Published on Friday, 25 June 2010 17:00
In yet another sign of an end of an era, longtime WGN host Steve Cochran was removed from the WGN airwaves today, just minutes before finishing his two hour show at 3:00pm. Within minutes after being told he was done, any and all mentions of him were removed from the many pages of WGN-AM's website. He was not given the chance to say good bye to his multitude of fans on the air or via their website.
Steve Cochran's contract expired at the start of March, but he was given a four month contract extension through June 30th, with the promise of further contract talks before then. The contract talks with Cochran's agent never happened, despite his agent's many attempts to try and keep his client employed at the station. Program Director Kevin Metheny clearly wanted nothing more to do with Steve Cochran.
Steve Cochran knew he was on the way out. He privately told many people that he was very unwanted by the new regime running WGN & the Tribune Company. He publicly acknowleded it on his Facebook page
on June 12th saying "Thanks to everybody for all the support. As of now I don't believe I will be on WGN beyond 6/30. I will be here with updates and more as things shake out."
Ever the comedian, he followed that up with this on Facebook on June 16th: "I just took one of those online career quizzes... y'know... just because... and it suggested I host my own talk show. C'mon... that would never work!"
With Steve Cochran's contract running through the end of this month, his final show should have been June 29th (June 30th's show would have been preempted by a Chicago Cubs game). However, Program Director Kevin Metheny did not wish to allow any sad goodbyes and pulled the plug on Cochran's show -- as well as his WGN career -- this afternoon. Supposedly, Cochran was grabbed by Metheny after exiting the restroom, right before the end of his show, and told to quickly finish his show because he was now done at WGN.
Steve Cochran started in radio back in 1981. He has worked in 10 different radio markets, but has called Chicago home for the majority of his radio career. He first came to Chicago in 1993, after being wooed away from a station in Minneapolis to do a morning show on WCKG. That show lasted one day. After he arrived in Chicago, he was told that the station had changed their mind about what they wanted and now wanted to do an all-sports show with him as host. "The Steve Cochran Morning Show" was being changed to "Steve Cochran and the Rock and Roll Locker Room." He did one test show for the station, rejected the odd idea and was let out of his contract. He later ended up at WPNT-FM, followed by successful stints with WLUP-FM & WLUP-AM.
In 2000, he was hired by WGN-AM. He was first used as the station's top fill-in man and weekender. When Spike O'Dell moved to mornings after the unexpected death of Bob Collins, Steve Cochran moved to a regular afternoon time slot. When Spike O'Dell announced his retirement from radio, it was Cochran that was picked to be the new morning show host at WGN. However, station management refused to give Cochran any raise for taking on the added hours, effort and pressure of the morning show gig. When Cochran's agent asked for a token raise for the move, WGN instead gave the morning show slot to John Williams. That move hurt WGN's ratings and Williams was moved to a new slot a few months later. WGN management soured on Cochran after that turn of events and it seemed from that point, his time at WGN was coming to an end... sooner than later.
It didn't help any when in 2008, (then) new Program Director Metheny came on to Cochran's show and famously said on the air: "I like you... I just don't like your show."
Cochran's exit was by no means unexpected. It was one of two expected moves by WGN management, meant to make room for what was going to be two new hires from Cincinnati
: Bill Cunningham and Mike McConnell. Cunningham was to take Cochran's shift and McConnell was to take John Williams' shift. A couple of weeks back, Cunningham threw a wrench into that plan by turning down WGN's offer
and taking a big payday offer from his current station, WLW-AM. McConnell accepted WGN's offer and is scheduled to start the second week of August. Due to Cunningham not coming, it is now expected that WGN will place McConnell, a conservative political talker with little Chicago knowledge, in Cochran's spot for the time being. Starting Monday, June 28th until McConnell's start on August 9th, WGN will use a handful of fill-in hosts from within and without the station.
Unfortunately for Steve Cochran's fans, there are not really any other stations in the Chicago market that offer non-political talk. The odds of him finding new weekday work in Chicago this year are not very high. He can still be seen live, though, as he continues to do stand-up comedy in Chicago and its suburbs often.
As an actor, Cochran had a brief cameo, playing a TV weather man, in the 1993 movie "Grumpy Old Men." In the humorous 2004 book "Search for the Meaning of Life"
by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, the authors had this to say about Cochran's show: "If radio is the theater of the mind, Steve Cochran is the Steven Spielberg of talk radio hosts."
Cochran, 49, is married, has two children (one son & one daughter), and lives in suburban Chicago.