Published on Tuesday, 01 January 2013 12:30
With 2013 beginning today, Chicagoland Radio & Media takes a look back at the big local media stories of 2012...
The top 12 local media stories of '12 were:
1. The Bankruptcy Troubles & Uncertain Future Of Tribune Company.
The Chicago-based Tribune Company was the country's biggest media corporation in bankruptcy. It filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, with approximately $13 billion in debt, just one year after real estate developer Sam Zell completed the $8.2 billion leveraged buyout of the corporation. TribCo has been trying to exit bankruptcy since a few months after it filed, but has met with incredible resistance from angry creditors and those who feel they have been financially hurt by the bankruptcy. Many feel it was done purposely from the start, while others feel the Zell-led leveraged buyout was done fraudulently and should never have taken place. Each time it appeared the company was on the path to exit bankruptcy, a new road block appeared.
On the last day of 2012, the company finally exited bankruptcy, giving ownership of the media giant mainly to three creditors: Oaktree Capital Management, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Angelo, Gordon & Co. Their first order of business in 2013 will be to appoint a new Board of Directors, followed soon after by approving a new CEO. That new CEO is most likely former Fox TV and Discovery Communications executive Peter Liguori. After that, all indications point to the company quickly selling off its newspaper division, either in parts or as a whole. Tribune Broadcasting will become the focal point of the new company. Many insiders wonder if Tribune Broadcasting will cut loose its one radio station, Chicago's WGN-AM in 2013. Judging by the way salaries have been dumped in late 2012, it certainly appears as if the station is preparing for going up on the auction block.
2. More Winds Of Change Blow Through WGN Radio.
At the very end of last year, WGN-AM made some major changes to their line-up releasing overnight hosts Steve King & Johnnie Putnam, morning host Greg Jarrett, producer Jim Wiser, Karen Conti's "Legally Speaking" and Brian Noonan's weekend overnight show. Added were Jonathon Brandmeier, Bill Leff, and weekend reruns. As 2012 neared conclusion, the winds of change swept through WGN-AM once again. "Gently" pushed out from the station were Vice President & General Manager Tom Langmyer, midday host John Williams, evening host Milt Rosenberg, producer Beth Swierk, and some internal staffers. News anchors Jim Gudas and Christopher Michael were released earlier in the year due to budget cuts. With the station's parent company mired in an over four-year bankruptcy and the new creditor owners already demanding that the books made to look leaner (aka reduce payroll) in case they choose to sell the station, veteran staffers were shown the door. The loss of some fan favorites didn't help WGN in the eyes of longtime listeners. The station also made matters worse by switching to an all-new website that was cluttered and not user friendly, and also deleted most of its podcasts, including its most popular podcasts -- those of Milt Rosenberg's. A controversial new line-up that adds two little-known hosts and adds extra time to its least-liked host begins in early January.
3. The WIQI-FM Mess.
The ugly history of WIQI-FM, while just over one year old, could fill volumes of books. It is difficult to summarize all that happened to this station and its employees in 2012. It began the year as a struggling news station, just about five months old. Constantly changing directions, constantly changing employees, constantly failing automation, and the CEO's decision to not promote the station set it up for failure. In the spring, the station launched its first and only true attempt at advertising itself, which was bungled terribly. It was a billboard campaign that featured a picture of jailed former Governor Blagojevich, which generated controversy, but no new listeners. Eventually, grief from Blagojevich's attorneys caused the station to place smiley face stickers over Blago's face on the billboards. An unusual second billboard featured a light bulb and said "The Light's On," which merely served to remind people to turn on WLIT-FM (aka "The Lite") instead. With the billboard campaign a bust and still the lowest ratings of any major Chicago station, WIQI-FM then looked to flip to a news/talk format. Greg Jarrett was hired as morning show host and immediately began to raise ratings, at least in mornings. Mancow and the team of Mike North & Dan Jiggetts were brought in for test runs and were about to be offered full-time roles. Promos for the new talk station were being cut. Merlin Media CEO Randy Michaels then called a staff meeting one day in July and instead of announcing the new talk format as many staffers thought, he announced the immediate end of FM News 101.1 and the firing of most of the staff. In fact, by the end of the year, only five staffers remained in some minor capacity with the company, down from the many dozens of staffers it had when the station started in the summer of 2011. The news station was then replaced by "i101," an all 90s Classic Hits station. Ratings rose rapidly. Proving they have no idea what to do with that frequency, even after owning it for over a year, Merlin Media again "tinkered" with the station's format, killing any momentum it was gaining, just as they and done consistently for months before. Exactly one month after starting it, i101 changed formats, dropping much of the 90s music and becoming an Adult Contemporary station, playing new pop hits, mixed in with pop songs from the mid-90s-2011. This greatly angered its new fans of the 90s format. Two months later, the station changed yet again, dropping most current pop songs and focusing on hits from 1990-2010, while adding frequent "All 90s Weekends" to try and woo back the fans it lost by dropping the 90s tracks. Since flipping to music, WIQI-FM has been basically jockless. Merlin Media later removed Pete McMurray from WLUP-FM and then placed his morning show on WIQI-FM, only to fire him two months later. The low-rated, ever-changing station does not seem long for Chicago radio. According to frequent rumors, the parent company itself may not be long for the radio business.
4. More Major Changes At WFLD-TV.
The year began with high hopes for the struggling television station, starting with the ouster of Carol Fowler as WFLD-TV's Vice President and News Director, replaced by television news veteran Phyllis Schwartz. Almost immediately, Schwartz brought back to Chicago Chris Myers as Assistant News Director. Executive Producer of the 9:00pm newscast, Mike Leiderman was pushed out less than a month later. His replacement, Phil Landros, lasted only a matter of weeks before he too was pushed out. WFLD-TV Planning Manager Jay Foot was released in February. 9:00pm news anchor and 25 year veteran of WFLD-TV, Robin Robinson was planning her exit party in June, after station officials decided to not renew her contract. Unable to find a suitable replacement in time, the station went back to Robinson and gave her a mere one-year extension in July. Midday news anchor Jan Jeffcoat exited the station in the summer to become a host of a nationally syndicated show. In early October, the anchor chairs were shuffled about as morning anchors Anna Davlantes and Kori Chambers took over as Noon newscast anchors and Amara Walker took over as new co-anchor of the weekend evening newscasts. Even though it does not appear on channel 32 on most television sets in Chicago anymore, WFLD-TV went back to its classic branding of "FOX 32," which it had not officially used in decades. Despite the dismal, last place ratings for its newscasts and for the syndicated programing on sister-station WPWR-TV, the FOX Chicago sales department became a scapegoat for the station's financial troubles. In the last six months of the year alone, two local sales managers and three account executives were forced out. Vice President & General Manager Mike Renda was reassigned to Detroit at the end of the year. His replacement, Dennis Welsh starts in early January. Capping off a year of changes and disappointments, VP/ND Phyllis Schwartz resigned from the station and moved back to California. With a new GM about to start, a new ND soon to be hired, and most of its primary news anchors' contracts expiring in 2013, next year looks to be yet another turbulent one for the WFLD-TV.
5. The Journatic Embarrassment.
In the spring, the Chicago Tribune made an investment in the Chicago-based media content providing company, Journatic. While amounts were not disclosed, it was said to be a sizable investment. The Tribune then announced that it was turning over content operations (but not ownership) of TribLocal -- the Chicago Tribune's suburban periodicals and websites -- to Journatic, which was headquartered inside of Tribune Tower. The Tribune quickly laid off most of its TribLocal employees. Complaints about very weak and limited content appearing on the TribLocal papers and websites began. In July, "This American Life," the nationally syndicated Chicago Public Radio show, looked at some of the practices of Journatic. According to the report, Journatic had been using writers from the Philippines, but then assigning fake, Anglo-American names to the bylines. These writers, who work for pennies on the dollar, do the work assigned to them by Journatic via the Internet. At first, it appeared Journatic was only doing this on some smaller real estate stories, but it was later revealed that they had been using the fake bylines for articles other than real estate ones and had been questioned about it by other companies they did work for in the past. Later in July, it was revealed that a Journatic story featured in TribLocal's Deerfield edition featured words that were allegedly both plagiarized and fabricated. Production Manager Mike Fourcher quit Journatic after two months on the job, publicly claiming to have exited over disagreements with the ownership over managerial and ethics issues.
