ebert alongside Roeper — the Tribune’s Michael Phillips and the New York Times’ Tony Scott — replaced the ill-suited duo of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz on “At the Movies” last August.
- I blew the prediction on Spike O’Dell’s replacement when I wrote that Steve Cochran would move up from afternoons to mornings on WGN. Although station bosses assured me that Cochran was their first choice among all inside candidates, they didn’t tell me that they would offer him less than half of what O’Dell was making before he retired. Refusing to take the job for essentially the same money he was already getting for afternoons, Cochran turned it down.
WGN announced the following day that it was promoting John Williams from middays to mornings. Yet another shakeup followed six months later, when‚ Williams moved back to middays (to replace Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey) and Greg Jarrett, a newcomer from San Francisco, took over mornings.
A sign of trouble ahead for Cochran may have come from WGN program director Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny, who once told him on the air: “I like you. I just don’t like your show.” Cochran is rumored to be on his way out when his contract expires in March.
- I correctly forecast that CBS Radio would pull the plug on Steve Dahl after his morning show on adult hits WJMK-FM (104.3) tanked in Arbitron’s redesigned Portable People Meter ratings. It’s costing CBS millions to keep Dahl off the air, thanks to a contract that still has a year to go. Nevertheless, he’s back behind a microphone now, podcasting a one-hour show each day from his basement.
- I nailed the return of Mancow Muller to Chicago radio after he’d been off the air here for two years.‚ While continuing his syndicated morning show, Muller added midday duties with Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890). He’s teamed up with Pat Cassidy, former morning anchor at CBS all-news WBBM-AM (780), from 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays. In ratings released this week, “Mancow & Cassidy” on WLS ranked 13th among adults between the ages of 25 and 54 with a 2.6 percent share.
- Despite my prediction of a resolution, the fate of the Museum of Broadcast Communications remains in limbo after six years. No one knows whether construction ever will be completed on the museum’s half-finished edifice at State and Kinzie.‚ But museum founder Bruce DuMont keeps forging on in hopes of a miraculous infusion of money.
On a brighter note, this weekend he’s overseeing the National Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, featuring such presenters as Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Miller, Willard Scott and Jonathon Brandmeier. The event will air live at 9 p.m. Saturday from the Renaissance Hotel Chicago on both WGN and WLS. It also will be streamed live on the Internet at www.radiohof.org.