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WGN-AM Revamps Line-Up - Removes Milt Rosenberg, Adds Two More

Tribune Broadcasting's WGN-AM announced its new line-up, which will begin next month after the holidays. The new schedule removes its longest show host, Milt Rosenberg, removes John Williams, and removes time from Bill Leff's show. The additions include adding WLS-AM veteran talker Turi Ryder, returning "The Noon Show" to the line-up with new host Carol Roth, and adding time to Jonathon Brandmeier and Mike McConnell's shifts.

With John Williams exiting the station in just a few days, Tribune Broadcasting now is looking to free up even more salary from its still-bankrupt books by releasing Milt Rosenberg from its line-up and canceling the long-running "Extension 720" show. On Thursday, Milt Rosenberg will do a final program for WGN Radio, with a retrospective show, featuring some of his favorite moments from the nearly 40 years he has been the "Extension 720" host. Unfortunately, along with the financial savings, with the loss of both Williams and Rosenberg, the station also loses its two most cerebral hosts.

WGN-AM's "Extension 720" is one of the longest running programs on Chicago radio. Milt Rosenberg took over as host of the show in 1973. In his over 39 years as host, he has expertly interviewed everybody from authors of little-known books to world leaders. Comedian/author/musician/former Tonight Show host Steve Allen once said: "All interviewers should be forced to attend a class in that particular art, conducted by Milt Rosenberg." Paul Fussell, author of "Class, The Great War and Modern Memory, and Wartime" said "I have been productively interviewed by Milt Rosenberg several times, as I have been by various other radio and television hosts, and I find him absolutely the best. Unlike others he has not just read the book in question he has studied and understood it. At the same time he is able to make the conversation the opposite of studious that is, lively and interesting to the 'general listener.'"

Though born in New York, Mr. Rosenberg moved to Chicago in the mid-1960s, where he has lived ever since. He is a social psychologist and is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He has also served as the Director of the Doctoral program in Social and Organizational Psychology there. Mr. Rosenberg has authored numerous books and has had articles published in many professional journals and magazines. In 2008, Milt Rosenberg was awarded the prestigious National Humanities Medal by the President at a ceremony held in the White House East Room.

Milt Rosenberg's "Extension 720" late-night talk show was always finishing near the top of the ratings, and usually the #1 rated program of its time slot.

Not only is WGN-AM's Milt Rosenberg a top-rated host on the radio each weeknight, but he also rules the Internet. WGN's statistics for their podcasts show that all of their top downloads recently and the most downloaded shows in that station's website's history are Milt Rosenberg's podcasts. This past October, 21 podcasts of his were downloaded over 100,000 times, including one that eclipsed 510,000 downloads.

His life has been a journey of enriching minds through numerous mediums, from in person, to in print, to radio waves, to audio podcasts.

In today's public announcement, Milt Rosenberg said: "I'm thankful to my listeners and I'm proud to have shared almost 40 years with them. We attempted to provide intelligent radio featuring the movers and observers of history being made as well as with programs on established history, the popular and 'high' arts, and sciences from cosmology to sociology - all mixed with frequent forays into more light-hearted fair."

While he is very understanding of the reasons that WGN-AM feels the need to make this change, it was not Milt Rosenberg's desire to leave the station this month.

He may be 87 years old and is being forced out from WGN Radio, but Milt Rosenberg is still on top of his game and is not looking to retire from radio (despite what has been written elsewhere). Mr. Rosenberg tells CRM that he is quite hopeful that his talents and very large fanbase can be of service to another radio station in town.

WGN-AM's General Sales Manager and Interim General Manager, Jeff Hill claims that Milt Rosenberg would be welcomed as a guest to other shows on the station in the future. Said Hill today: "Milt has added another rich chapter to WGN Radio's history and we thank him for his service. Though Milt will not be a full-time program host, he will continue to be a show contributor and have a presence at the station."

Replacing Milt Rosenberg and "Extension 720" will be Turi Ryder, who will be heard from 10:00pm-1:00am. Ryder was previously a regular on WLS-AM working late nights in 1983-1984. She returned to Chicago in 1994 for one year as a talk show host on WLS-FM. She has also made return trips to WLS-AM over the years as a fill-in, sometimes as a solo host and sometimes co-hosting with her friend, John Records Landecker. She has worked at talk stations in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Seattle, as well. For the last few years, Ryder has been a top fill-in host around the country, including doing some recent fill-ins on WGN-AM for John Williams.

Turi Ryder is a resident of San Fransisco, CA, who will be doing the WGN-AM shows from her home studio there, at least initially. Ryder tells CRM that she is looking to relocate to Chicago sometime in the new year.

Other changes in store include shifting overnight host Bill Leff's program even later by one hour, starting at 1:00am. However, the show will end 30 minutes later, at 6:00am, a net loss of only 30 minutes. Leff will continue to be the primary fill-in host for Jonathon Brandmeier's morning show.

Brandmeier's morning show gains a net of 30 minutes. The show will now start later, at 6:00am, but ending one hour later, at 10:00am.

Another addition to the station will be the return of "The Noon Show," which will air each weekday from Noon-1:00pm. The show will be hosted by Carol Roth, who also has been doing some fill-in work on WGN-AM in the last few weeks. Carol Roth is the former investment banker, who is now a business strategist and a New York Times bestselling author of "The Entrepreneur Equation." She is frequent guest/contributor on the cable news networks, including making numerous appearances on CNN in the last month. In her spare time, Roth is a contributing blogger for such websites as The Huffington Post and Crain's Chicago Business.

The plans for the new "Noon Show" will be to take longer looks at the top news stories of the day, along with lifestyle segments. Additionally, one of the few remaining longtime veterans of the station, Orion Samuelson, will provide daily business and agricultural reports.

One of the stranger changes taking place is the expanding role of the station's lowest-rated and least-liked personality, Mike McConnell. His weekday show will now begin one hour later, at 10:00am, but will continue on all the way to 3:00pm, with the exception of a one-hour break in the middle for "The Noon Show." In all, it is a net gain of 60 minutes more for McConnell.

The only weekday programs on WGN-AM that are not seeing any changes at this time are Garry Meier's afternoon show and the evening show, "WGN Sports Night."

Effective January 2, 2013, here is the new weekday line-up for WGN Radio...
6:00am-10:00am: Jonathon Brandmeier
10:00am-Noon: Mike McConnell
Noon-1:00pm: "The Noon Show" with Carol Roth
1:00pm-3:00pm: Mike McConnell
3:00pm-7:00pm: Garry Meier
7:00pm-10:00pm: "WGN Sports Night"
10:00pm-1:00am: Turi Ryder
1:00am-6:00am: Bill Leff

These changes cap off a turbulent few months for WGN-AM and its financially struggling parent company. Among the recent changes before today's have been the forced exit of popular General Manager Tom Langmyer, the forced exit of fan favorite John Williams, and the loss of internal staffers from a station receptionist on up. The majority of the changes, including today's announcements, have less to do with programming upgrades and are more the results of deep budget cutbacks caused by creditors taking over the company this month, as Tribune Company's over four-year bankruptcy comes to an ugly close.

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