Media preview 2013: Will breaking up be hard to do?
Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson
Not exactly predictions, but a few things to look for in the coming year on the beat:
- The emergence of Tribune Co. from bankruptcy puts a “for sale” sign on virtually all of the company’s far-flung media assets. Rupert Murdoch, who has ties to three members of the new Tribune Co. board, would appear to have the inside track in acquiring the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. While in town last fall, Murdoch tweeted: “In Windy City, Chicago. What a truly great metropolis. Great challenges, but great people,” followed by: “Maybe Rahm Emanuel will make great mayor of this city. Real SOB, just what needed to face great challenges.” Isn’t that just what someone who wanted to buy the Tribune would say?
- Two other Tribune Co. properties that could be sold even before the newspapers are WGN-AM (720), the 89-year-old radio flagship of the World’s Greatest Newspaper, and Chicago magazine. Considering the penurious treatment they’ve faced under current ownership, both would find themselves a lot better off as part of companies willing to invest in their success for a change.
- The legendary duo of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson will step down in February as 6pm news anchors at CBS 2. Gone too will be Walter’s Perspectives from the 10pm newscast. Although they failed to set the ratings on fire during their 2½-year comeback run, you have to admire the old guys for classing up the place.
- Chicago Public Media will finally settle on a new host for The Afternoon Shift on WBEZ-FM (91.5). A nationwide search has been ongoing since Steve Edwards departed last September. You’d think that would be long enough for the station to realize it won’t find a better host than Rick Kogan, who’s been filling in all along. But it doesn’t appear likely.
- Sun-Times Media will consolidate editorial and production operations of its seven regional dailies and 32 suburban weeklies at Chicago Sun-Times headquarters downtown. They say it’s to hasten their digital transformation and “shed inefficiencies.” But everyone knows that means to save money and eliminate jobs. Suburban competitors and hyperlocal websites will have a field day.
- Chicago radio icon John Records Landecker will mark publication of his new memoir, Records Truly Is My Middle Name. Written with longtime producer Rick Kaempfer, it will feature contributions from Bob Sirott, Jonathon Brandmeier, John Gehron, Joey Reynolds, Jan Jeffries, Catherine Johns, Eric Ferguson, Bill Zehme, Kevin Matthews, Don Wade and others. More than 40 years after he first conquered the nighttime airwaves in Chicago, Landecker, 65, is still going strong as evening personality on WLS-FM (94.7). Anyone for a Boogie Check?
Chicago media milestones of note in 2013:
- 50th anniversary of WVON, founded by Len and Phil Chess as Chicago’s first full-time rhythm-and-blues station.
- 40th anniversary of Terri Hemmert at WXRT-FM (93.1); Regine Schlesinger at WBBM-AM (780).
- 35th anniversary of Tom Skilling at WGN 9; Joel Weisman as host of Chicago Week in Review at WTTW 11; Steve Dahl’s first broadcast in Chicago.
- 25th anniversary of WVAZ-FM (102.7) as urban adult-contemporary V103; Oprah Winfrey’s acquisition of Harpo Studios.
- 10th anniversary of Weigel Broadcasting’s Me-TV; NBC 5’s street-level Studio 5 on Michigan Avenue.