By the end of July, the Chicago Tribune announced it had "indefinitely suspended" all use of Journatic's services due to these and possible other ethics violations. However, since Tribune Company invested heavily into Journatic earlier in the year, and laid off numerous employees to instead use Journatic's cheaper services for the TribLocal newspapers, they quickly went to work to find ways to lift the suspension. Chicago Tribune Media Group President Vince Casanova hired Randy Weissman to be a consultant to Journatic and to oversee positive changes within the company. Weissman is a former news administration editor with the Chicago Tribune and a 44 year veteran of the company. By November, TribLocal content was being produced by Journatic once again. The Chicago Tribune issued a statement at the start of December that said: "New quality control measures put in place by Journatic and Tribune will help us provide readers with complete and accurate community news and information through TribLocal."
6. Goodbye Smooth, Hello Q.
Near the end of April, Merlin Media entered into an agreement with Venture Technologies Group, to take over all programming and ad sales for WLFM-LP/Smooth 87.7 -- but not ownership. Merlin then quickly forced off the air the popular Smooth 87.7 format and replaced it with an Alternative Rock format, branded Q87.7. Merlin also changed the stations call letters to WKQX-LP, in order to bring back memories of WKQX-FM/101.1, the Alternative Rock station which Merlin Media had taken off the air the summer before. As the year went on, the new Q87.7 proved to do well in the demographic of Persons 18-34 and Males 18-34. Arguably, Q87.7 is doing better than any other Merlin Media station in the country, despite being a very signal-challenged station, which is actually an analog television station simulcasting at the front end of the FM band. WLFM-LP's midday host and Program Director Rock O'Dell brought back the Smooth station in November with the Internet radio station, SmoothJazzChicago.net.
7. The Chicago Reader Gets 'Sunny.'
The top local weekly, the Chicago Reader, along with its online properties, were purchased in May by Wrapports, LLC, the parent company of Sun-Times Media. The purchase price of the alternative weekly was said to be around $3 million. The Reader's staff was later relocated inside of the Sun-Times offices, but the newspapers' operations are being run separately, for the most part. Chicago Reader Publisher Alison Draper stepped down from her position less than two weeks after the purchase was announced. Managing Editor Jerome Ludwig voluntarily exited the weekly newspaper at the end of the year.
The Chicago Reader, founded in 1971, is one of the largest and most successful alternative weeklies in the country. It is Chicago's largest free weekly newspaper, with a cumulative readership of 612,000 in print and online.
8. K-Hits Releases All But One.
WJMK-FM flipped to the Classic Hits format called K-Hits in March 2011. Just over 1.5 years later, every single one of its initial hosts have been fired, with the exception of one person. Pushed out the door this year were afternoon host Bo Reynolds (February), evening host George McFly (October), and morning hosts Eddie & Jobo (December). Of the original weekday lineup, only Gary Spears remains. The station, which launched with great promise and potential, has yet to achieve the ratings success CBS hoped for. Even after its closest competitor, WLS-FM, changed its format to more of a Classic Rock playlist, WJMK-FM was unable (or unwilling) to gain those former fans of WLS-FM. With the station being ratings-challenged, it is consistently on the receiving end of rumors about possible format flips, including the possibility of CBS Radio changing 104.3 to either a simulcast of WSCR-AM or becoming the Chicago home for the new CBS Sports Network. (At this point in time, a change to sports talk seems unlikely.) The constant blaming and firing of its DJs recalls a recent CBS sister-station, WCFS-FM/Fresh 105.9, which did the same thing, firing DJs every few months, instead of ever once blaming the station's failed marketing, format, playlist, or presentation. Fresh 105.9 eventually ended for good last summer. Unless serious changes are made to the station besides
the DJs, K-Hits could be facing a similar fate in 2013. In the meantime, look for an announcement soon about the hiring of a new morning show host (a familiar name to Chicago radio audiences) and the extension of Gary Spears' contract.
9. News Website Paywalls.
Paywalls for newspaper websites became commonplace in 2012. The Sun-Times started charging for online access to its website at the tail end of 2011. Except for a brief period in the fall, when the paywall went down and was re-tooled, the Sun-Times and its various sister-websites charged for access all year, as did the Daily Herald's website. Crain's Chicago Business, which had a mild version of a paywall up for about a year, only charging for archived articles, placed its entire website behind a paywall in mid-June. The Chicago Tribune redesigned its website in late June, forcing people to register for free to see much of the online content. On November 1st, it began charging monthly or annual fees to access much of that same content.
Even though paywalls have become more of the norm for news websites, especially in 2013, it remains to be seen if they will be successful in the long run. There are still plenty of free sources of news to be found on the Internet, not to mention ways around the paywalls via Internet tricks. News organizations are now looking at changing the paywall program to more of a membership program that includes the online news articles and columns, but also many other exclusive offerings to members, plus bundled packages with other news & information sources, making the monthly costs easier for the public to rationalize paying. That has not yet hit the Chicago market, though.
10. Emily Barr Exits.
Emily Barr, WLS-TV's President/General Manager since 1997, resigned in order to accept a position with Post-Newsweek Stations to become its President and CEO. Under her supervision, WLS-TV was far and away #1 in local programming ratings (especially its newscasts) and #1 in revenue. Despite having the Post-Newsweek broadcasting headquarters in Detroit, MI, Emily Barr works largely remotely from her Chicago home, while traveling back and forth to Detroit, as well as to stations in the other markets operated by the broadcast company. In June, John Idler was announced as the new President and General Manager for WLS-TV. Idler was previously a Vice President and Sales Manager for WLS-TV from 2002-2007. He will have big shoes to fill, as he will have to try and maintain WLS-TV's high standings without the clout & power Emily Barr wielded.
11. Extended 'Vacations' For Personal Reasons.
Two top Chicago media personalities took voluntary leaves of absence to correct some personal issues.
WSCR-AM's Dan McNeil temporarily exited his radio station at the end of February for "health & wellness" reasons. He made his return to the station in early April. Immediately after the start of his first show back, McNeil addressed what he called the "800 pound gorilla sitting in the room" and mentioned his reasons for the extended absence. It had to do with severe depression he had been dealing with. After deciding to get off of his anti-depression medicine (without doctor advice), he was thrown into a deep, dark place and had what he described as a nervous breakdown. He then took the time off to get help for his mental & physical depression issues, as well as choosing to get healthy by getting clean from all other unhealthy substances at the same time, via a quick rehab visit.
At the start of May, WGN-TV's Mark Suppelsa announced he was taking some extended time off to enter a rehab center in Minnesota, to curb what he felt was a growing dependency on alcohol. He returned to anchor WGN's news the following month.
12. The MBC Sizzles Then Fizzles.
In a good news/bad news story, the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) celebrated its 30th anniversary of existence and 25th anniversary of being a physical museum in May. Additionally, it finally had the Grand Opening of its new downtown Chicago location, which also houses the National Radio Hall of Fame (NRHOF). Betty White and other celebrities were on hand for the exciting, gala celebration. That's the good news. The bad news is that due to poor leadership and mismanagement, the Museum has so far been a bust and an apparent waste of taxpayer dollars. The location itself does not offer hours that allow for the public to visit easily, closing most nights, weekends and holidays. Those who do get in during its limited hours of operation, pay a $12 fee to see a great deal of empty space. The entire radio floor consists of single photographs of NRHOF inductees, with no explanation of why they were inducted, along with a stack of apparently broken radio "boom boxes" and a Charlie McCarthy doll. The television floor has a small handful of Chicago Children's show puppets and/or costumes, an unused TV news studio, fast clips of old TV shows shown on small TV screens on the walls, and little else. Quite a few special events planned at the MBC were canceled and supposedly going to be rescheduled for a later date, but never were.
