Robservations on the media beat:
Just in time for Opening Day next week, former Chicago Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have been hired as baseball analysts at Tribune Media news/talk WGN AM 720. Throughout the season Dempster will appear Thursday mornings on Steve Cochran’s show, and Wood will appear Thursday afternoons on Roe Conn’s show. “Woody and Dempster are the perfect pair to drive the conversation during a year loaded with great story lines,” said Todd Manley, vice president of programming and content at WGN. “Baseball’s in our DNA, and we can’t wait to get this season rolling.” Also at WGN, morning producer Kevin Powell has shifted to afternoon sports anchor, succeeding Connor McKnight, who jumped to Cumulus Media news/talk WLS AM 890.
Veteran Chicago journalist John McCormick was promoted Wednesday to editor of the editorial page at the Chicago Tribune, succeeding Bruce Dold, who recently moved up to publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tribune. McCormick had been deputy editorial page editor under Dold. Before joining the Tribune editorial board in 2000, McCormick was Chicago-based correspondent and Midwest bureau chief for Newsweek magazine. Marie Dillon, a member of the Tribune editorial board since 2006, was named deputy editorial page editor. Joining the board as an editorial writer is Alex Rodriguez, who most recently was nation/world editor.
In case you missed it, Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Mancow Muller’s return to Chicago radio. His freewheeling, high-energy morning show on Cumulus Media classic rock WLUP FM 97.9 recalls the early years of “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” before the onetime shock jock detoured into semi-serious political talk and reality television. “I feel like Pacino in ‘Godfather 3’ . . . Just when I thought I was out,” he said of his comeback. Now he couldn’t be happier: “I love the music, the crew and the show. The best was yet to come after all.”
The great Bill Wyman is back in print in Chicago this week with a fascinating cover story in Newcity — the longest piece ever published by the alternative weekly. In it Wyman revisits the furor that erupted in January 1994 when he wrote a column for the Chicago Reader praising the Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, and Urge Overkill. That prompted an infamous response from rock music producer Steve Albini, calling Wyman a shill for the artists and their “music press stooge.” Months of letters in that pre-Internet age ensued. Wyman, who went on to launch “Sound Opinions” with Jim DeRogatis, eventually left Chicago to become arts editor of Salon.com and assistant managing editor of NPR. He most recently has worked for Al Jazeera America.
PJ Kling, who was ousted last June as program director of Cumulus Media alternative rock WKQX FM 101.1, has landed as vice president of product and business development at NuVoodoo Media Services, a marketing, programming and content consulting firm. The move reunites him with Carolyn Gilbert and Mike O’Connor, who worked together at Tribune Co. under former CEO Randy Michaels. In the newly created position, Kling will expand the company’s relationships with radio stations, artists and record labels. He called it a “dream job.”
Is iHeartMedia on the verge of collapse? That’s the dire prediction of Media Life Magazine, which reported Wednesday that the radio giant led by CEO Bob Pittman cannot survive under its $21 billion debt. “It’s not a question of whether it collapses but when, and it’s likely to come sooner rather than later,” wrote Court Stroud. “It could be within months.” Among its more than 850 radio stations nationwide, iHeartMedia owns seven in Chicago — WVAZ FM 102.7, WKSC FM 103.5, WGCI FM 107.5, WLIT FM 93.9, WEBG FM 95.5, WGRB AM 1390 and WVON AM 1690.
CBS Radio all-news simulcast combo WBBM AM 780 and WCFS FM 105.9 was the sole Chicago broadcaster among the 10 top-billing radio stations in the United States, according to figures released Wednesday by BIA/Kelsey. With 2015 revenue of $43.8 million, WBBM Newsradio ranked sixth nationwide — up from $39.2 million and 10th place in 2014. The jump can be attributed primarily to Cubs baseball broadcasts, which aired last year on the station. Now with the team moving to CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR AM 670, revenue for the all-newser is expected to drop significantly in 2016. Here is the national Top 10: