Purge at Pioneer: Sun-Times Media shaking up editorial ranks
Robservations on the media beat:
- Does the firing Friday of Jeff Wisser as editor-in-chief of the suburban weekly Pioneer Press chain signal an overhaul of editorial management at Sun-Times Media? That’s the word according to insiders, who also say Sun-Times executive editor John Barron turned down an offer to become publisher of the Reader when it’s acquired by parent company Wrapports LLC. Both moves point to bigger changes coming under Jim Kirk, who stepped in last month as chief of editorial operations for the company. Until a successor for Wisser is named, Pioneer Press publisher Chris Krug will double as interim editor. “It was a great opportunity,” Wisser, 52, said of his six-year run Sunday. “I got to stretch muscles I didn’t even know I had. It was a pleasure working with my team at Pioneer, who were terrific in the face of devastating change. I’ll be looking for someplace to go in the morning.” Since he started with the Barrington Press in 1984, Wisser held various posts with the suburban chain and the Sun-Times before becoming top editor of Pioneer in 2006.
- Good news for fans of Tommy Edwards: They’ll now have an extra hour to enjoy the Chicago radio legend each day. Starting Monday, Edwards’ midday show on CBS Radio’s classic hits WJMK-FM (104.3) will begin an hour earlier and air from 9am to 2pm Monday through Friday. It’s part of a revamped lineup at K-Hits that includes Edwards’ promotion to permanent midday personality. “Tommy is the perfect addition to our on-air lineup,” said program director Todd Cavanah. “His knowledge of the artists and music that we play will come through the speakers every day.” Also as of Monday, Eddie Volkman and Joe Bohannon’s K-Hits morning show will start a half-hour earlier, airing from 5 to 9am weekdays.
- Some new faces may be turning up at the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Readers are being tapped to serve as “community board members” for the first time. “The idea is to get more community voices in our discussions and let more readers have a chance to see how we do what we do,” editorial page editor Bruce Dold told me. The first two volunteers are Jack Spatafora, a frequent contributor of letters to the editor (who identifies himself an “educator/writer/intellectual vagabond”), and Ken Davis, host of Chicago Access Network’s Chicago Newsroom and former program director of Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5). The community board members are invited to attend the regular Monday and Thursday board meetings and all meetings with newsmakers, Dold said. “They can contribute ideas, ask questions of newsmakers and try their hand at writing an editorial, letter or op ed. . . . We’re [still] getting a feel on how this works best, how many weeks to do it, what kind of time commitment people can make. Then we’ll make a public invitation on the editorial page.”
- Crain’s Chicago Business has announced a new metered paywall plan for access to its online content and archives. Starting June 14, readers will be able to view up to 12 articles a month for free on ChicagoBusiness.com. After that, they’ll be charged $59 for an annual digital subscription. “We have enhanced the user experience and instituted a subscription model that is current and fair,” publisher David Snyder said in a statement. “It satisfies the power user's need for deeper Crain's content while leaving other users' access to the site unaffected.” Both the Sun-Times and the Daily Herald erected metered paywalls last year.
- Last week’s Chicago television history quiz here prompted a reminiscence from my old boss, Ralph Otwell, who retired as editor of the Sun-Times in 1984. He pointed out another notable chapter in the annals of local TV: The mayoral debate among Jane Byrne, Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley on January 18, 1983. Hosted by the Sun-Times and featuring Jim Hoge as moderator and Basil Talbott Jr., Carol Marin and Robert Jordan as panelists, it aired live in prime time over four stations — WBBM-Channel 2, WMAQ-Channel 5, WLS-Channel 7 and WTTW-Channel 11 — and on tape delay over WGN-Channel 9. As a result it drew an estimated 2.3 million viewers and helped propel Washington to City Hall. “I’ve always considered it ironic that a newspaper would produce a show with the biggest Chicago TV audience,” Otwell said. Although the record would be broken by the Super Bowl Bears three years later, the broadcast stands as a political media milestone.