The NRHOF proved to be a laughing stock this year. Voting rules for nominees were changed yet again, this time not allowing public voting. The star inductees this year, Howard Stern and Terry Gross refused to even attend their own induction ceremony this fall. In fact, Howard Stern was quite vocal via his national Sirius satellite radio show on his distaste for the NRHOF and its chairman, Bruce DuMont, as the organization for years inducted much lesser talents, while purposely snubbing him.
Reportedly, the MBC is now looking to rent out its main level to a food retail outlet to help make financial ends meet. Hopefully, it will find a way to quickly improve its many issues from the top on down, so it won't end up being listed as a casualty of 2013 when the next "Year In Review" is written.
Here are brief looks at the other top Chicago media stories of 2012, broken down by month...
** WSCR-AM celebrated its 20th year on the Chicago airwaves beginning with the start of January. The Score initially launched on January 2, 1992.
** Even though his position was all but cut out months earlier and he had left the company weeks earlier, the start of the year saw famed radio consultant Walter Sabo officially pushed out from Chicago-based Merlin Media. It was Sabo's failed version of a female-friendly news radio station that was not received well by listeners or the company's CEO.
** Chicago radio veterans Brooke Hunter and Jill Egan teamed up to debut the appropriately named "The Brooke & Jill Show." The podcast was exclusively heard throughout the year here on the Chicagoland Radio & Media website. Later in the year, Brooke Hunter moved to California for professional and personal reasons, while Jill Egan became busy working multiple jobs on two radio stations and on local TV. This placed "The Brooke & Jill Show" on a hiatus.
** WBEZ-FM saw some changes in January, beginning with the promotion of Justin Kaufmann to Midday Executive Producer. Alison Cuddy was removed as host of "Eight Forty-Eight," replaced by Tony Sarabia. (Cuddy remains with the station.) Steve Edwards was promoted to host of a new show called "Afternoon Shift," which premiered the following month. (Edwards exited the station the following September.)
** WMAQ-TV hired Chicago area native Lauren Petty as its newest general assignment reporter. WMAQ-TV also hired Daniella Guzman as its newest co-anchor of their morning news program, Guzman started in March.
** Tribune Tower leased out 14,000 square feet of space on the south half of the ground floor of the building to Bottleneck Management, who will be opening up a restaurant there. That space also happened to be where WGN-AM was located. Starting in January and over the course of the next six months or so, WGN Radio had to build new studios on an upper floor and relocate there. Only the famed Showcase Studio remained on the main floor.
** WGN-AM promoted news anchor/reporter Judy Pielach to News Room Coordinator in January. Later, in July, WGN Radio named her as Managing Editor of WGN Radio News.
** Clear Channel Radio changed its name to the more complicated Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, abandoning the word "Radio" completely. Locally, the company is called Clear Channel Media + Entertainment Chicago.
** WXRT-FM celebrated morning show host Lin Brehmer's 20 years with the radio station with a live event, which was also simulcast on the air.
** As first exclusively tipped on this website, north-suburban WKRS-AM announced it was dropping its long-standing local/political talk programming and flipping to carrying the syndicated Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, starting in February. Most of the local hosts were released.
** In addition to WKRS-AM, ESPN Deportes Clear Channel made arrangements with the owner of translator W248BB, heard in the Chicago area on 97.5 FM, to take over the programming of that signal. Clear Channel placed ESPN Deportes on that frequency and on WNUA-FM's HD-2 station. The Clear Channel version of ESPN Deportes signed deals to carry Chicago Fire and Chicago White Sox broadcasts soon after launching.
** Chicago radio veteran Scott Childers was promoted to Program Director of WSSR-FM.
** John Records Landecker was promoted to full-time evening DJ, up from part-time/weekend/fill-in DJ in January. The move unfortunately shortened fan-favorite Greg Brown's hours and pushed living legend Dick Biondi to overnights, airing his show in hours his loyal fans could not easily hear him. The station promised fans Biondi would also be able to do one hour specials, most likely airing on weekends, but those never materialized in 2012.
** The Chicago Sun-Times announced that it would no longer be making any political endorsements for any upcoming local, county, state and/or national elections. Instead, the newspaper chose to stay neutral and provide as much information as possible to give readers a clear understanding of just where each candidate stands on issues, allowing the reader to make up their own decisions on who to vote for.
** WLS-AM hired Chicago television reporters and brothers Dan and Anthony Ponce as hosts for a new weekend radio show, to be heard on Sundays. Both brothers continue to do their "day jobs" as reporters for WGN-TV (in the case of Dan Ponce) and WMAQ-TV (for Anthony Ponce). Their father, WTTW-TV's Phil Ponce frequently makes guest appearances on the radio program.
** Chicago radio legend turned podcasting trailblazer, Steve Dahl expanded what he was now calling the Steve Dahl Network. In addition to adding former Chicago radio funnyman Kevin Matthews to his subscription podcast plan, he also added former WKQX-FM/WXRT-FM/WZZN-FM personality and music programmer James VanOsdol, who did regular interview podcasts, and a weekly podcast of classic Steve Dahl radio shows. Other additions came as the year went on.
** In January, the Chicago Tribune asked staffers to take part in a "voluntary separation program," asking longtime staffers to quit or be laid off the following month. Very few (two?) took the company up on this offer. In March, at least 15 managers and editors were released.
** Former Chicago radio & television personality Don Cornelius was found dead in his Los Angeles home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was best known for his iconic music & dance television show, "Soul Train," which he first created for WCIU-TV in Chicago, before taking the show national soon after.
** WFLD-TV parted ways with Executive Producer Mike Leiderman, a veteran of Chicago television.
** For the second time in less than five months, the Chicago Tribune removed a "Doonesbury" comic strip from its newspaper, for reasons that again appeared to be suspiciously conservative politically motivated.
** Moody Radio flipped their Chicago AM radio station, WMBI-AM, from an English-speaking Christian talk format, which was often a simulcast of their WMBI-FM, to an all new Spanish-language Christian talk & music format.
** Clear Channel fired WKSC-FM morning show co-host David L. Looking to save money, he was never replaced, choosing to go with just one main host in Brotha' Fred and one co-host in Angi Taylor.
** February 6th was the 30th anniversary for WUSN-FM/US99.5. The station chose to not acknowledge the milestone.
** WMAQ-TV promoted Rob Elgas from morning news co-anchor to 4:30pm news co-anchor. He was replaced in mornings by Stefan Holt.
** Reporter Alex Perez exited WMAQ-TV in February, after 6.5 years with the station. The following month, the reason why was revealed. He had been hired to be the Chicago-based correspondent for ABC News.
** WBBM-TV hired Kris Gutierrez as its newest morning news co-anchor. He began in March.
** The Chicago News Cooperative ceased operations due to a lack of financial support.
** Cumulus Media stopped carrying the long-running overnight syndicated show "Coast To Coast AM" on its stations. That means the show was no longer heard on WLS-AM, angering the program's legion of fans. No other station in Chicago picked up the program.
** Just under one year old, WJMK-FM/K-Hits made some roster changes, releasing Bo Reynolds, shifting Gary Spears to afternoons and adding Tommy Edwards to middays. (Although Edwards was the "interim" midday host until becoming official in May.)
** WYLL-AM launched a new morning show, hosted by funnyman Darren Marlar.
** Mike North & Dan Jiggetts reunited for a live event celebrating the 20th anniversary of their famous on-air pairing.
** WMAQ-TV updated its set and graphics in March. A few months later, changes were made to the set once again.
** It was announced in March that Steve Harvey would be returning to Chicago to host a new daytime television show, which began filming in August and airing in September. The national show is being taped at the NBC5 studios. Additionally, Harvey's national syndicated radio show will originate from Chicago's WVAZ-FM studios while he is in town.
