Roger Ebert reveals return of cancer: 'It really stinks'
Robservations on the media beat:
- A recurrence of cancer has prompted Roger Ebert to take a leave from his duties as film critic at the Sun-Times. Ebert, 70, who has spent most of his time in the hospital since late last year when he suffered a hip fracture, disclosed on his blog Tuesday that he is slowing down to focus on his health. "The 'painful fracture' that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer," he wrote. "It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to," adding: "It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital." The Chicago treasure and living legend said he will remain active with the launch of Ebert Digital, headed by his wife, Chaz, and will continue to write and review movies on a selected basis. His announcement came on the eve of his 46th anniversary as Sun-Times film critic. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize.
- Chicago radio’s brightest new star continues to shine. Brotha’ Fred just signed on for four more years as morning personality at WKSC-FM (103.5), the Top 40 station known as Kiss FM. Although his current contract runs through December, Clear Channel bosses rewarded with him an early, long-term renewal. “I always dreamed of the opportunity to do mornings in Chicago and to earn the loyalty of this great city,” he told me. “This contract extension represents not only Clear Channel’s long-term investment in me but to the Chicagoland community.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Kiss FM is on a roll, with 2012 revenue of $21.1 million — up $5.5 million from the previous year. Fred, whose real name is Christopher Frederick, and co-host Angi Taylor are tied for third in mornings among women between 25 and 54, according to the latest Arbitron survey. Tommy Austin, new vice president of programming at Clear Channel Chicago, said in a statement: “Brotha’ Fred has endeared himself to the 103.5 Kiss FM audience for nearly three years, and we look forward to his continued growth and success.”
- Back on Chicago radio after a 10-year absence is Jeffrey T. Mason, who signed on this week as evening personality at WJMK-FM (104.3), the CBS Radio K-Hits station. Mason, who worked for Big City Radio’s former WKIE-FM and WXXY-FM here, most recently hosted middays at KOOL-FM in Phoenix. The night shift job at K-Hits has been vacant since George McFly was released last October. Mason’s hiring drives another nail into baseless rumors of a format switch at the classic hits station. It also comes as K-Hits is clobbering Cumulus Media rival WLS-FM (94.7) in the ratings.
- The seeds of a possible grass-roots movement may have been planted Tuesday night to “bring the public back into Chicago public television.” About two dozen citizens gathered in a back room of Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen to share concerns about the lack of innovative programming and management at WTTW-Channel 11. The group also spoke of encouraging the board of parent Window to the World Communications to foster a climate of creative risk-taking and greater operational transparency. "We are ordinary Chicago people who care about Channel 11/WTTW," says the group's website at fixchannel11.com. "We are organizing to help bring about necessary changes."
- Chicago broadcasting veteran Bob Sirott will fill in Friday for Carol Roth as host of the Noon Show on news/talk WGN-AM (720). It’ll be Sirott’s first time back on the show since he hosted it full-time himself. In January 2009 his Noon Show job was eliminated in a budget cut at the Tribune Broadcasting station. Sirott still hosts The Sunday Night Radio Special with wife Marianne Murciano on WGN, and he continues as 9pm weekday news anchor on Fox 32.
- Capping more than 40 years as a Chicago newspaperman, Jerry Crimmins retires Wednesday as a reporter for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. His career included three decades as an award-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, in addition to stints with Associated Press and City News Bureau of Chicago. He’s also written two books, including one on the history of Fort Dearborn.
- For the first time since 2004, Chicago magazine has been named a finalist for a National Magazine Award. David Bernstein and Noah Isackson were cited in the reporting category for their story on collusion between Chicago politicians and gang members. Chicago-based Poetry magazine also is a finalist in the general excellence category. Under editor Beth Fenner, Chicago magazine also boasts an impressive 14 nominations in this year’s Peter Lisagor Awards.
- Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell will be honored as Alumna of the Year by Columbia College at commencement ceremonies May 18 and 19. Raised in the Chicago Housing projects and denied promotion to a high-level secretarial job at a prominent law firm, Mitchell earned a degree from Columbia in 1991 and joined the Sun-Times soon thereafter. Also being honored are Radio One Communications founder Len Ellis (Class of 1952) and cinematographer Michael Goi (Class of 1980).