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WGN-AM's Mike McConnell Removed From Airwaves; To Be Online Only

After months and years of rumors and unfavorable comments from listeners, Mike McConnell is finally gone from the WGN Radio airwaves, although he is not yet gone from the station. Still working under a long term contract that was given to him in 2010, McConnell will now be working online-only for WGN Radio's website, doing live shows and podcasts.

McConnell has not been heard on the air for WGN-AM since late last month. He has been "on vacation" since that time, replaced by a series of fill-ins. McConnell himself announced today on his Facebook page that he is moving online for the station. He will continue to do his radio show from 10:00am-2:00pm, but that show will only be heard on the WGN-AM website's secondary stream, WGN-2.

This is the same, rarely used stream that WGN Radio utilizes when it has a two live sporting events or programming conflicts happening simultaneously. It can be heard via the WGN website, via the updated WGN Radio mobile app, or by calling the station and asking to be put on hold. (Note: Calling in to the station to hear the WGN-2 stream will not work. All listening must be done online.) However, sometimes clicking on the WGN-2 stream will still bring up the main WGN-AM stream, making hearing the WGN-2 programming difficult.

In addition to his live online show, McConnell's live show segments will be turned into an on-demand podcast which can be accessed after 3:00pm on WGN-2 or via the WGNRadio.com website.

For the time being, WGN-AM will continue to use various personalities on the air, filling the now vacant 10:00am-3:00pm shifts. (The 2:00pm-3:00pm time has been vacant for many weeks.) Among those filling is will be the recently hired husband and wife team of Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano, the part-time (but soon to be full-time) Steve Cochran, overnight host Bill Leff, and frequent fill-in host Pete McMurray. A surprise fill-in host or two from WGN-AM's past is also possible.

A newly revamped on-air schedule for WGN-AM is expected to be announced in the near future, giving permanent roles to some of these fill-ins.

McConnell was hired to come to WGN-AM from Cincinnati in the summer of 2010, beginning on the air on August 9th of that year. He was brought here by the then-CEO of Tribune Company Randy Michaels. Michaels was the disgraced former CEO of Clear Channel Radio and had previously worked with McConnell in Ohio. Michaels, and some of his former Clear Channel Radio cronies, including Sean Compton and Kevin Metheny, thought that bringing the controversial McConnell to Chicago would help shake up WGN-AM. He was supposed to come along with another controversial political talk show host Bill Cunningham, but Cunningham changed his mind at the last moment and stayed behind in Cincinnati.

At the time, Program Director Kevin Metheny said of his new hire: "Mike McConnell is arguably the most gifted of all American broadcasters..."

McConnell's in-your-face, politically conservative show was programming that was opposite of what the rest of the programming on the station offered. As it turned out, it was opposite of what listeners wanted to hear. Ratings hit deep lows during McConnell's show and advertisers avoided it. When word leaked out that Kevin Metheny was begging friends and Tribune employees to call in to the show, since it was not generating callers on its own, the public embarrassment hurt the show's chances of success even more.

Later in 2010, Randy Michaels was forced out as CEO of Tribune Company. Within a matter of days and weeks, many of his radio cronies, including WGN-AM Program Director Kevin Metheny were fired, as well. With Metheny gone, McConnell attempted to change his show to be more like what the average WGN Radio listener wanted to hear. He stopped being rude and argumentative with callers and avoided purposely creating controversy. Even with his attempts at pleasing the audience, it wasn't until late 2012 that his ratings began to noticeably improve. He was finally beginning to grow on some listeners, even though the overall consensus on his work was negative on social media, websites, and message boards.

McConnell's contract allows him to take numerous vacation days per year and has him doing a large amount of his daily shows not from WGN Radio's Chicago studios, but via an ISDN line set up in his Cincinnati area home.

Starting out on the air as a rock DJ named Alan McConnell in Dayton, Ohio in the mid-70s, he switched to the on-air name Mike McConnell after a few years. In 1982, he moved to Cincinnati, where he he spent the rest of his radio career before coming to Chicago three years ago. The only exception was a few months he worked in Miami, FL radio before quickly returning to Cincinnati. At WLW-AM, he replaced another political shock jock host, Randy Michaels, who left working on the air to become management in the mid-80s. McConnell hosted middays on WLW-AM in Cincinnati for nearly 25 years and developed a large following there.

For less than two years, McConnell had a nationally syndicated weekday talk show with Clear Channel, which was canceled due to lack of interest. He also had a syndicated weekend show, which was canceled when he left Clear Channel to join WGN-AM.

Earlier this year, McConnell entered himself for consideration for Illinois Broadcasters Association's annual Silver Dome Award. Among the three entries the IBA received, McConnell's was judged to be the favorite and he was named as Best Radio Personality at the IBA2013 conference.

Many of McConnell's Cincinnati fans have continued to listen to his Chicago show online. The good news for them is that they can now continue to do so, at least until McConnell's Tribune contract comes to an end.


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