** WBBM-TV hired Marissa Bailey and Brad Edwards as reporters.
** Syndicated, small market shock jock based out of Chicago, Erich "Mancow" Muller issued a press release full of bravado announcing two national television specials airing on back-to-back weekends on FOX News Channel in March. The specials, which were pilots for a potential new weekly series, did not run and were not even on the schedule to run. FOX did eventually air one of them a few months later with no fanfare. The pilot was not picked up to become a regular series.
** WGN-AM held a contest to select a new theme song for their Chicago Cubs broadcasts. The song "Let's Go Cubbies" by local Christian pop-rockers The Fold beat out its two competitors, which had a more country-rock sound.
** Two Chicago television journalists, WGN-TV reporter Dan Ponce and WMAQ-TV videographer Donte Williams, were handcuffed and detained by the Chicago Police Department, when an agitated officer did not want any members of the press outside Mt. Sinai Hospital, where the body of a slain six year-old girl was brought. Even though the members of the media complied with requests to stand away from the hospital property and on public property, the officer started arresting the local media members, who captured the whole incident on camera. A CPD Sergeant arrived on the scene ten minutes later and released the two detained media members. No charges were filed by the police or the journalists.
** WFLD-TV hired Dionne Miller as its weekend/fill-in sports anchor.
** OWN announced the cancellation of "The Rosie Show." The low-rated daily talk show starring Rosie O'Donnell was filmed in Chicago's Harpo Studios and employed over two hundred of local staffers, most of which were laid off in the spring.
** After less than seven months on the air, WILV-FM/Rewind 100.3 pulled the plug on its newest morning show, releasing one-time Chicago radio superstar Robert Murphy and producer Scott Straus.
** Despite a track record of great success, Cumulus Media forced out Michael Damsky from his position as President/General Manager/Market Manager of WLS-AM and WLS-FM. He had been working for the two stations since 2008. Dave Crowl was then named as Regional Vice President, overseeing radio & sales operations for all Midwest Cumulus stations, including major markets like Chicago and Cincinnati. Crowl was based in Chicago, out of Michael Damsky's now-former office. Less than four months later, he was moved out.
** WVON-AM officially changed the name of the midday show to "The Perri Small Show." Perri Small had been filling in for Santita Jackson, who had been mostly-absent for over three months. At the start of April, WVON made the exit of Jackson and the promotion of Small official.
** Lisa Allen was named as WILV-FM's new nighttime personality, promoting up her up from weekend host at sister-station WTMX-FM. She also then exited from her full-time job as afternoon host on suburban WZSR-FM.
** After four days off the air and extremely harsh words shot back and forth publicly, Tribune Broadcasting and DirecTV finally reached a retrains agreement, allowing DirecTV to broadcast Tribune-owned TV stations to its subscribers. The current agreement is for five years.
** After 38 years with the radio station, WLS-AM released Jeff Davis as its imaging voice. (In November, Davis returned to Chicago radio as a weekend DJ on WLS-FM.)
** After 28 years with the Chicago Sun-Times, with the last three+ years as its Editor in Chief, Don Hayner retired. A few days later, Jim Kirk was named as Senior Vice President and Editor in Chief. Kirk immediately exited his role as Crain's Chicago Business' Chief of Editorial Operations.
** Instead of voting in a new spokesmodel in April or May, as the station has done for years previously, WLUP instead made Tricia, the 2011 Loop Rock Girl, its 2012 Loop Rock Girl, as well, extending her contract until November of this year, when a new Loop Rock Girl took over.
** After nine years with the station and being its top rock jock, the new ownership of WLUP-FM parted ways with Byrd. He later was picked up by WDRV-FM in a weekend/fill-in role.
** After a sponsorship agreement was reached to help out the station financially, WGN Radio re-named its famous, over 25 year-old, street-side radio studio as the Allstate Showcase Studio.
** WRXQ-FM re-branded itself as Q Rock 100.7, mixing in rock tracks from the 90s and more recent years, along with the harder-edged classic rock it had been known for.
** Due to budget cuts, WGN-AM was forced to release midday news anchor Jim Gudas. He had been with the station since October 2006.
** Susanna Negovan exited her role as Editor-in-Chief of Michigan Avenue magazine to return to the Chicago Sun-Times. There she helped create the new Splash section and works on other media-related projects.
** Suburban radio station owner NextMedia sold off eight of its broadcast towers, including all of their towers in Illinois and Wisconsin to Global Tower Partners. More NextMedia sales of property came later in the year, too.
** WTMX-FM abruptly parted ways with nighttime DJ Erin Carman. She later resurfaced as a freelancing fill-in talk show host on WGN-AM.
** WMVP-AM announced the huge addition of "The Jay Cutler Show" with Chicago Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler joining Tom Waddle & Marc Silverman each week during the football season. The show proved to provide the station with a bump in the ratings, at least on Mondays.
** Newsweb Corporation's WKIF-FM was purchased by Milner Broadcasting, who turned the "9FM" anything-goes format into a similar, but more rock-based Classic Hits station at the end of July, simulcasting its station WVLI-FM.
** WNUA-FM flipped from the Hispanic Hot AC/CHR-formatted station known as Mega 95.5 to the Regional Mexican-formatted station, now branded as El Patron 95.5.
** Merlin Media named Pat Kelley as its Director of Sales for the company's cluster of Chicago radio stations it programs: WLUP-FM, WIQI-FM, and WKQX-LP. Prior to that move, Kelley was Senior Vice President and General Manager of WLFM-LP/Smooth 87.7, a position he held from May 2009 until the end of April this year. He lost that position when Merlin Media purchased the programming rights to WLFM-LP from the TV/radio station's owner Venture Technologies, fired the entire staff, changed the station's call letters, and changed the station's format. This move brought him back to selling for 87.7 FM, as well as to Merlin Media's two stations that they own outright in Chicago, The Loop and FM News 101.1 (later flipped to i101).
** In June, it was announced that CBS Radio and CBS Sports will be launching a new 24/7 sports radio network at the start of next year. The new "CBS Sports Radio Network" could become the largest sports radio network in the country, eclipsing ESPN and FOX Sports Radio. Cumulus Media will serve as the new network's exclusive distributor and sales partner. Rumors flew all year long about a possible Chicago location for this network as both CBS & Cumulus want it in its largest markets. Theories had the new station appearing on WCFS-FM 105.9, WJMK-FM 104.3, WIQI-FM 101.1, and on WSCR-AM 670, with the Score moving to 104.3. So far, there is no word on if or where the network will land locally.
** Chicago Public Media announced its purchase of distressed Latino public radio station WRTE-FM/90.5 Radio Arte from its owner, the National Museum of Mexican Art. At the time, Chicago Public Media promised to keep broadcasting Radio Arte to Chicago's Hispanic community. Unfortunately, at the end of the year, Radio Arte was no more.
** A controversy exploded at the Chicago campus of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), as the school took over the student-run radio station WZRD-FM at the end of June. The dozen DJs (or "Wizards" as they were called there) and staff were locked out from the radio station studios and the eclectic free-form music playlist was instead being played by an automated system. The issues at NEIU have yet to be resolved.
** On July 4th, WRTO-AM dropped its local programming and its longstanding branding of "La Tremenda," to become part of the new national "Univision America" syndicated network. Numerous local staffers were laid off by the change.
** Univision Radio Chicago named Al Sanchez as Program Director/Content Director for WPPN-FM/Pasion 106.7. He was already working as the Program Director for WVIV-FM/WVIX-FM/Maxima 103.1 & 93.5, as well as being the midday personality on Maxima. He added the WPPN-FM responsibilities to his other duties.
** WKQX-LP/Q87.7 hired another unknown-to-Chicago voice to pre-record segments between the music. Lauren O'Neil was being brought up to Chicago from southern Florida, where she worked for many years at Clear Channel rock stations there. She also voice-tracked at numerous Clear Channel rock stations nationwide over the last 10 years, where she worked with many of the current Merlin Media upper management. She later joined up with the local television show JBTV as an occasional interviewer.
** J.P. Anderson took over as the new Editor-in-Chief for Michigan Avenue Magazine. Anderson is the former Editor of "Where Chicago." He replaced Susanna Negovan, who exited in May to re-join Sun-Times Media in a variety of roles.
