Radio 101: New station has a lot to learn before it’s ready for takeoff
Robservations on the media beat:
- Honestly, I’ve heard college radio stations deliver smoother newscasts than the ones they’ve been airing on Merlin Media’s new 101.1 FM. Since last week, the station (which officially changed call letters from WKQX to WWWN) has been supplementing its music stunting with hourly, six-minute newscasts testing various combinations of anchors and contributors. Granted, they’re still in rehearsal/test mode, and they’re struggling without the right equipment in place. But you’d think they’d work out their choreography off the air before subjecting listeners to samples of a format that’s clearly not up to par. A few of the clumsy trial runs I heard only made me appreciate the polished professionalism of all-news WBBM-AM (780) that much more.
- Merlin Media’s plans to roll out a full-time news format on FM continue to have repercussions up and down the dial — even if rival station bosses would like us to believe they’re not reacting. CBS Radio execs tried to pretend that the impending competition wasn’t behind their decision to simulcast Newsradio 780 on WCFS-FM (105.9), starting next week. And now WGN-AM (720) managers are insistent that nothing should be read into the sudden return of “The Voice of Chicago” as the Tribune-owned news/talk station’s on-air slogan. Let’s hope CBS doesn’t try to deny the obvious now that it’s touting WXRT-FM (93.1) as “Chicago’s Original Alternative” on the heels of Q101’s demise.
- While all attention so far has been focused on the AM stations that will be affected by 101.1 FM, a significant impact also may be felt by WBEZ-FM (91.5), the noncommercial public radio outlet operated by Chicago Public Media. The home of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Eight Forty-Eight will no longer be the only choice for news-and-talk listeners on FM when Newsradio’s simulcast and 101.1 FM start going at it. In the latest Arbitron survey, WBEZ ranked 26th with a 1.7 percent audience share — and 25th among listeners between 25 and 54 with a 2.0 share. (Full disclosure: I worked for Chicago Public Media as a blogger in 2010.)
- Don’t look for Monica DeSantis to anchor evening newscasts on Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) after all. Despite a report here last week that she was losing her midday anchor slot to Dave Stewart and shifting to evenings, DeSantis decided to quit the station and jump to — you guessed it — 101.1 FM. She’d been heard on WLS since 2008. Filling in as WLS evening news anchor for now will be Ed Smaron.
- They’ve turned a corner at Window to the World Communications — or so they say. The nonprofit parent company of public television WTTW-Channel 11 and classical music WFMT-FM (98.7) is forecasting a “break-even budget” for this year and next, thanks in part to increases in corporate and foundation support. “This news is especially gratifying after an economically challenging Fiscal 2010 during which losses in state funding and reduced support from other sources resulted in a significant shortfall and several job eliminations,” the company said in a statement last week. “We still face many challenges in this recovering economy,” warned CEO Dan Schmidt. “But we feel strongly that we are on the right track and are extremely optimistic about our future.”
- Add Art Barnum, who was DuPage County courts reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and Debra Bade, who was editor of news research and archives, to the list of editorial employees whose jobs were eliminated last week. “It’s been a great ride, and I’ve had so much fun working with all of you and with my fabulous staff here at the Tribune,” Bade wrote in an email to colleagues and friends. “I’m not sure yet what the next adventure will be, but look forward to a new challenge and opportunity to grow.” Tribune business section staffers took up a collection to buy flowers for secretary Rose Sukowski, whose job also was cut after more than 30 years.