It’s over and out for midday personality Steve Cochran after 10 years at WGN-AM (720). He learned that he’d hosted his last show for the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk station moments after he got off the air at 3 p.m. Friday.
“It’s the greatest audience I’ve ever worked for, and I’ll miss them tremendously,” Cochran said as he was leaving. “But I am nothing but optimistic about the future — and I haven’t been optimistic for quite some time.”
The move came hardly as a surprise to Cochran, who’d been preparing his listeners for weeks that the end was near — even though his bosses had never told him he’d be out until now. His latest contract extension was set to expire Wednesday.
He’s the latest and perhaps highest-profile casualty in management’s ongoing effort to remake the station into something nearly unrecognizable to longtime listeners.
“We want to thank Steve for his service at WGN Radio and wish him the best,” Tom Langmyer, vice president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement. Replacing Cochran on the station’s midday lineup in August will be Mike McConnell, formerly of WLW-AM in Cincinnati, Langmyer said.
Cochran, 49, a native of Ithaca, N.Y., and a 30-year veteran of radio and standup comedy, joined WGN as weekend and fill-in host in January 2000. One month later, he moved up to full-time midday host in the talent shuffle that followed the death of morning star Bob Collins.
Cochran made headlines in 2003 when he was reunited with his biological mother 43 years after she placed him for adoption as a newborn in Ithaca. It turned out that she was living in Chicago and was a fan of his show on WGN. Cochran called their reunion “a phenomenal experience.”
When Collins’ successor, Spike O’Dell, chose to retire at the end of 2008, Cochran was the odds-on favorite to move up to mornings. But negotiations broke down when WGN bosses refused to boost his base salary and insisted on contract language covering his punctuality and attitude. “It was the worst deal I’ve ever been offered,” Cochran said at the time. When he balked, the job went first to John Williams and, six months later, to Greg Jarrett. A sour taste between Cochran and management lingered ever since.
Cochran’s continued employment has been in serious doubt ever since WGN program director Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny told him on the air: “I like you. I just don’t like your show.” By the time Cochran was demoted from afternoons to middays and then given only a four-month contract extension, the handwriting was on the wall.
Cochran’s first radio job in Chicago was at the former WCKG, where he hosted mornings for one day. He also worked at WLUP-FM (97.9), WMVP-AM (1000), and the former WPNT.