** WLIT-FM canceled the syndicated LA-based morning show "Valentine in the Morning" with Sean Valentine and Irma Blanco. It was replaced by a new live & local morning show, hosted by Jeff Corder and Karen Williams.
** Kye Martin left CLTV/WGN-TV and joined WMAQ-TV as its newest morning traffic and transportation reporter. She replaced Matt Rodewald, who was forced out by the move.
** Replacing Kye Martin at CLTV/WGN-TV as its morning and afternoon traffic reporter was Sarah Jindra. She then exited her role as WBEZ-FM's morning traffic reporter.
** Donna Baker moved to Chicago to take over as Cumulus Chicago Vice President & Market Manager, overseeing WLS-AM and WLS-FM. Since 2007, she has been a Vice President & Market Manager for Cumulus, most recently in Houston, TX.
** Longtime staffer Steve Forstneger stepped down as Editor In Chief for the Illinois Entertainer. Replacing him was Janine Schaults, the former FM News 101.1 Online Managing Editor, entertainment reporter and on-air host.
** Frank Monroe was hired as midday DJ for WZSR-FM, as well as WZSR/WWYW Production Director.
** At the end of July, Pete McMurray was pushed out as morning show host on WLUP-FM to make room for a longtime employee/crony hire of CEO Randy Michaels -- a former Ohio shock jock, using the radio name of Maxwell. McMurray had been the morning show host on WLUP-FM since April 2010. McMurray was not fired, though, at least not at this time. About one month later, he resurfaced on sister-station WIQI-FM as morning show host. (Two months after that, he was fully fired.)
** Jan Jeffcoat exited WFLD-TV as midday news anchor. She did so in order to join as host of a new syndicated show entitled "The List," which made its national debut in mid-September. It does not air in the Chicago market currently, though.
** Merlin Media hired Chicago radio veteran Shark to be its new afternoon voice on WKQX-LP. Sadly, as has been the case with most Chicago-based, non-Randy Michaels cronies at Merlin Media, Shark was hired, just to be fired. That firing occurred about 10 weeks later.
** South suburban WKYT-FM/The Kat 105.5 said goodbye to its classic rock past and evolved into a hard rock/active rock/metal rock radio station. At the start of August, it also added a new syndicated morning show.
** Rick & Diana Fleming, the owners of In3media, Inc., the parent company of Radio-Info.com, decided to retire and sold controlling interest in their industry website to Springfield, MA-based Talkers magazine at the start of August. All of the website's bloggers/contributors exited the company over the next two weeks. The website's message boards remained owned by the Flemings and changed their name to RadioDiscussions.com.
** Chicago Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster retired from the newspaper after nearly 43 years there. She began as an assistant to the legendary Sun-Times columnist, Irv Kupcinet.
** Sarah Kustok quit Comcast SportsNet Chicago to move to New York and take a role with the YES Network.
** A part-time DJ from WKSC-FM with the radio name of Finnegan was hired to become the new full-time evening DJ on WTMX-FM. At only 23 years old, Finnegan became the youngest host on the station.
** WBBM-TV, who brought back the legendary Chicago news anchor team of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson in 2010, chose to not renew their contracts, but instead announced in August that the duo would have their contracts extended by six more months. This means that Kurtis & Jacobson will be exiting the station in February 2013, for quite possibly the final time.
** Many of the Pioneer Press suburban newspaper editors and writers quit as a giant group to protest changes to the newspaper and its pay structure to employees.
** Veteran Chicagoland Rock & Roll DJ Tom Lounges exited Radio One Communications' WXRD-FM/X-Rock 103.9 as the station's afternoon drive DJ, as well as the station's Music Director and Promotions/Special Events Director. He had been with the station for ten years and was its most well-known personality.
** The Chicago Bears announced that WLEY-FM/La Ley 107.9 would be the exclusive radio home of Spanish language radio broadcasts of all Chicago Bears games for the 2012-2013 season.
** Allen Pinkett, the color commentator for Notre Dame football radio broadcasts, was a guest on the McNeil & Spiegel show on WSCR-AM. In talking about the toughness of his favorite football team that he also works for, as well as and the school's recruiting style, he said a few comments that upset Notre Dame fans. Pinkett quickly apologized, but was suspended for three weeks.
** WBEZ-FM's Steve Edwards stunned co-workers at the start of the month by announcing he was leaving the radio station on September 21st. Edwards accepted the role of Deputy Director of Programming for the University of Chicago's new Institute of Politics.
** Buzz Kilman reunited on the air with his former co-worker Jonathon Brandmeier, who is now the morning show host on WGN-AM. Initially, it was just a one-time visit to promote a live music event that Kilman was taking part in. That led to a few more guest appearances by Kilman on Brandmeier’s show, which finally led to Kilman becoming a regular part of the show, pleasing longtime fans. Kilman is not a WGN-AM employee, though, and is being compensated for his time on the air by Brandmeier himself. Buzz Kilman previously worked as Jonathon Brandmeier's "Newsman/Bluesman" for 16 years (14 at WLUP-FM/AM and two at WCKG-FM).
** The Chicago Sun-Times and its suburban newspapers unveiled the new 24 page Sunday Splash section -- an expanded weekly magazine version of its daily Splash section.
** WXRT-FM celebrated its 40th anniversary for most of 2012. In the spring and summer, the station had "Flashback" weekends once per month, with each focusing on a particular decade. Starting in September, they had an even more ambitious way to celebrate with "40 Years In 40 Days." Each weekday (except Thursdays) the station picked one of the years it had been in existence and focused on the music and events of that year. This went on through mid-November.
**South suburban WSSR-FM/Star 96.7 revamped its on-air line-up, releasing Tanya as morning show host and starting a new morning show with Josh Cooper & Anna Kopsky. Also joining the station as midday host was Chicago radio veteran Maura Myles, making her very welcome return to local radio.
** Native Chicagoan Chris McDonnell was named as President and General Manager for WSNS-TV/Telemundo Chicago, filling an over three-month long vacancy.
** Comcast SportsNet Chicago brought on Nicole Darin as a new anchor/reporter. She was only there on a freelance basis, though, and gone less than two months later. When a full-time anchor/reporter opportunity arose at sister-station CSN Washington, she was offered the position and grabbed it.
** WBBM-TV President and General Manager Bruno Cohen exited the station to take a job with CBS-TV on the west coast. WGN-TV's Vice President and General Manager Marty Wilke then chose to escape the troubles of Tribune Broadcasting and exited her role with WGN/CLTV to replace Cohen at CBS2.
** Lauren Jiggetts was promoted to co-anchor of WMAQ-TV's weekend evening newscasts.
** Premiering on September 17th, Chicago had its very own late night TV talk show, "Seven on Ridge," hosted by Michael Essany. It aired each weeknight at 10:30pm on WJYS-TV. Unfortunately, due to a lack of financial backing, the show was done recording new shows just one month later. Staffers exited and the show was placed on hiatus temporarily, and then permanently.
** After canceling local weekend morning newscasts in 2009, WBBM-TV/CBS 2 has decided to bring the newscasts back to their airwaves, starting mid-September. The Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts featured the all-new on-air team of solo news anchor Marissa Bailey, reporter Courtney Gousman, and weather forecasts by Chicago media veteran Ed Curran.
** Madeleine Doubek resigned as the Assistant Vice President/Executive Editor of the Daily Herald. She had been with the newspaper in various capacities since 1985.
** This very website, Chicagoland Radio & Media, was featured prominently in two new studies taking an in-depth look at Chicago's new media. The Chicago Community Trust (CCT) commissioned a pair of studies of the Chicago online news and information ecosystem: "The NEW News 2012: Ranking Chicago's Online News Scene," by The Community Media Workshop's Thom Clark & Emily Culbertson, and "Linking Audiences to News II: 2012 Network Analysis of Chicago Websites," by Northwestern University's Rich Gordon and Syndio Social's Zachary Johnson. In the first study, this website was ranked in the Top 10 for "Specialty News" websites, while in the second study, CRM was mentioned within and considered one of the top new media websites in Chicago and among the best at providing links to other media websites, as well as being linked to from other websites. (Ranked #5 as a "hub" site.)
** Suburban WJJG-AM changed its call letters to WCKG, adopting the famous Chicago radio call letters and logo. After nearly five years away, the WCKG call letters returned to the Chicago airwaves -- this time on AM 1530.
** Comcast SportsNet Chicago officially announced the hiring of Susannah Collins to its on-air team. Collins, who has been doing part-time freelance work for CSN Chicago for a few months, became a full-time anchor/reporter for the local sports station, effective September 20th.
** Beloved Chicago television weatherman and media icon Tom Skilling finalized a blockbuster renewal deal with Tribune Broadcasting/WGN-TV which will keep him as the station's Chief Meteorologist for ten more years.
** Rick Kogan exited WGN-AM as host of the weekend show "The Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan." He did so to accept the role as interim host of WBREZ-FM's "The Afternoon Shift." WGN-AM then shifted & expanded Dean Richards' Sunday morning show to replace Kogan.
** WLS-AM announced that Don Wade, longtime morning show co-host along with his wife Roma Wade, would be off the air for a few weeks, due to a growth that was found on Don Wade's brain, which needed to be surgically removed. Unfortunately, that growth turned out to be cancerous. With the Wades contract about to expire at the end of the year and with his recovery now looking to be a long & difficult processes, the Wades officially exited WLS-AM in December.
** The Chicago Tribune's City Hall reporter, Kristen Mack exited the newspaper. Mack took over the role of Press Secretary to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
** WLS-FM released morning host Dave Fogel, in order to bring back some past voices from WLS-AM's past "Musicradio" days. Fogel was soon after picked up by WJMK-FM as their nighttime DJ in a freelance role. He is currently a leading candidate to fill one of two on-air vacancies at that station.
**WLS-FM also pushed out Scott Shannon, who had been the station's midday host (via voice-tracking) and highest-rated host, as well as frequent weekend/overnight host (via his True Oldies Channel). The station brought back Brant Miller as morning show host and Fred Winston as afternoon host, with Greg Brown shifting to middays. While the new line-up pleased fans, the station then changed its music format from oldies to a white, male, Classic Rock version of the Classic Hits format. Plus, the station doesn't let the DJs speak for more than a few seconds at a time, and even then, only for a few times per hour. On top of all that, the station continues to disrespect Dick Biondi, pushing his show to overnights, not allowing him to do his request shows or live remotes, and even removing his own name from his own Toy Drive. All this angered fans and WLS-FM's ratings have slowly dropped off.
** WGN Radio added a new weekend show to its line-up entitled "Flavor HD" -- a 60-minute food and cooking program. The "HD" in the name "Flavor HD" does not stand for high-definition, but rather is the first initials in the hosts' first names: Hannah Stanley and Dane Neal.
** Chicago radio's Kevin Manno began as host on the Lifetime network's newest reality show entitled "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition."
** WFLD-TV shuffled its news anchors around. Anna Davlantes and Kori Chambers took over as Noon newscast anchors, replacing Patrick Elwood, who shifted back to reporting, and Jan Jeffcoat, who exited a couple of months earlier for a national job. Newcomer Amara Walker took over as new co-anchor of the weekend evening newscasts. Reporter Darlene Hill picked up additional duties on the weekend, becoming the new co-host of "Fox Chicago Sunday," the 30-minute news wrap-up and political affairs program, which airs Sunday mornings. She replaced Dane Placko, who went back to focusing his time on investigative and special reports for the weekday newscasts.
** CLTV began experimenting with "virtual sets" for parts of its newscasts, in what could very well be the future for all newsroom sets. It uses a higher quality version of the "green screen" or chroma key technology. It also was used by sister-station WGN-TV during the November election coverage.
** WSCR-AM's longtime producer, reporter, writer, host, and all-around utility man Jason Goff left 670 The Score to become the first nighttime host of an all new FM sports talk station launched later that month in Atlanta. He had been with WSCR-AM officially since the start of 2000.
** WBEZ-FM wasn't the first public radio station to cancel the "Smiley & West" show due to low ratings and the show's political agendas, but it was that Chicago cancellation that particularly upset the show's creator and co-host Tavis Smiley. After WBEZ-FM/Chicago Public Media CEO Torey Malatia explained the reason for the program's removal in a letter to WBEZ-FM listeners, Smiley sent out a press release blasting the reasons. Just a few weeks later, the syndicated talk show was picked up by both WCPT-AM and WVON-AM in Chicago.
** Right after the end of the baseball season, Chicago Cubs television announcer Bob Brenly announced he was leaving the club to accept another announcing job elsewhere. That job turned out to be with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he was once manager and took them to a World Series victory.
** "MANCOW!," the television simulcast of Mancow Muller's little-heard syndicated radio show made its debut on WPWR-TV/My50 in late October. As part of the payment to Mancow for this show, FOX Chicago agreed to create a brand new radio studio for his show at the WPWR-TV offices at 205 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, complete with a cartoon image of Mancow Muller's face in the carpet in the center of the studio (on the elevated section, created to make Mancow look taller on camera). The TV show now airs weekdays from 6:00am-8:00am.
** Tribune Broadcasting pushed out longtime WGN Radio Vice President & General Manager Tom Langmyer. Publicly, it appears as though Langmyer simply chose to leave the station, effective immediately. Privately, Langmyer and his Tribune Broadcasting bosses politely disagreed about the direction of WGN-AM for a while and both parties felt it was just best to part ways amicably.
** NBCUniversal announced it would be dropping its struggling network NBC Nonstop, which airs on its ten NBC owned and operated television stations' digital subchannels, and replacing it with a customizable digital subchannel made up of retro/classic television shows & movies, plus original programming, entitled Cozi TV. The new network quietly made its debut days before Christmas, airing mostly classic holiday episodes of older TV sitcoms and dramas.
** WLEY-FM/La Ley 107.9 revamped its weekday lineup, adding a new morning show, the syndicated "El Vacilon del Mandril," and a new local afternoon show with former morning show host Raul "La Bola" Bernal. Also added was WGN-TV news anchor/reporter/host Lourdes Duarte, who began to provide daily news briefs and discussions on the midday show with host "El Plebe." However, with the additions came the subtractions. Forced out was Jose Luis Marquez, aka "El Pitufo," is out as the station's Program Director, afternoon host and Chicago Bears play-by-play announcer.
** In May, NextMedia sold off its Midwestern radio towers. In October, NextMedia then sold off its entire outdoor advertising/billboard business. That leaves NextMedia with only its radio division and a small interactive division. Inside word has it that NextMedia's creditor owners would like to sell it all in 2013, as well.
** In late October, WGN-TV made history as being the first Chicagoland area newcast to provide live broadcasting of a trial -- something that had not been allowed in the State of Illinois before.
** Chicago's Kimbriell Kelly announced she would be moving east and joining the Washington Post as an investigative reporter, as of the following month. This meant that she had to step down from her local responsibilities as Editor and Publisher of the Chicago Reporter, co-host on WBEW-FM's "The Barbershop Show," and host of WPWR-TV's "Perspectives." Kimbriell Kelly had been with the Chicago Reporter for the last eight years. She previously spent over six years as a reporter with the Daily Herald.
** Kris Kelley was promoted from Assistant Program Director of WGCI-FM and midday host of WVAZ-FM to the role of double Program Director of both WGCI-FM and WKSC-FM.
** The first Chicagoland radio station to flip to an all-Christmas music format was WXMS-FM. While the radio station from Ridgewood High School in Norridge, IL is usually known as "Jack FM" and WRWX-FM for most of the year, from November 1st through early January it is known as "Jack Frost," using the call letters WXMS-FM (X-Mas FM).
** Rich Koz, the beloved Chicago entertainer best known for his portrayal of movie host Svengoolie, suffered a heart attack at the start of November and two weeks later had double bypass surgery on his heart. He spent the rest of 2012 recuperating from the ordeal. He hopes to be back behind the make-up and rubber chickens soon.
