War is over: Newsradio audience remained ‘loyal and engaged’
Robservations on the media beat:
- With the sudden demise of Merlin Media’s FM News 101.1, CBS Radio emerged the winner and undefeated champion this week of a yearlong all-news battle it barely had to fight. Key to its defense was the decision to simulcast WBBM-AM (780) on WCFS-FM (105.9), blunting Merlin Media’s bid to claim format exclusivity on FM. What happens now that the war is over? Rod Zimmerman, CBS Radio Chicago’s senior vice president and market manager, said he has no plans to make any changes: “Our strategy remains the same, to provide the best news coverage in Chicago on as many platforms as our listeners require — AM, FM, digital and mobile,” Zimmerman told me. “We are pleased the marketplace recognizes the quality of WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM and has remained loyal and engaged in our news coverage.” In the end, although the simulcast accrued little benefit to Newsradio in the ratings (which are down year-to-year), FM News 101.1 never made a dent.
- Leave it to the industry’s most respected analyst, Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-Info.com, to put the Merlin Media fiasco into perspective: “One old programming truth has been validated yet again — content matters. Just putting a new product on FM and expecting it to beat an established AM won’t cut it. This wasn’t a referendum on whether news works on FM. It can. But Merlin’s expensive one-year experiment shows that all-news is harder than it looks. Or maybe it’s simpler than it looks, and trying to reinvent the formula perfected by CBS, Bonneville and a few others is inviting trouble.”
- Janine Schaults, who most recently was entertainment reporter for FM News 101.1, has been named editor of Illinois Entertainer, effective July 30. She previously wrote for the monthly publication as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald and NewCity. Schaults replaces Steve Forstneger, who’s stepping down after more than seven years as editor but will continue as a contributor to Illinois Entertainer and its website. “I am pleased to be succeeded by someone whose local roots and passion for new music in many ways surpass my own,” Forstneger said. Based in Chicago, the free music and entertainment magazine is now in its 38th year.
- Overshadowed by the bloodbath at Merlin Media Tuesday was the debut of Clear Channel’s new live and local morning show on adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9). As first reported here, Jeff Corder and Karen Williams replaced Los Angeles-based Sean Valentine, who’d hosted mornings on Lite FM since September 2009. “Corder & Karen are hard at work getting to know one another and are in the process of introducing themselves to the market,” said Tony Coles, vice president of programming and operations for Clear Channel Chicago and program director of WLIT.
- Classy to the end, Tribune Co. chairman Sam Zell publicly trashed the Chicago Tribune’s business section. On the eve of last week’s court ruling that could end the company’s record-breaking bankruptcy, Zell told the Financial Times: “If you did a poll here in Chicago they would think that the Tribune today compared with five years ago is night and day better.” Pressed by reporter Hal Weitzman, Zell added: “Oh, the business section sucks. But to me the question is: what’s happening with the editorials and is the Tribune doing investigative reporting? And for the first time in the Tribune’s lifetime they’re doing a serious amount of investigative reporting and they have a vibrant editorial page. And that’s what people want.”
- Matt Bowen, the former NFL safety who reports on the Bears for the Chicago Tribune and also writes for National Football Post, is expected to sign on as Bears pre-game host at CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR-AM (670). Starting this fall, he’ll be joining Hub Arkush and Dan Hampton on the Score, where he previously has been a contributor.
- Colleagues at WBEZ-FM (91.5) toasted Richard Steele Wednesday on his 25th anniversary at the Chicago Public Media station. The award-winning host and producer on the arts and culture desk joined the station as a staff announcer in 1987 after a long and distinguished run as “The Real Steele” on urban radio in Chicago, hosting talk and music shows on WVAZ, WVON and the former WGCI-AM, WBMX, WGRT and WJPC.