Back to the future: How my 2012 media forecast panned out
One thing I admire about Chicago Tribune columnist and uberblogger Eric Zorn is the way he handles predictions. Before gazing into his crystal ball for the coming year, he tallies up the hits and misses on his past year’s forecasts — and publishes his record for all to see.
If only every columnist, blogger and would-be psychic were so responsible. Instead, most ignore their false prophecies year after year and go right on making new ones.
In my Chicago media preview for 2012, I made 10 predictions. Here’s how I fared:
Prediction: The exit of Walter Sabo as chief operating officer of Merlin Media wouldn’t do much to improve the prospects of FM News 101.1 (which I called “the worst radio launch in living memory”). Outcome: By July, the all-news station was dead.
Prediction: Tribune Co. would struggle through another year of bankruptcy, followed by a move to sell off pieces of the company. Outcome: With the end of bankruptcy finally in sight, a sale of assets appears more likely than ever.
Prediction: Morning news will continue to be a key battleground for Chicago television stations, with changes “all but certain” for CBS 2, NBC 5 and Fox 32’s Good Day Chicago. Outcome: New morning anchor teams were ensconced at CBS 2 and NBC 5, but WGN Morning News — with its superior cast and brilliant production staff — was still the best show in town.
Prediction: As corporations continue to destroy radio, broadcasters will take matters into their own hands and turn increasingly to other alternatives. Outcome: James VanOsdol, who wrote the book on the rise and fall of Q101, added his voice to the Steve Dahl Network. (“We are very proud of what we accomplished up to this point, and we have some incredible ideas for 2013,” Dahl wrote in a Christmas message to subscribers.) Another Chicago radio veteran, Rick O’Dell, launched SmoothJazzChicago.net as a 24/7 streaming digital station.
Prediction: New digital plays will include the launch of Jonathan Eig’s ChicagoSide Sports and the revitalization of Chicago magazine’s website under editor Beth Fenner. Outcome: ChicagoSide offered an appealing outlet to an interesting mix of writers — and a lifeline to former Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti. Fenner took control of Chicago magazine online and introduced a series of new blogs, including one on “classic style” all her own.
Prediction: Just as the Chicago TV Academy continues to overlook numerous deserving inductees to its Silver Circle, the Chicago-based National Radio Hall of Fame again will snub Howard Stern and Steve Dahl. Outcome: In November, the Radio Hall of Fame finally inducted Stern — in absentia.
Prediction: Rosie O’Donnell’s comeback on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network (which I called “a colossal disappointment in the ratings”) would be gone by year’s end. Outcome: The Rosie Show was canceled in March.
Prediction: Media milestones will include the 25th anniversary of the launch of Fox Chicago News, with Robin Robinson celebrating her 25th year as its principal news anchor. Outcome: Robinson was indeed on hand for the occasion, thanks to an extension of her contract in July. (But not before Larry Horwitz’s Chicagoland Radio and Media reported that Robinson had been fired — and then refused to apologize for the monumental error.)
Prediction: ABC 7 would mark the 25th year of its reign at the top of the ratings. Outcome: Still No. 1. Back to you, Ron and Kathy.
Prediction: Douglas Brinkley’s definitive biography of Walter Cronkite, and Walter Jacobson’s long-awaited memoirs would be published in 2012. Outcome: Cronkite and Walter’s Perspective both debuted to critical acclaim.