** Sharon Bialek, the Chicago area woman, who in 2011, claimed former Republican Presidential nominee Herman Cain once made unwanted sexual advances at her, decided to make headlines once again. She sued veteran WBBM-TV news anchor Bill Kurtis and his employer, CBS Corporation for $1.6 million for comments made by Kurtis on a WLS-AM radio show nearly a year before. Bialek, who is not represented by an attorney, claims Kurtis' comments hurt her reputation, made it difficult to find employment, and supposedly caused her physical and emotional distress. The lawsuit does not say exactly which of Kurtis' remarks caused her this trouble.
** On November 9th, WLIT-FM flipped to the limited & repetitive Christmas music format commonly known as "The Holiday Lite." It came one day after angering many fans by teasing that the format would start, but then saying they would only do it if listeners first donated an unknown amount of money to Clear Channel, which they would then donate to a local charity. The legal "blackmail" stunt, while certainly well-meaning, did not sit well with fans. Regardless, the Christmas music flip gave the station its usual landslide of ratings.
** Unable to find a satisfactory home on local radio, Rick O'Dell brought back Smooth Jazz and Smooth R&B to a new Internet radio station, SmoothJazzChicago.net. O'Dell personally programs all the music on the station and hosts middays. Also heard is the popular "Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch" and such famous voices from the WNUA/WLFM stations as Bill Cochran, Scott Adams, Loni Taylor, and more.
** It was announced in mid-November that Michael Renda, the Vice President and General Manager of FOX's two Chicago television stations, WFLD-TV and WPWR-TV since September 2009, was moving on. He was not fired, but was instead being relocated to a FOX station in Detroit. His replacement, who starts in early January, is Dennis Welch, another longtime FOX Television executive with a similar sales background as Renda.
** Thanksgiving, November 22, 2012 was the 25th anniversary of the greatest occurrence of television piracy in history, which occurred here on the Chicago airwaves. It has been called most often as "The Max Headroom Incident." The CRM website took an in-depth look at the incident to celebrate the strange anniversary.
** In a historic and heartwarming television event, a father & son news anchor team delivered the news on WMAQ-TV Thanksgiving weekend. NBC 5 news anchor Stefan Holt worked alongside his Dad, former Chicago television news anchor and current NBC-TV national news anchor Lester Holt.
**Dick Biondi's annual Christmas toy drive for needy Chicago children returned again for the 21st year. However, this year, WLS-FM would not let him broadcast live from the event; only phone in from there a handful of times on the first day only. They also changed the name of it from "The Dick Biondi Toy Drive" to "THE 94.7 WLS TOY DRIVE... hosted by Dick Biondi." This was just more of the station's new management further disrespecting the 80 year-old Hall of Fame DJ.
** Former Chicago radio personality James VanOsdol released his long-awaited new book about the alternative days of WKQX-FM, entitled "We Appreciate Your Enthusiasm: The Oral History of Q101." The book looks at the 1992-2011 modern rock era of the station via the recollections of staffers who worked there during that time.
** The Daily Herald promoted Jim Baumann to the role of Managing Editor for the Paddock Publications suburban newspaper. Also promoted at the same time was Diane Dungey being named as Deputy Managing Editor of News Gathering, and Teresa Schmedding becoming Deputy Managing Editor of Digital Operations.
** WSNS-TV/Telemundo Chicago parted ways with its most popular news anchor, eleven-year station veteran Tsi-tsi-ki Felix, as well as its newest news anchor/reporter, Rolman Vergara.
** WBBM-FM/B96 morning show co-host Julian Nieh stunned fans by announcing on the air he was leaving the show and the radio station he has been a key component of for well over six years.
** Chris Tannehill, a nearly six-year producer/board operator for WSCR-AM/670 The Score and CBS Radio Chicago was chosen as the new Associate Producer for WSCR-AM's top-rated afternoon program, "The Boers & Bernstein Show."
** The WGN Morning News was briefly fooled by a fake plane crash in a funny video that went viral. In an effort to quickly warn its viewers of a potentially serious situation, WGN-TV reported on what initially appeared to be a small plane crash, a damaged road and some damaged cars on S. Martin Luther King Drive. Within minutes they found out it was nothing more than an elaborate set up for the NBC drama "Chicago Fire" being filmed in Chicago, and turned the whole mistake into a fun running joke. Neither the filmmakers nor the City of Chicago's filming department notified the press or even many local authorities of the incident in advance, which helped cause the few minutes of confusion.
** Peter Van de Graaff took over as Program Director for WFMT-FM, taking over for Peter Whorf, who resigned in July.
** Comcast SportsNet Chicago named Kevin Cross as its News Director, overseeing all of the local sports station's news/talk shows and live coverage.
** The Chicago Cubs organization has officially hired Jim Deshaies to be the team's newest television analyst. He will work alongside veteran announcer Len Kasper on WGN-TV, WCIU-TV, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago as the color commentator, beginning with the upcoming 2013 baseball season.
** Clear Channel hired a newcomer (to Chicago anyway) in Kelly Mac to replace Kris Kelly as midday host of WVAZ-FM/V103 and new Assistant Program Director of WGCI-FM. She started in early December.
** WGN-TV, with an assist by the Museum of Classic Chicago Television's curator/founder Rick Klein, found parts of two classic 1971 episodes of "Bozo's Circus" that nobody remembered having exist anymore. The clips from these tapes were assembled into a television special entitled "Bozo's Circus: The Lost Tape" and aired at various times in December.
** Chicago radio veterans Eddie & Jobo were released by CBS Radio as the morning show hosts of WJMK-FM/104.3 K-Hits. They had been with the station since it started in March 2011. Although off the air, they remain on the CBS Radio payroll through mid-March 2013.
** Stephanie "The Fixer" Zimmermann resigned as a columnist from the Chicago Sun-Times to join ABC News as a reporter/producer for ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross and to write a new consumer column for the ABC News' website's Investigative page, The Blotter. She will remain based in Chicago.
** Tribune Broadcasting announced the hiring of Cortney Hall to the WGN News Team. Hall, a Chicagoland native, took over as the new weekday morning news anchor on CLTV.
** Less than a year after she began, Phyllis Schwartz announced her exit from FOX-owned WFLD-TV today. She joined the station in January 2012 as its latest Vice-President and News Director.
** Thomas Carroll, the longtime President and CEO or Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting Inc., announced he was stepping down as the man in charge of Lakeshore Public Television and Radio. His sudden exit was said to be a mutual decision between himself and the Board of Directors.
** Bruce Wolf & Dan Proft were named as morning show hosts for 2013 for WLS-AM. They had been filling in for Don & Roma Wade since early September. The Wades were unable to return to the airwaves, due in large part to Don Wade's recovery from brain tumor removal. Jake Hartford and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, who had been filling in for Wolf & Proft's late morning time slot, take over that spot on a more permanent basis, at least for now.
** WGN-AM announced a controversial new schedule. The changes had Milt Rosenberg and John Williams removed from the line-up, plus a later start and slightly shorter time for Bill Leff. It also added a double shift for the station's least-liked or listened-to daytime personality Mike McConnell, added a new 60-minute Noon Show with new host Carol Roth, and added former WLS host Turi Ryder for late nights.
** WGN-AM & WGN-TV both unveiled new websites for their stations. Both are very unique, in that their homepages, and many interior pages, are now made up mostly of images and tiles to be clicked upon, not text. More than what is different with it, WGN Radio's returning website visitors are upset with what is missing from it. Almost all of the past podcasts were discarded, including their top downloaded ones from Milt Rosenberg. They also made a decision to no longer place up podcasts of complete shows, instead only posting up "best of" bits & segments.
** Geoff Pinkus announced he was not going to renew his contract with WIND-AM as weekend host and joined the new WCKG as its first live & local weekday midday host, starting in early January.
** Jerome Ludwig, who has worked for the Chicago Reader since 1998, most recently as its Managing Editor, voluntarily exited the weekly newspaper.
** After over 39 years with the station, Milt Rosenberg said his farewell to his fans. WGN-AM refused to podcast his goodbye show, regardless of the fact that Rosenberg's podcasts were the websites most popular. They also removed all past podcasts from the website and any mention of Rosenberg. Not yet ready to retire, Milt Rosenberg hopes to land at a different Chicago radio station in 2013.
** WGN-AM host John Williams also had his farewell show. It was one of the most gracious and classiest exits in Chicago radio history, thanking his producers (past & present), thanking all of his co-workers and many fans, plus urging fans to continue to listen to the station after he's gone. He will now exclusively work for WCCO-FM in Minneapolis.
** As part of a major restructuring process, Chris Krug exited as the Publisher of Sun-Times Media's Pioneer Press newspapers. Also, Jason Schaumburg exited as Pioneer Press' Executive Editor.
** Chicago Public Media, which purchased WRTE-FM/Radio Arte in the summer, promising "to preserve an important community asset," ended Radio Arte at the end of the month. Some of its Hispanic-targeted programming will continue on, but only as a website stream.
** It was another record-breaking year for Chicagoland Radio Media, as the site further cemented its position as the #1 website in the world for Chicago media news, information, and discussions. For 2012, the website had an incredible 57,360,360 hits -- blowing away last year's numbers by nearly 5 million hits. This was achieved completely naturally, without any advertising or outside promotion to drive traffic to the site. A huge THANK YOU
to all of the many visitors in the Chicago market, nationwide, and even worldwide, who are the true reasons for this site's success. Bigger and better things are planned for 2013, too!
Other 2012 observations...
Making An Entrance:
Lauren Petty, Daniella Guzman, ESPN Deportes Radio, Kris Gutierrez, Bounce TV, Rita Marcocci, Darren Marlar, Marissa Bailey, Brad Edwards, Dionne Miller, Lisa Chavarria, Q87.7, "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly," Jeff Santos, Jim Richards, "Daily Splash"/"Sunday Splash," Dan Hayes, Scott Clifton, Lauren O'Neil, Joe Jaime, MJ Witt, Donna Baker, Frank Monroe, Maxwell, "Gas Money," Courtney Gousman, "Crime Stoppers Case Files - Chicago," Dave Plier, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brandon Marshall, "Cooper In The Morning," Anna Kopsky, "Seven on Ridge," NoozeBox.com, Nicole Darin, Enrique Santos, Susannah Collins, Amara Walker, Chris Martinez, Jenny McCarthy, "MANCOW!," Ricardo Sanchez, Shannon Ihrke, SmoothJazzChicago.net, Greg Corner, Kelly Mac, Peyton James, Curtis Miles, Jim Deshaies, Cortney Hall, Zoe Burdine-Fly
Steve Edwards, John Landecker, Tommy Edwards, Perri Small, Mary Sandberg, "Love + Radio," Jaime Black, Greg Jarrett, Michael Essany, Zakk Tyler, Kevin Manno, Jeff Corder, Shark, Paula Fagan, Fred Winston, Steve Hart, Buzz Kilman, Maura Myles, WCKG, Chuck Hillier, John Govia, Keno Greer, Scott Straus, "The Dan Patrick Show," Rick O'Dell, Jeff Davis, Mike Baker, Debra Dale, Bob & Ron
Out The Exit Door:
Walter Sabo, Karen Conti, Carol Fowler, Johnny "Koolout" Starks, Santita Jackson, Mike Leiderman, Scott Miller, David L., Ed Sherman*, Kristyn Hartman, Chicago News Cooperative, Alex Perez, Jay Foot, "Coast To Coast AM," Bo Reynolds, Delilah, Rene Morales, Cynthia Bowers, Jerry Pedroza, Robert Murphy, Scott Straus*, Michael Damsky, "The Rosie Show," Christian Picciolini, Jeff Davis*, Don Hayner, Byrd*, Mike Wilson, Katherine Kelly, Ed Curran*, Pete Zimmerman, Jim Ruffatto, Stephanie Fallara, Smooth 87.7, Rick O'Dell*, Bill Cochran, Loni Taylor, Scott Adams*, Playboy Enterprises, Jim Gudas, Emily Barr, "Night Rock," Alison Draper, Maya Gavin*, "Mike Baker & the Forgotten 45s"*, Celia Chavez, Phil Landeros, Cesar Canales, John Barron, "Cowboy" Ron Vasser, Erin Carman*, WindyCitizen.com, Mega 95.5, Warren Shulz, WZRD-FM's Wizards, "La Tremenda," Sean Valentine, Irma Blanco, Peter Whorf, Ryan Manno, Nora O'Donnell, FM News 101.1, Diana Bodkins, Andy Friedman, Greg Jarrett, Monica DeSantis, Lise Dominique, Charlie Meyerson, Matt McClain, Sarah Jersild, JoAnn Genette*, Veronica Carter*, Ryan Burrow, Debra Dale*, Ric Federighi*, Sam Sylk, Liz Braun, Jeff McKinney*, Steve Forstneger, Abdon Pallasch, Mike Fourcher, Chris Bury, Jan Jeffcoat, Jane Boal, Stella Foster, Sarak Kustok, Jeff Goldblatt, Marv Dyson, Christopher Michael, Kevin Scott, Steve Touhy*, Donnie "The Freakin' Puerto Rican" Devoe, Tom Lounges, Rick Vaughn, Steve Edwards, Tanya Ziegler Maher, Bruno Cohen, Madeleine Doubek, Scott Smith, Hal Weitzman, Amy Merrick, Brad Robinson*, Safa Eshmawy, Sarah Engel, James Edwards, Michael Cronin, Megan Buckley, Shannon Beverly-Ward, Kristen Mack, Dave Fogel*, Scott Shannon, Joel Hood, Jeff Andrews, Trine Tsouderos, Mark Konkol, Luis Segura, "Smiley & West"*, George McFly, Shark, "Seven on Ridge," Bob Brenly, Philip Bodinet, Tom Langmyer, Jose Luis Marquez, Jenny Stephen, Kimbriell Kelly, Chicago Radio Spotlight, Michael Renda, Tsi-tsi-ki Felix, Rolman Vergara, Julian Nieh, Phil Duncan, Eddie & Jobo, Angie Zdanowski, Glenn Cosby, Effie Rolfe, Stephanie Zimmermann, Thomas Carroll, Don & Roma Wade, Jerome Ludwig, Chicago Nonstop, Mark Baggio, Ysaac Alvarez, Chris Krug, Jason Schaumburg, Radio Arte
*= Since returned to work within Chicagoland media.
Marshall Rosenthal, Bill Bailey, Yuri Rasovsky, "Downtown" Danny Brown, Don Cornelius, Jeffrey Zaslow, Paul Gallis, Rich Brenner, John Madigan, Sheila Leonard, Lacy J. Banks, Norman Mark, Mike Wallace, Steve Wallace/Siener, Bill Grainger, Michael Little, Cal Daniels, Eddie Blazonczyk Sr., Howard Shapiro, Kathy McFarland, Elaine Mulqueen, Professor Robert Walker, Richard Crowe, Pat Evans, Shelly Hoffenberg, Carole Nolan, Bob Greenberg, Jesse Moore, Paul McGrath, Geoff Neuhoff, Anthony V. Santucci, Dan O'Toole, Tony Ray, Sharon K. McGhee, Mike "Duke" Dukewich, Bill Jauss, Joe Rein, Pat Bruno, Jim Durham, Art "Mr. Food" Ginsburg, Lynn Van Matre, Tim Maher, Mark Kiesling, William "Bill" Gutman, Irene Hughes, Terry Glover, Wild Bill Cody, Frances "Hanky" Brandmeier
The overwhelming majority of the names and stories mentioned in this year-end review have been previously covered this past year in articles on this very website, much of which was done exclusively here or contained exclusive information. Use the SEARCH
feature to find more details out on any of the above items.
A very happy 2013 to all of the readers and visitors of Chicagoland Radio & Media!